8.9.14

How To Make and Use a Broom


What are the first things that come to mind when you say "witch"? I'm sure that black cats, cauldrons and brooms will me somewhere at the top of this list. Although black cats aren't really part of the witch's or pagan's ritual toolkit, the cauldron and broom are (even though they aren't essential).

I have been trying to get my hands on the necessary materials to make my own broom for quite some time now and I have finally succeeded! I decided to document the making process and share it with you in hopes of making your jobs a little bit easier and giving you some tips so you don't repeat my mistakes.

Before I go on to describing the whole process of making a broom, I would like to turn to its uses in witchcraft and Paganism.

Ritual Broom Uses

I talked about the history and the various uses of brooms in great depth in a previous post entitled "Broomsticks (Can Witches Really Fly?)". But let us just do a quick recap. :)

Think about what you use a broom for in everyday life...for cleaning, right? The broom's function remains unchanged in the ritual circle, except that it doesn't clean physical filth in it, but rather energetic filth (although it can also help you clean the circle physically; nobody's stopping you from using it to get some leaves or dust out of the way so you can have a more pleasant working environment). In effect, it removes all negative energy so that the space can be fit for the ritual and so the practitioners can work undisturbed. It is important to clean the ritual circle in any way before enacting a ritual because it is believed that every space aggregates the energy of the people passing through it/living in it. Everybody carries with them some sort of energy which is unwanted in rituals. This is why the ritual circle is always cleansed beforehand, as are all the participants before entering it. Some cleanse the circle using visualizations, others walk on the circle's perimeter holding a wand/athamé and some with a broom. The choice is yours. Since the primary function of the witch's/pagan's broom is not to physically clean the space, but to energetically purify it, the bristles don't even have to touch the ground. When an individual cleanses the circle using a broom, he/she walks around the perimeter of the circle deosil (clockwise) and visualizes the broom creating a border inside which negative energy no longer exists and through which any sort of negativity can no longer pass. This border symbolizes purity and it is because of this that it is usually seen as a white/light blue line which defines the edge of the ritual circle. 

When this sort of border is envisioned, then we say that the ritual circle is being opened, or rather drawn. The opening of the circle and its cleansing are two different actions. The opening of the circle is actually a longer process that includes the drawing (using one's finger/athamé/wand/broom), cleansing, visualization of the protection of the circle and so on (for more details, see the following posts: "Ritual Form", "The Opening Ritual"). When the circle is being drawn using a broom, then the broom is actually a substitute for another ritual tool  i.e. the athamé or wand with which this part of the ritual is usually done.

Since the broom purifies, it also protects. This is the background for an old tradition according to which a broom placed over the main door of the house, above a window, underneath the bed or on the door itself protects and purifies the household. You may also conclude that the broom also protects during rituals.

A more occasional use for the broom can be found in Handfastings i.e. Pagan weddings. During these rituals, the couple jumps over a broom holding hands in order to express their unity but also to be cleansed in a way. According to some beliefs, this practice also guarantees the couple a happy marriage and fertility. 

Since we're on the topic of fertility, it is important to note another important aspect of the broom. The broom is made of two basic parts: the hands and the bristles. The handle resembles the phallus for obvious reasons and the bristles represent the vulva. While making a broom, the handle is actually pushed into the bristles and the two are tied together in a certain way. Basically, the broom holds within its very core a strong symbolism of sexual intercourse and ultimately of fertility. From the Pagan perspective, the broom has a secondary symbolism as well. The handle represents the phallus, but also the God, whereas the bristles represent the female sex organ and through it the Goddess. The God and Goddess are therefore united in this ritual tool.

