(This article also appears in AXIS MUNDI Vol 3, Issue 9 – November 2010.)
BESOM (BEE-sum [Old English] or BAYSH-um [Gaelic]) refers to the witches broomstick or ritual broom. European folklore has witches riding their brooms through the sky, which many feel is an uninformed explanation of astral projection. Besoms were often mounted and “ridden” over crops in fertility rites.
Magically, a besom is used for a variety of purposes, but more generally they are used to purify and protect. Sacred space is sometimes cleansed before a ritual by walking deosil around the circle space while holding the besom a few inches off the ground and sweeping outward from the centre.
When not being used in ritual, place your magical besom by the door to protect the home from evil spirits and negative energies. When standing a besom, always place the bristles up, with the shaft on the floor. This not only makes the bristles last longer, it will also bring you good luck.
Many pagan traditions have the bridal couple jump across the broom or besom at their handfasting. Jumping over this ancient symbol of fertility is an invitation for wealth and abundance (including many children) to enter the couple’s life and also to signify the establishment of their new household. The brooms are usually decorated for the occasion and then kept in a place of honor in the home. You can read more about Pagan handfastings at Handfastings — A Guide for Couples on the Pagan Awareness Network Inc website.
Historically, brooms made great gifts for weddings or handfastings. Just add a little ribbon, some flowers, and you’re good to go.
How to make a besom …the easy way!
The photos here are of a besom I made for a friend’s recent handfasting. There are many different ways to make a besom ‘from scratch’, instructions for which can be found on the internet or in books. The besom I made started out as an ordinary domestic straw broom.
The method, in brief, was to unpick the stitching that gave the broom its flat shape, then soak the bristles for a couple of hours to soften them before tying them again tightly to give the traditional round “witches broom” shape. The broom was hung up to dry for a few days, then decorated with ribbons and silk flowers, all carefully hand-sewn into place. When it was completed I cast a circle and ritually cleansed the new besom with smoke from burning sage then consecrated it with Air (Dragon’s Blood incense), Fire (held over a candle flame), Water (sprinkled from my Chalice) and Earth (sprinkled lightly with salt).
If you would like to make your own witches broom using this method click on the link below to see detailed photos and step by step instructions for a besom I made in 2006.