The History of Halloween: Witches & Broomsticks
Continuing with our History of Halloween Series, we are discussing broomsticks today. This post is brought to you by PagansPath.com. I want you to hear from the mouth of a pagan herself what the history and purpose of the broom is in witchcraft and how that plays into the pagan feast of Samhain (Halloween). If you missed our first post on the history of the jack o’ lantern, you may view it here.
And just to be clear, while I believe broomsticks to be largely metaphorical for astral projection, I also believe that witches have before actually mounted their broomsticks and flown on them. Why? Because Bishop Tudor Bismark was an eyewitness to this phenomenon. While attending a large ministry conference (I believe in Benin, the birthplace of Voodoo), a witch was seen flying over the open arena conference. They prayed and she fell down from her broomstick, dead.
THAT is demonic.
My best friend’s mother was also an eyewitness to seeing two or three witches flying on broomsticks. She was at church for a meeting and they heard a noise outside. When the looked, they saw three witches flying over head on broomsticks.
THAT is demonic.
I would not say this is the rule, rather the exception. But it can happen. And even if you do not believe in a witch flying on a literal broom, you can believe in a witch astral projecting as both Earthquake Kelley, a former Voodoo practitioner, and John Ramirez, a former Satanist, have both attested to in my Witchcraft & Deliverance Chronicles. Hear their testimonies and decide for yourself.
And now I give you, the history of the broomstick.
The broom stick was an important fixture in ancient homes through out Europe. Most homes were made of wood, straw and dirt floors. The only way to keep a home clean was to sweep out the old.
This concept is even documented in the Bible.
In Isaiah 14:23 (KJV translation) "I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the LORD of hosts."
In Luke 15:8 "The Parable of the Lost Coin": "Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?"
One of the earliest forms of the broom is known as the Besom Broom. They were made of twigs tied to a handle. The bristles can be made of various materials such as straw, herbs, or twigs. The shaft is round to represent the branch of a tree. This associates the broom with the Tree of Life which was an important symbol in ancient pagan Europe. Traditionally a Besom broom is made from hazel wood and the bristles are birch twigs.
These brooms were often found just inside a dwelling hanging with bristles up to ward off evil spirits, negative energies and to protect the home and all who dwell within it. It could also be found hanging over a door with the bristles facing in the direction of opening of the door.
They were relatively inefficient as a cleaning implement and needed constant repair or recreation. Today Besom Brooms are still crafted and sold at garden centers as an outdoor broom. You can also find decorated and scented versions (ie: cinnamon besom brooms) in craft stores for indoor decorations.
The brooms relation to sweeping away negative energies and use for protection makes it a wonderful tool for magikal practices and rituals. Consequently it wasn't a big leap for European pagans to use the broom as a tool.
The Witches Broom
The traditional Witch's Broom is made of an ash handle and bristles from birch twigs. The twigs are tied onto the handle with thin pieces of willow wood. There have been a few written accounts of early Witch's decorating their brooms with flowers of the season tied on with some type of decorative string or later using colored ribbon. A practice that is continued today by modern Witches.
Early Celtic pagans associated the broom with Faeries, possibly because of it's relation to the wood and a common belief in forest sprites. Some stories tell of a Witch entering a forest and asking the Faeries to lead her way to the perfect tree where she can collect a staff for a broom. The idea is to enlist the help of the magikal folk and ensure the enchantment of the broom once it has been fashioned.
The Witch's broom is one of the few tools that is seen as a balance of Divine forces. It is both part of masculine energies (the phallic handle) and female energies (the bristles). Because of this, the broom was and still is commonly used in Handfasting rituals (marriage ceremonies). It is also used as a gate or door before a ritual space. A witch would draw a magikal circle, enter the circle and then place the broom over the doorway to keep out unwanted energies or people as an example.
While being used for clearing an area for ritual work was the earliest use for a broom, it became an important tool for Witch's during The Burning Times of Europe. During this era Witches would use a broom to hide one of their most important tools, the wand. It is also a tradition that brooms have been used by some as receptacles to harbor a particular spirit temporarily. This could be done to remove an unwanted spirit from one area and then release it far away in another place. Or it could be used to utilize the energy of a spirit for a specific spell when the broom is used as a wand.
A few ancient brooms have been discovered to have hidden compartments in the handle. These small hidden places held combinations of herbs, oils, feathers and a variety of other things thought to be part of a ritualistic spell. The hidden concoctions added to the energy of the intent that the broom was to be used for.
The Flying Broom
This early association of broom to tree also associates it with the element of air and therefore has power over spirits. Thus it's common use as a tool for flying. In both historical and modern images a female witch can be found on a broom silhouetted by the full moon behind her.
Although most associate being a witch with women, it's a label that applies to both sexes. The first 'official' record that documents the claim of flying on a broom stick was recorded in 1453. The claim was made in a confession by a male witch named Guillaume Edelin.
There have been earlier documents recanting stories of Witches flying on a variety of sticks. Such as decorated walking sticks, limbs from a tree complete with it's leaves, or just a stick alone. These stories include details of magikal flying ointments being applied to these tools in order to give them flight.
In both ancient Witchcraft and Shamanistic practices the use of these ointments was most probably what gave the impression of Witch flight. Ointments and potions for flying were most likely a variety of hallucinagenics that assisted a Witch in visualizing a flight upon the broom. This is not uncommon for early spiritual journeys. Using peyote and other hallucinagenics is well documented and utilized by Native American cultures for spiritual travels.
These special 'trips' were controlled methods to quickly reach a state of altered awareness. From there a Witch could astral project with the image of flying on a broom to anywhere within their known Universe. The use by witches of flying ointments was first described, according to known sources, by Johannes Hartlieb in 1456. It was also described by the Spanish theologist Alfonso Tostado in Super Genesis Commentaria (Venetia, 1507), whose commentary tended to accredit the thesis of the reality of the Witches' Sabbath.
Today using these types of potions and ointments are not recommended or encouraged. Flying journeys instead are suggested through deep meditation and astral projection. These methods are not just safer, but they also provide the practitioner with more control and the ability to remember more of the journey itself.