By all means, every aspect of fertility is celebrated in Paganism, be it human fertility, the fertility of the land, animals, ideas and so on. It is believed that fertility was celebrated in ancient times even among the "original Pagans"; the pagani, or rather the farmers, the villagers (without any negative connotations). They depended on the fertility of their cattle and fields and learnt to appreciate and worship this in time. It is probably from this mindset the the practice of carrying out fertility rituals in fields came to be. These rituals were often performed by women and consisted of dances on brooms, or other phallic objects (pitchforks, hobby-horses etc.). In these dances, women "rode" these objects thus imitating sex. It is obvious that these dancers endeavored to transfer fertility to the land through these quas-isexual acts and aid the land in yielding crops.

This is just some basic information which may help you in understanding the ritual purpose of brooms. You can read much more on the subject here. And now I think it's time we went on to what I haven't yet explained:

How To Make a Broom

You will need the following materials:

  • one thicker and longer branch for the handle (my branch is about 2 fingers thick and about armpit-height, but the ration depends on you)
  • a larger amount of willow branches/rope
  • a larger amount of birch branches (or some other material that you plan to use for the bristles)
You can read more details about the materials a few paragraphs below.
Note: the number of willow branches depends on how well you want to tie your bristles to the handle but also on how skilled you are with this material. The amount of birch branches depends on how "rich" you want your broom to be.

You will need the following tools:

  • a saw
  • a knife/or a sharp scalpel
  • sandpaper (or some sort of electric sander)
  • protection goggles
  • shears
  • gardening gloves
I recommend that you always wear your protection goggles and gardening gloves so you avoid any injury (especially if you're working with electric tools). You will find the shears useful when the saw gets a bit too clumsy.

Step 1 - Choosing the Material

First of all, it is necessary to decide which material to use for which part of the broom. Witches' brooms are typically made completely of wood without any metal or unnatural materials (e.g. plastic). Rope can also be used as a helping tool while making the broom, or for tying it if it is made of a natural material.

The handle of the broom is usually made of a "male" wood since it symbolizes the phallus. The traditional trees used for this part of the broom include ash, hazel and oak (in this order). Although, any "male" tree will suffice. By "male", I am not referring to the tree's sex, obviously. A "male" tree would just be any tree that is very strong, durable and inflexible.

The bristles are usually made of a "female" tree, by contrast. These types of trees are usually more sensitive, delicate and flexible than "male" trees. The most traditional tree in this case is birch, although any sort of brushwood, or flexible branches and even straw will do the trick. 

These two elements have to be tied together in some way. This is what fresh willow branches are used for. Because they are so flexible and rubber-like, they really serve their purpose. An alternative option is always natural rope (that is to say, uncolored, made of natural materials). I can't emphasize enough that the willow branches have to be freshly gathered because they dry up in a matter of days and then become brittle as they lose their flexibility. Once they become inflexible, it's impossible to bend them or tie anything with them. Only while they are fresh do they have the necessary suppleness.

Opposite to this "rule" regarding the willow branches, your birch branches should be dry and the stick you choose for the handle absolutely has to be dry in order for you to be able to shape it. Namely, the handle has to be stripped of all its bark, one end of it is usually sharpened or at least narrowed (the side which goes into the bristles) and the other end is usually rounded to resemble a phallus. This kind of molding is very difficult if the wood is still damp. The bristles are left with the bark on since they are thin enough as it is, but the bark also protects them.

I decided to use the traditional materials: ash for the handle, birch for the bristles and willow for tying them together. It is said that this is a great combination because ash protects, birch cleanses and willow is sacred to the Goddess. Every tree has its own symbolism, especially in Celtic tradition and mythology. I recommend you have a look at this page for more information on these trees, as well as many other. :)

Once you have decided on the materials you want to use, it's time you go find them in nature! :D

Step 2 - Finding the Material

It is ideal if the witch/Pagan can make their own ritual tools but also gather the necessary materials for them. This is impossible or beyond our capabilities in some cases, but I think it is possible in this case. So it is recommended that practitioners go for a nice nature walk and find the materials themselves. Since I live in a climate where there is no birch or ash to be seen, a dear friend of mine got me these materials and gave them to me. It was up to me to transport this material from one side of the country to the other and lovingly shape it. Nobody is stopping you from doing the same, but it is traditional to get and so as much as you can yourself. But let us get back to the main topic.

