A besom is a broom made of twigs bound around a staff. Such brooms are long associated with witches in
folklore, such as the following lore referenced by Robert Graves:

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.[1]

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.


  1. Graves, Robert. The White Goddess Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 0374504938. p. 173