The History of the Witches Broom
Brooms have long been connected with witchcraft, almost universally portrayed as medieval-style round brooms and associated with female witches. Despite the association with women, in 1453, the first known case of claiming to have flown on a broomstick is recorded, confessed by the male witch Guillaume Edelin. There are, however, prior records of witches flying on sticks or similar objects, usually that had been first greased with a magical flying ointment.
Anecdotally, the broom served another purpose during periods of persecution. Witches and other magic practitioners would disguise their wands as broom sticks to avoid suspicion. It is also a tradition that brooms have been used by some as receptacles to harbor temporarily a particular spirit.
Today the broom is included in lists of ritual tools in many pagan guide books, where it is often referred to as a besom. A broom is sometimes laid at the opening of some covens' rossets. Representing the Element of Air, brooms are utilized in the purification of areas. They are used to sweep ritual circles clean of negative energy. The high priestess or high priest walks clockwise, traces the cast circle and sweeps with the broom a few inches off the ground. This practice can be used in addition to or in place of incense to purify a ritual space. It is often employed by those allergic to incense, and during rituals practiced in smoke-free areas. It is also a technique associated with "kitchen witches" who use what's on hand to work spells.
As a tool of purification, decorative brooms are sometimes hung near doors to cleanse those entering a house.