Once you have gone into nature and found your materials, you have to take them. But before you do, you should take care to thank the tree/bush from which you are taking them. Pagans try to live in harmony with the earth and thus do not behave aggressively towards it. We also try not to take the earths' gifts for granted. This is precisely why we express respect and gratitude towards it in our everyday lives, and especially when it shares its bounty with us like this. In case you found an already dried up, fallen branch somewhere on the earth, simply thank the land that gave you this gift. If you find that you have to cut some branches, then politely thank the plant you are taking them from and you can also leave it a small offering/gift (a small crystal, flowers, a garland etc.). This way, you perform a sort of ritual in nature and already begin making your broom by only thinking about it and infusing the whole process with your intentions and love.

Step 3 - Making Your Broom

When you have gathered/sawed/chopped off the branches which you need, the next step is to shape this material so it will be suitable for binding together into a broom. As I previously mentioned, I used an ash branch for the handle, birch branches for the bristles and willow branches instead of rope. This is why I will sometimes use "ash" as a synonym for "handle", or "birch" as a synonym for "bristles" and so on so please don't let this confuse you. Lets get started then!

1. Remove all the leaves and offshoots

All the branches you find will, of course, have many leaves and offshoots on them. It is necessary to remove all of these unnecessary parts to make the branches as smooth as possible. Oh, and it's worth noting that you should do this for the birch, willow and ash branches. 

Picture 2: willow branches after cleaning
Picture 1: willow branches before cleaning



Picture 3: cleaned birch branches

2. Remove the bark from the handle

I have already emphasized that the branch you choose for you handle should be completely smooth. So when you have removed all the leaves and offshoots from it, you should remove the bark. If the branch is already fully dry, the bark will start to fall of by itself but even if it hasn't completely fallen off, you can very easily scrape it off yourself just using your hands or a sharp object if you prefer this. You will then be left with a bare piece of wood which just needs a few more touch-ups before it is completely smooth. I "polished" my ash branch using sand paper and a small electric sander. It's necessary to sand the whole branch until it looks like the one in picture 5 (picture no. 4 shows a branch without the bark, but before sanding. You can see what an ash branch looks like with its bark here).

Picture 4: a branch without the bark, but
before sanding
Picture 5: the fully polished branch (notice
the part where the offshoot was; it is necessary
to be very careful around these parts
especially if you are working with an electric

sander because they can do damage to the sander,
plus the wood can fly off towards you.
This is why you should wear protective
goggles).



























3. Shape the handle

Although you have polished the handle nicely, you still have to shape it. In order for it to be more easily inserted between the bristles (but also in order for ti to stay in place), you should now sharped/narrow one end of the branch using a knife or scalpel. Simply cut off  bit by bit of the end until you notice that it has significantly gotten thinner in comparison to the rest of the branch and then finish it off with a bit of sanding so it can look nice and smooth.

Picture 6: the branch before I shaped it
Picture 7: the branch after I shaped it (notice
it getting narrower at the bottom)





















It would also be a good idea for you to form the top of the handle so it is rounded. If the branch had simply fallen off the tree by itself, then the top will be very uneaven and crude. If you sawed it off yourself then it will be very straight and sharp-edged. In any case, it's best to round it off a bit. You can do this using sanding paper and if you're persistent enough then you can even make it into a complete hemisphere. I shaped the top of my handle by sanding the edges at an angle. Then I continued sanding it in circular motions to get it even more rounded and to remove and rough transitions on it (have a look at picture 8).

Picture 8: a rounded broom handle top

(3.5 Even out the tops of your bristle branches

I inserted this here as an intermediate step because I did the wrong thing and decided to saw off the tips of these branches when they were already tied in little bundles. This turned out to be a much harder way of doing things. So my recommendation is that you take you birch branches (or any other branches that you have chosen for your bristles) and straighten off their tips one by one using shears or a small hand saw. The tips of these branches should look something like the one in this picture when you're done.)

