If we look back at history of Witches Brooms, we must first look at the history of brooms in general. No one can pinpoint when the broom was invented. But, we can be relatively certain that from the moment humans had permanent living areas, that there were messes made and messes necessitated the need for a sweeping device. Early humans likely used a hand-full of dry grass or fine twigs to whoosh ashes and debris away from their living areas. Understanding the ease of success in this activity, we can easily see how the broom developed. We can also see that with traditional roles the way that they were, that brooms would be associated with women. Yet the association with witchcraft and witches wouldn’t be seen until years later.
How Riding a Broom Became Part of the Conversation
History is written by those who are in control at the time, so it is often skewed to tell things in ways that promote or denounce one idea or another. Most of what we know about Medieval witchcraft comes from the records of those who persecuted witches. Court records, personal papers of Inquisitors, and other officials told a very different tale of witchcraft than those who practiced it might have written. Oddly enough, the first witch to confess to riding a broom was a Frenchman named Guillaume Edelin. Even stranger was the fact that Edelin was a priest but also a confessed witch. He was arrested in 1453 and tried for witchcraft and after being tortured, confessed to riding a broom.
The Priest just didn’t come up with the idea of riding a broom on his own. The idea was already well established and is commonly believed to be tied to ancient pagan fertility rites. In those rituals, both women and men would perform dances in their fields astride of brooms, pitchforks, and other farming implements to encourage growth. It was done at night and to the passerby would certainly have the look of people/witches about to fly away on a broom. We all know how perception quickly becomes reality, especially when the story is lurid. And yet, I digress. There are plenty of tales about flying ointments and other potions being applied to broom handles, but those stories are for another article.
How to Make Your Very Own Witches Broom
Originally, brooms received their name because they were once made from the branches of broom, a yellow-flowering shrub (pictured left). These plants were durable and effective in sweeping. Before being called brooms, they were known as besoms.
There are accounts of what witches brooms were constructed of, but no real hard evidence that there is a proper or ‘correct’ way to make them. The only real necessity is to ensure they are made from all natural materials that can be found in nature. A secondary consideration is that they would be made by hand, without modern tools.
It sounds dubious, but constructing a broom by hand can easily be managed without many tools, especially if you live in an area with ample natural resources. Before beginning, you’ll need to assemble the parts. The shaft, or handle, should be a fairly straight piece of branch ranging anywhere from four feet to eight feet long, depending on your personal preference. Try to find one you can get your hand around, or slightly larger. Some of the woods that work well for a witches broom are ash, pine, and maple. Avoid using wood from fruit trees, as they tend to split while drying. If you are using a green branch, it’s a good idea to let it age for several weeks before using it. Whether the bark is left on or stripped off is another personal decision.
You’ll also need a generous amount of twigs or small branches for the brush/bristle and natural cordage or other material to tie it all together. Somethings that work well are birch twigs, wormwood twigs, the stems from many herbs such as skullcap, peppermint, yarrow, and more. You can make your witches broom from one material or mix many together; once again it’s your personal preference. You will also need a sharp knife or cutting tool and enough time to do it right. You can use thin strips of white willow bark as your natural tying material, but its advised that you soak them in water for a full day before using to prevent breakage.
Making your own witches broom is a labor of love, so take your time and put your intention into making it amazing. Plan a large working space before you get started; an 8′ table works pretty well, but so does the ground or a garage floor. If you want to keep your handle from getting nicked up through the process, put down an old rug or blanket. Your handle will be the center of things, so lay out your materials accordingly. Start by gathering enough of the twigs and other chosen brush material and lining up the thick ends. Once you have a healthy bunch, you might want to do some pruning to size them for length. Always cut the thick end of the material as to keep the business-end bushy as possible.
Take a sharp knife and score the lower part of the shaft with a crisscross pattern (only the portion which will be hidden under the bristles). This will create small ridges which will help the bristle from sliding off the wood handle. As you prepare to start tying the bristle on, there are a few choices you can take. You can tie on the whole bunch at once, or layer the branches. How thick you make the bristle is up to you. If you are using twine or another type of cordage, cut two 30-36 inch long pieces and securely tie them to the bristle end of the handle. Take your twigs and bundle them around the end of the shaft, pulling the cordage in between. The tops of your twigs should be anywhere from eight to twelve inches from the end of the shaft.
Now comes the tricky part; the wrapping. Start with the wrap closest to the bottom and loop it a few times, before tying a fairly tight knot that you can later release and retighten. Now that your bundle is secure, take some time to shape it and get a nice balance on all sides of the shaft. Also make sure the ends are all lined up and any difficult pieces are pulled out. Now start wrapping the other piece of cordage while keeping tension on it. If you need extra tension, tie one end of the cord to a doorknob or other fixed object to help you keep it tight. Work your magick on the top binding until it is very tight. Tie it off and use a flame to burn the ends or tuck them underneath. Next untie the lower wrapping and follow a similar tensioning wrap.
If your twigs are still loose, you can tie as many extra wraps on as you want, or you can try to add additional twigs by pushing them up from the bottom and broadening the brush. Some prefer to use different colors of cordage at this step to personalize their witches broom. You can also add charms, tie on flowers, or other wise customize your witches broom. Some ideas are using a wood burning tool to add symbols, runes, or other marks and adding color or other style attributes.
That’s it! You’re now the proud owner of your very own witches broom. A witches broom should be consecrated and named before using (this is entirely optional). Follow this link which will take you to an Ostara ritual on this site. Scroll down to the section called the Besom and the Staff for the incantation of instructions on consecrating your witches broom.