Everyone knows that brooms and witches go together. Most popular images of witches show them with pointed hats, black cats, and a broom. And while not every witch has a cat (or a funny-looking hat, for that matter), most of us own a broom. But how many of us actually use them for our magical work?
When I started writing The Witch's Broom, I'll confess that I was worried that I wouldn't be able to come up with enough material to fill an entire book. My own magical practice only used a broom for a few simple tasks, and at that time, I didn't even have a dedicated ritual broom of my own. Fortunately, the more I looked at the humble broom, the more there was to see. Not only did I end up with plenty of material for the book, but I also found all sorts of broom facts, lore, and applications that inspired how I used them in my own life.
For example, did you know that before witches became famous for riding on brooms, the earliest drawings actually depicted them flying across the night sky on sticks, or even farm implements such as pitchforks? No one is really sure how the broom became associated with witchcraft, but some hypothesize that it started out as a way to disguise their forbidden wands, by hiding them under the bristles of a broom.
Which leads us to the next interesting fact—the broom is the only witch's tool that is both male (the stick) and female (the bristles). Most tools represent either the feminine, such as cauldrons and chalices, or the masculine, such as athames and wands, but the broom is a unique combination of the energy of both. That alone is reason enough to consider using one for your magical work!
The traditional witch's broom is called a besom, and is modeled on the kinds of brooms used by our ancestors. Most of these were made from a hazel handle, although other woods were sometimes used, with birch twigs as the bristles. Flexible strips of willow were often used to attach the twigs to the handle; these brooms were round and rough, and didn't work very well to clean. Eventually broomcorn came to be used instead of birch twigs, and the form became flat instead of round. These days most brooms are mass-made, and have no personality at all (although they are a lot better at sweeping).
If you are going to get yourself a magical broom (one reserved for ritual work, as opposed to sweeping your floors), it doesn't matter which type you get. Some folks prefer a besom, because of its connections to the past, while others like the more modern type. It is nice (and not all that difficult) to make one from scratch, but you can also buy one and decorate it to make it your own. Brooms can be decorated to match your décor, if they are going to be hung up in the open, or to honor a particular god, goddess, or pantheon, or to focus on a particular magical use, such as healing or protection.
Brooms can be integrated into your magical practice in more ways than you might have ever thought possible. Most commonly, they are used to cleanse a ritual area or the home (in this case, the sweeping is of energy, not actual dirt, and the bristles usually don't touch the ground), or as part of a handfasting or wedding ritual, where the couple enters into their new life together by "jumping the broom."
But this is just the tip of the bristle where brooms are concerned. For instance, you can have different magical brooms that are dedicated to specific arcane tasks: one for cleansing your home's energy; one for prosperity rituals adorned with green ribbons, perhaps, and tiny chips of malachite, with prosperity-drawing runes carved into the handle; and one for protection—a traditional magical broom use—that features a black ribbon with protective symbols drawn on in gold ink, a tiny jar filled with black onyx chips, a pentacle, and some dried rosemary.
Or you can create a broom to celebrate a special occasion. Obviously, a handfasting broom is the most common example of this type of broom, but you could also make a broom (by yourself or with a group) to welcome a baby, dedicate a coven, bring magic to a new home, or memorialize a friend or relative who has moved on to the Summerlands.
Brooms can be purely decorative, too. Many witches and Pagans like to place little witchy touches around their homes. The great things about a decorative broom is that they don't have to be overtly Pagan, so even those who are still in the broom closet can use them. A pretty miniature broom hung with dried flowers looks perfectly normal in a kitchen or living room.
For those who can be more open about their magical leanings, decorative brooms can range from tiny broomstick magnets stuck on the refrigerator to full-sized besoms hung over the entrance to the house to protect its occupants and keep out negativity. They can be colorful, with a rainbow of ribbons tied around the base, beautiful preserved flowers or leaves, glittering stars and moons, or brightly painted handles. They can be subtle, created from natural birch bristles or broomcorn, with a simple gnarly wood handle, with a few dangling charms, feathers, or crystals. In truth, the only limits to how you use a magical broom are your imagination, and perhaps your budget and the amount of space you have in your home. If you can only have one broom, it is probably best to keep it simple, so it will work for whatever magical task is necessary. You can also add and remove decorative items as desired, with the base broom staying the same. As with all the other aspects of your witchcraft practice, how you use your magical broom should suit your own particular needs, tastes, and desires.
But I hope you will use one. Since writing The Witch's Broom, I have developed an entirely new fascination and respect for this simple traditional witch's tool. I now have two magical brooms. One, a lovely but basic handmade broom with round broomcorn bristles that are braided at the top and a broad handle painted in with yellow and green flowers, was a gift from a coven member, and is used to open and close the circle and cleanse the space during rituals.
The other, which is strictly decorative, I commissioned from a lovely magical broom-maker on Etsy. That one is a little showier, with dyed black and gold broomcorn and a matching crooked wood handle. Dangling from the front of the broom is a pentacle, small Bast cat, Eye of Horus, and goddess figures, a golden phoenix, a tiny jar filled with black onyx chips, and a chunk of crystal quartz at the bottom of the grouping. To me, it symbolizes my witchy self, and encompasses my goals of protection, and moving gracefully through change.
I still don't have a funny hat, but I do have a new appreciation for the use of brooms in my magical practice and in my spiritual life. Not only are they practical and often beautiful, but they connect us back down through the ages to all those witches who came before us, riding on their own brooms, and making their own magic, just as we do.
Deborah Blake is the author of over a dozen books on modern Witchcraft, including The Little Book of Cat Magic and Everyday Witchcraft, as well as the acclaimed Everyday Witch Tarot and Everyday Witch Oracle. She has also ...