In a fictional book about “witches and wizards,” J. K. Rowling writes, “the fact that we fly on broomsticks is probably our worst-kept secret.” (1) Witches are often portrayed flying on brooms. How did this myth originate? What do modern Witches actually use their brooms, or besoms, for? Where can the modern practicing pagan buy a besom?
The first documented instance of someone claiming to fly on a broom was in 1453, when Guillaume Edelin of St. Germain-en-Leye confessed, under torture, that he was a Witch and had done so. (2) Evidence indicates that in the past some Witches have used topical ointments containing hallucinogens to simulate the experience of flying; these experiences may have been enhanced by sitting astride a broom. (3) Actual alleged recipes for these ointments have survived. (4) However, one writer cautions, “Today using these ointments are not recommended or encouraged. Flying journeys are suggested through deep meditation and astral projection.” (3)
The most common use of a besom is to sweep negative energy from a space before ritual, just as a household broom is used to sweep dust from a floor before use of the room.
‘Jumping the broom’ is common in many weddings and handfastings, in cultures from the African-Americans to the Welsh. (5) Some point out the masculine energy of the handle and the feminine energy of the twigs, making the combined broom a perfect symbol of union between man and woman.* (6)
Brooms and besoms are available everywhere. For some pagans, a simple broom from the local hardware store may suffice. In an art store, the Boston Pagan Examiner once saw a beautiful multicolored broom labeled “For the Witch in Your Life.” If you desire a more spiritual- or pagan-themed besom, contact your local Witch, metaphysical, or occult shop. Some besoms are simple; others are elaborate creations with ribbons and crystals attached. All can be used for ritual purposes.
* Many same-gender couples choose to ‘jump the broom’ at their wedding or handfasting as well. (7)
(1) Quidditch Through the Ages. Scholastic Press, 2001. Page 16.
(2) www.ladyoftheearth.com/tools/broomsticks.txt, churches-of-christ.ws/earlycoc.htm