Besom is a dialectal or historical word for what is now known as a broom, a household implement used for sweeping. The term "besom" is now mostly reserved for a "traditionally constructed" broom, made from a bundle of twigs tied to a stouter pole. In Scotland, "besom" (pronounced "bih-zum") may be used to refer to a particularly annoying person or naughty child. In Ireland, the besom was sometimes called a "Fairy's Horse."
As a result of its construction around a central pole, the brush of the besom is rounded instead of flat. The bristles can be made of many materials including, but not limited to straw, herbs, or twigs. Traditionally the handle is of hazel wood and the head is of birch twigs. Modern construction uses bindings of wire and string and the head is secured by a steel nail instead of a wooden dowel.
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.
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.
A besom is one of the tools used in Wicca, essentially a witch's broomstick. A traditional Wiccan besom is an ash stave handle with bristles made from birch twigs. These twigs are tied on using thin pieces of willow wood. Ash is protective, birch cleansing, and willow is sacred to the Goddess.
It is used to sweep away negative energy in an area. Similar to smudging, a besom is also used to clear a designated space. Often, witches would use this to clear a space for a sacred circle or sweep their homes and hearths.
As a tool, the besom is usually thought of as masculine in nature due to its phallic shape and symbolism. However the besom's components are of both masculine and feminine orientation. The handle, an ash stave, is masculine in nature while the birch used for the bristles is thought of as feminine in nature.
It historically has been used to protect the home by laying it across the door. The besom now is an important part of Wiccan handfasting ceremonies in some traditions. 'Jumping the broom' symbolizes many children for a newly married couple. Alternatively, the couple may jump over a small bonfire.
Store your besom with the brush end up. Traditionally it is stored this way by the door to keep out unwanted negativity.
You can make a besom out of any type of herb or tree. Most of the supplies can be found at craft stores or garden stores where wreath-making and basket-weaving supplies are sold. The besom is always made from natural products, so try to gather supplies from the forest with respect. Gather all your ingredients during the beginning of the waxing moon cycle so you can bless your finished besom under the light of the full moon.
1 bundle of birch brush twigs, about 2-3 feet long (or mugwort or thyme or myrrh)
salt water bath
1 ash handle, about 3-4 feet long (or oak or pine or hazel)
3 extra long zip ties, about 14 inches long
twine (or willow withies or hemp)
Preparation: Whatever you'll be using for the bristles - whether it's birch, an herb, or some other wood - should be soaked in the warm salt water overnight to make them pliable. Or at least a few hours. The salt helps cleanse.
Ash is traditionally used in besom crafting. It represents enduring strength and male energy. Birch is a feminine wood that represents healing, fertility, purification, and beginnings. Willow Withies are a tough flexible branch of an osier or other willow, used for tying, binding or basketry.
-Choose birch brush twigs that are long enough that you don't have to bend over and strain your back as you sweep. Prepare your handle by whittling the end to a point and decorating it with carved rune or painted symbols.
-Take your twine and bind the birch twigs onto the handle. There are a few ways to do this. You can tie sections of birch twigs together with twine and attach each section to the stick by weaving them all together around the handle.
Alternately, you can secure a whole bushel of the birch twigs with zip ties at equal distances apart and then push the whittled end of the handle through the middle.
-Tie the birch twigs firmly with twine so the brush will not move. Cut the zip ties off when you feel it will hold. Trim uneven sections of twigs with a hand pruner or scissors if needed.
-Charge your tool and activate the magick within under the full moon light. Let your hands hover over your besom and allow the universal energy to flow. Recite the following incantation:
Fashioned in tradition tried and true,
Light from the moon charge through and through,
Activate and bring out the magick within,
Let the clearing and clarity begin.