Perhaps the most common (and commonly misunderstood) symbol of Witches and Witchcraft in popular culture, the broom has been part of pagan custom around the world for centuries, and has an affinity with modern Wiccan practices. It’s unclear just how the idea of Witches flying around on broomsticks originated, but many people believe this to be a mistaken interpretation of astral projection, which some Witches in past centuries would use psychoactive herbs to facilitate. Sometimes called “flying ointments,” these concoctions were likely the source of the confusion. How the broom became the vehicle in this picture is still unclear, but the belief in flying Witches goes back at least as far as the Middle Ages.
Purifying your space with the broom
Traditionally called a “besom” and often handmade from the branch of a tree, the broom is not considered to be a core ritual tool in Wicca, but it is often used to purify the ritual space before casting the sacred circle. This doesn’t usually involve actual sweeping, however—the bristles of the besom generally don’t even touch the floor. This is more of a ritual, energetic purifying of the space, removing negative energy or just plain energetic “clutter.” This step happens after a good mundane sweeping with a regular broom (or vacuum) has already taken place. Because ritual brooms serve as purifiers, they are associated with the element of Water, and are therefore sacred to the Goddess.
The broom can also be used to help close the circle at the end of ritual. In fact, it can be highly effective at dissipating residual energies raised during the ritual. During the ritual itself, the broom will usually sit to the side of the Wiccan altar. Otherwise, it’s common to place it near the entrance to your home, to guard against negative or unwanted energy.
Finding your own besom
Ritual brooms can be any size, from miniature “decorative” brooms that you sometimes see in craft stores or hanging on the wall in kitchens, to full-sized functional brooms. Traditional woods used for sacred brooms include birch, ash, and willow, but any wood will suffice. You can even find instructions for how to make your own besom using the type of wood available in your area. In fact, some Witches keep it very simple by just using a fallen tree branch as a symbolic broom.
Of course, your broom doesn’t have to be handmade—common household brooms can also be dedicated to the work of Witchcraft, though it should ideally have a wooden handle rather than metal or plastic. No matter what your broom is made of, however, it should never be used for everyday housecleaning, as this would contaminate the sacred energy it holds for ritual and magical purposes. Indeed, this is one tool that should not be “repurposed” for magic, so plan to acquire a new broom of one kind or another, rather than attempting to consecrate an already-used broom from your hall closet!