The Witch's Besom

In Ireland, the besom, or witches broomstick, was sometimes called a "Faery's Horse." Today, "jumping the broom" has become an important aspect of Wiccan Handfastings, symbolizing the transition from the Maiden phase of life to that of the Mother. It also became a symbol of Samhain because of its fertility symbolism. The broomstick is a phallic symbol used by female witches in fertility rites, and it is from this idea that the witches of Halloween ride broomsticks. The sweeping end was traditionally made of the broom herb, a feminine herb.

The notion of the Halloween witch riding upon a broom also may have been a misrepresentation of astral projection. As Samhain represents a time when the veil, the threshold between the world of the living and the realm of the spirits, is very thin, it is the perfect time for astral projection and communion with the souls of the dead.

Traditionally, the broomstick is made of a limb from an ash tree.

The World Tree, which connects the world of the living and various realms of spirits, can be identified with the Yggdrasil of Norse Mythology, the Sacred Ash upon which Odin hung crucified for nine days and nine nights before receiving the Sacred Runes. It can also be recognized as the May Pole entwined with ribbon in the Spring, and it is also the Witch's Broomstick at Halloween. Using this broomstick, or Faery's Horse with its shaft of ash, the Witch traditionally rides up the chimney of her hut and over the Moon to the spirit realms on Halloween night. -- Pauline Campanelli, Ancient Ways: Reclaiming Pagan Tradition

Making the Besom

To make a traditional besom, you'll need:

A four-foot ash limb for the broomstick
Willow (the long strands to which the leaves are attached) for binding the broom end to the shaft
Brush from a birch for the bristles
Water and salt for soaking
(Substitutions for the ash broomstick and birch bristles)

Soak the herb you'll be using for the bristles overnight in warm, lightly salted water (to make them pliable). Allow them to dry a bit before using. They should be damp and pliable when binding the broom. Should they get too dry, soak them some more.

Line the straws alongside the limb, about 3 inches from the bottom. THE BOTTOM OF THE BRISTLES SHOULD POINT TOWARD THE TOP OF THE BROOM. Begin binding these around the broomstick with the pre-soaked willow binding. Tie them very securely. Add as many layers of bristle as you want, depending on how full you want the broom end to be.

Bend the top of the bristles over the willow twine. When they are gently pulled over, tie the bristles again just below the fold. Leave the broom overnight to dry.

Decorate the broomstick, if you wish, with your magickal name, magickal symbols or sigils. Consecrate the finished broom as you would any ritual object.

Other materials are often used for the besom, including:

Masculine trees suitable for the broomstick: Hazel, Oak, Rowan

Feminine herbs suitable for bristles: Myrrh, Mugwort, Thyme, Willow branches

Cotton or hemp twine can be substituted for willow strapping.

Consecrate the finished broom as you would any ritual object.