The 'witch's besom' in the English countryside is still made of ash stake, birch twigs and osier[wicker] binding: of birch twigs because at the expulsion of evil spirits some remain entangled in the besom; of ash stake as a protection against drowning—witches are made harmless if detached from their besoms and thrown into running water; of osier binding in honour of Hecate..
The besom has a clear fertility symbolism, in being made from a long staff inserted into a bushy bundle of twigs. In this manner it is comparable to the lingam-yoni found in some Hindu practices. The stang used in Traditional Initiatory Witchcraft is also comparable in this regard.
In its mundane purpose of cleaning, a besom can also represent exorcism or banishing.
There have long been suggestions that the story of witches riding through the sky on various riding-sticks (including besoms, but also other sticks) has been a reference to the use of such sticks to pass hallucinogenic salves into the thin skin of the genitals. Another explanation suggests that jumping while straddling such a stick or broom was a fertility practice to encourage crops to grow.
Several different cultures have wedding practices in which the marrying couple jumps over a broom. The practice has been found in African-American, Roma, English and Irish Traveller cultures, with differing explanations of the practice's purpose within each of them. This practice has been recently adopted into some witch marriage ceremonies.