4. Split up the birch branches

It isn't necessary to take the bark off or sand the birch branches or the willow branches (that is any branches you plan to use for the bristles and as "rope"). All you need to do with these branches is organize them. Let us focus on your bristles for now. What I first did was divide my birch branches into three groups according to size: large, middle-sized and small branches. This is how I got the three piles you see in picture no. 9.

The next step is to further divide these 3 piles into 3 smaller piles. You should now have 9 piles altogether. We will later tie each of these piles separately using rope/willow branches. But let me first explain why. The reason for this is friction. If you were to simply tie all of these branches to the handle in one go, then the chances of the branches falling out would be bigger as there would be less friction. If you tie the branches into several smaller bundles, and then tie all these bundles into one big bundle around the handle (as we will do), then the friction is much bigger.

Picture 9: birch branches divided into three
groups according to size 
Picture 10: one bundle of birch branches
divided into 3 smaller piles





















5. Tie each bundle

The next step is to tie each of the nine piles as shown in pictures 11, 12 and 13. In order to tie each pile, I recommend you follow these steps. I call this technique the "snake". Feel free to follow the diagram below along with the instructions.

  • Spirally wrap one willow branch around one bundle of birch branches a few times. (picture 11)
  • Start making a knot by taking one end of the willow branch and pushing it under the spiral. (picture 12)
  • Slowly pull on one end of the willow branch. This will tighten it around the bundle using friction. (picture 13)
  • Continue wriggling the willow branch over the spiral in a snaky way so you get into the position shown in picture 12. Then push the branch beneath the spiral once more (as in picture 13), tighten it and repeat this until you run out of the willow branch.
Tip: when you start pushing the end of the willow branch beneath the spiral, feel free to let it come out the other side of the whole birch bundle. This way, you will add to the friction and tighten the bundle even more.
  • When you come to the end of your willow branch, simply tuck the ends somewhere in the spiral or underneath another part of the branch (but the friction itself should be enough to keep the "snake" from unraveling).
  • Cut off any excess material using your shears.
Picture 11: a willow branch spirally wrapped around the bundle
of birch branches
Picture 13: a tightened willow knot
Picture 12: the beginning of the willow knot





















You should now have 9 neatly tied bundles as shown in picture no. 14.

Picture 14: tied bundles of birch branches

6. Tie the bundles to the broom handle

Arrange your nine bundles around the  handle (picture 15) and temporarily tie them all together using some rope. If you don't have any, then ask one of your flatmates to give you a hand. You now have one big bundle of birch branches.

Picture 15: birch bundles arranged around the handle
In order for you to tie this bundle around the handle, you can follow the same instructions that you followed when tying each of these bundles separately (step 5). The only difference in this procedure is that you don't have to spirally wrap the willow branch around the bundle several times. It's now enough to just wrap it around once (picture 16). After this, the instructions are the same as in step 5.

It's necessary to make a "knot" in two places; one almost at the top of the bundle and another slightly below the first knot (picture 18). I left about 30cm between my two "knots". 

Generally speaking, there are no rules as to how much of the handle has to be hidden among the birch branches and how much of it has to be left outside. This is up to you. I left this up to the broom itself and left the widest part of the handle inside so the bundle can't slip off.

Picture 16: a willow branch wrapped around
the birch bundle
Picture 17: the willow knot

Picture 18: two "knots" on the broom
You can make several knots in one place as I did. My advice is that you somehow intertwine each willow branch you use for you knots with the previously made knot(s) in that place. This way, all the willow branches stay connected.

Once you've done this, your broom is done! :D You can now enjoy doing your rituals with it.
I hope that these instructions will be of some use to you and if anything is unclear, don't hesitate to post your questions in a comment, or ask them through the contact form.

Until next time. Yours,
Witch's Cat


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