Broomstick Or Besom,
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BESOM OR BROOM
4This significance is in fact a phallic one. In Yorkshire folk-belief, it was unlucky for an unmarried girl to step over a broomstick, because it meant that she would be a mother before she was a wife. Is Sussex, the May-Pole, which was itself a phallic symbol, used to be topped with a large birch broom. A 'besom' is a dialect term for a shameless, immoral female.
5'To marry over the broomstick'. 'jump the besom', was an old-time form of irregular marriage, in which both parties jumped over a broomstick, to signify that they were joined in common-law union. At gypsy wedding ceremonies, the bride and groom jump backwards and forwards over a broomstick; further evidence of the broom's connection with sex and fertility.
6In a curious and interesting old book, "A Dictionary of Slang, Jargon, and Chant", by Albert Barrere and Charles Godfrey Leland (London, 1899 and 1897, also Gale Research, Detroit, 1889), we are told that a slang term in those days for a 'dildo' or artificial penis was 'a broom handle'; and the female genitals were known vulgarly as 'the broom'. To 'have a brush' was to have sexual intercourse. This throws considerable light on the real significance of the broomstick in witch rituals, and in old folk-dances, in which it often plays a part.
8The "Planta genista" was the badge of the "Plantagenet" family, who derived their name from it. They were rumored to favor the Old Religion.
9At one time of the year, the broom plant was unlucky. The old saying goes: "If you sweep he house with blossomed broom in May, you will sweep the head of the house away." This could perhaps have some connection with old sacrificial rites at the commencement of summer.
10Sometimes the broomstick was regarded as having power to repel witches; perhaps with the idea of turning their own magic against them. At any rate, a broomstick placed across the threshold of a house was supposed to keep witches out.
11A broomstick could also be a luck symbol. When alterations were being made to an old house at Blandford in Dorset in 1930, a broomstick was found walled been put there for luck, and it was allowed to remain in its hiding-place.
12These additional meanings of the broomstick are in accord with its phallic significance. Things which are sex symbols are life symbols, and hence luck bringers and protectors against the Evil Eye.
13In Reginald Scot's "Discoverie of Witchcraft" (London, 1584, and edited by Hugh Ross Williamson, Centaur, Southern Illinois University Press, 1964), he says of the witches' Sabbats:"At these magicall assemblies, the witches never faile to danse; and in their danse they sing these words, Har, har, divell divell, danse here danse here, plaoe here plaie here, Sabbath, sabbath. And whiles they sing and danse, everie one hath a broom in hir hand, and holdeth it up aloft." He was quoting from the descriptions of witch rites given by a French demonologist, Jean Bodin. It appears from the other old description that witches also performed a kind of jumping dance, riding on staffs; and if broomsticks were used for this purpose, too, it is easy to see how this dance, combined with the witches' experience of wild visions and dreams of flying while in a stage of magical trance, gave rise to the popular picture of broomstick-rising witches in flight through the air.
14When broomsticks or besoms began to be made of more durable materials than the broom plant, the usual combination of woods for them was birch twigs for the brush, and ashen stake for the handle, and osier willow for the binding. However, in the Wyre Forest area of Worcestershire, the traditional woods are oak twigs for the sprays, which is the makers' term for the broom part; hazel for the staff; and birch for the binding. All of these trees are full of magical meanings of their own, and feature in the old Druidic tree alphabets of Ancient Britain. The ash is a sacred and magical tree; the oak is the king of the woods; the hazel is the tree of wisdom; the willow is a tree of moon-magic; and the birch is a symbol of purification.
15There are many beliefs based on the Broom as it made its genesis from medicine staff to symbol of Rebirth. The wedding broom represents a joining of souls working together as they jump over the Broom into their new life together. When a bride and groom moved into a new house, a new broom was be used to sweep a little dust into the door. Then this swept dust was placed onto the hearthstone to retain blessings.