Episode 94 - Broomsticks in Witchcraft

Episode 94 - Broomsticks in Witchcraft


What is a broomstick? Or a besom, in witchcraft. It’s a bundle of twigs tied to one long stave of wood. The type of wood has varied over the years, but the name originates from the first bristles that were used, which were called broom - it’s a woody, fibrous plant that still grows today.
Now, besoms can be found in all types of materials. Ash, birch, and willow are the most popular, but mini ones are also popular that are made out of sage or lavender. They can be simple or ornate, large or small, there are no rules regarding appearance.
Why are they associated with witches flying? It stems from the besom being rooted in folklore and mythology. Broomsticks were commonly found in homes in the middle ages, since that was the only tool for cleaning, and they were used solely by women. Despite this association with women, it was a French male witch who first claimed to fly on a broomstick, though there were many other similar stories at the time. There are also French and German illustrations from as early as the 15th century that show witches flying on broomsticks or pitchforks.
But since that’s not physically possible, why did they say that? Flying ointment. Flying ointment, or green ointment, was a combination of Belladonna (Nightshade) or Mandrake, both poisonous, with clove oil (an anesthetic), that was applied to the skin using the broom and acted as a psychoactive drug and allowed witches to astral travel and produced visions. The witches would also mount the broomsticks and leap around the fields to show the crops how to grow high. They may have felt like they really flew, and the bystanders who observed them from a distance thought they were indeed flying and not just jumping.
This association was solidified by the mythology of Baba Yaga, from Slavic and Russian folklore.
  • If your broomstick falls over, company is coming
  • Jumping over a broom signified marital union in the old south, a custom derived from slave culture. Partially because of its magical significance within African tribes and partially due to the lack of any other resources
  • Never sweep under someone’s feet, it causes bad luck
  • An “invisible broom” was removed from the house of Sarah Good, according to the testimony of William Batten and William Shaw during the Salem Witch Trials
  • The witch’s broom is used to summon winds for weather magic – throwing a broom into the air off a cliff summons the wind while burning one stops the wind
  • There’s a Chinese broom goddess who presides over the weather – her name is Sao Ch’ing Niang
  • The straws of a broom are thought to have magical powers and are often used in healing spells
  • Jumping over a broomstick 9 times will bring a suitable spouse within one year
  • Laying a broomstick across the threshold ensures only good visitors come by, but if a girl steps over a broom by accident, she’ll become a mother before a wife
  • Some African tribes believe that men should leave the house while women are sweeping because if they are accidentally struck by the broom, it could render them impotent–unless they take the broom and bang it on the wall three times
What are besoms used for now?
  • Sweeping out negativity, it’s a physical remover. But it’s not meant for the bristles to hit the floor, if it’s a ceremonial broomstick. Covered in the home cleanse episode, and a mini besom can be used on an altar space.
  • Often used before casting a circle
  • Protection. When placed bristles up at or near a door, they act as protection for the home by stopping negative spirits or entities from passing through. A popular tool during Samhain and Beltane. When laid flat underneath a bed, they act as protection for the sleeper during the night.
  • In wicca, it represents both masculine and feminine so it represents the duality of the religion. This means it’s often used in ceremonies celebrating this duality, like hand fastings. At the end of the ceremony, the couple will ‘jump the broom’, which represents the passage from single life into married life. It’s also a symbol of fertility.
  • They are also associated with Fae and doorways. So they can act as a doorway for a circle, allowing you to pass through without breaking the circle. They’re also used to assist spirits in traveling from this plane to the next.
Making a Besom:
Ash (protection, prosperity, health)
Birch (protection, binding, purification)
Dogwood (wishes, protection)
Elder (binding, protection, healing) - though this is more often used for wands
Oak (protection, health, money, healing) and a tree sacred to the Druids
Pine (healing, protection, binding, money)
Rowan (psychic powers, healing, power, success, protection).

Straw can be dyed using herbal dyes:
*black use alder, black walnut or yarrow
*blues, elder, indigo, wood, Oregon grape
*brown use comfrey, fennel, hops, onion, pokeweed
*golds use dock, goldenrod, safflower
*greens use barberry, bayberry, sage

Supplies to make a besom
  • 3 to 4 foot long piece of wood for the handle
  • Straw or several thinner branches of material such as birch for the bristles
  • 3 feet of willow branch for binding
  • Scissors and a bucket of warm water (soak straw or twigs overnight)
  • Flowers, charms, ribbons to decorate your besom (optional)
  1. Line up the bristles alongside the handle about four inches from the bottom on a flat surface. Point the bottom of the bristles towards the top of the broom.
  2. Use willow branches or cord to wrap the bristles around the broom handle and tie this off tightly.
  3. Take the bristles and fold them down over the willow binding so that they're pointing towards the bottom of the broom. Tie them down again at the base of the broomstick to secure them. As you work, visualize your intention.
  4. Let your broom dry for 48 hours.

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