Tools of the Craft : The Besom

Brooms are everywhere this time of the year. Black ones. Orange ones. Black and orange. Brooms with lightening bolts on the handle. You name it and you can likely find it on a besom. Other than the pointy hat, few other things identify witches as well, witches other than this universal accessory. Brooms have played an integral part in modern witchcraft and occult history. In fact, it would be hard to locate a circle anywhere this time of the year where a broom wasn’t somewhere to be found. It’s not just for sweeping the front porch anymore, at least not these.
As I said, brooms come in all sizes, shapes, textures, and patterns. Traditionally brooms were created from an ash or hazel (depending upon which was readily available in the area), sometimes willow, and birch branches or an herb called…you guessed it!….broom. Broom in it’s natural habitat of England, Scotland, parts of Asia, and warmer climates of Europe, has many uses, making brooms is just one. This bitter tasting herb grows as a shrub and can be used as both a toxin and a medicine. As an herbal treatment for bladder and kidney problems, and as a diuretic broom is used in conjunction with other herbs usually as an infusion over the course of a week or two until it is ready to be mixed into a potion. Unlike most herbs, this one is better taken with alcohol as it is very bitter and has an unpleasant scent after it dries and is boiled down.
The herb itself is very tall almost three feet high, woody with long tangling twig like stems, and grows in unlikely places. The rougher the terrain the happier this particular herb is. In fact, it will grow on rocky mountains in poor soil with little rainfall. This made it ideal for using as a tool or utensil for cleaning as well as magick.
Constructing brooms (besom) is pretty simple really. All that is needed is a long stave of either hazel, ash, or willow, willow twine, and long twiggy broom. The broom is connected to the stave with the willow twine and voila a besom is born! Of course the use of said besom isn’t always so simple.
Besoms were used, and still are, to clean the space for circle, to sweep away stagnant energy, as a protective barrier, to welcome guests, as a marital fertility aid (jumping the broom), and in some cases as a form of circle casting itself. Besoms placed near doorways welcome guests and ward away negative spirits. Sweeping the doorway, porch, and front of the home prevented energy from gathering and remaining there to cause problems later. In some cultures, sweeping of one’s feet meant the person in question would either get pregnant, go to jail, or get married. In other cultures it’s a way of removing the last bits of energy after shaking it loose with the besom.

Other lore regarding the besom include never sweeping with a broom while a deceased family member is in the home. A broom that suddenly falls from a door way announces company on the way. Brooms placed over the door protects against fairies and imps. Never bring old brooms into a new home and never burn a broom. Both are very bad luck.

 

The Welsh gypsy practice of jumping the broom is said to bring the newly wedded couple good fortune and many children. In parts of Africa sweeping over a man’s feet is said to bring on impotence. Of course, one can’t mention brooms without the practice of riding one.

 

The Dark Ages brought mountains of superstition regarding witches and devils. One is said to be the consort of the other and riding a broom was a reward for carrying out the devil’s work on Earth. I strongly suspect that should a Witch be able to actually get a broom to sweep his or her floor on its own, much less fly, there would be mass conversions. Certainly modern television witches have no problem twinkling their noses to a spotless home. However, Dark Age witches probably used a salve called flying ointment which was used to dress the broom for ritual use. This ointment consisted of a fatty base in which essential oils and herbs were mixed and then used to dress the broom from tip of the stave to the joining of the herb. Herbs such as wolfsbane, hemlock, henbane, and Nightshade were used and still are as a basis for charging these brooms. Charging is the practice of imparting energy onto an object so it become personal and receptive to the individual’s will. The first mention of flying ointments in conjunction with brooms and their use could be as early as the mid 1400’s.
The besom itself is a work of symbolism. It represents the union of the God and Goddess, a holy marriage, that revitalizes the Earth. Brooms may be created on May Day (Beltane, Belteanne, Beltaine, Cetsamhain), but not purchased on this day. To do so is said to sweep away friends and family and prevent visitors from returning.
Today modern witches still use the besom as an altar adornment, to sweep away negative or stale energy, and to recharge the energy in a space. They are used to cast circle, to mark the barriers of a circle, cleanse and consecrate the circle, and to prepare for smudging. Non-witches also use the broom to scent their homes, adorn their doors, and decorate their homes. It’s unlikely any of us witchy folk will be saving gas and riding our brooms any time soon, but the tradition and lore still live on.

PBN Blues Series: “Who do You Love” – George Thorogood

There are times when power plays are important, in life and in the magickal/spiritual world.  There really are enemies out there who come after people.  Yes, sometimes it really is you against the world.

Clients, and even other practitioners, may come to you when they cannot lift the workings cast against them.  They may feel hexed, cursed, crossed, or any number of other colorful terms for feeling that they are being attacked magically and/or spiritually.  Witchcraft of the Mouth is the most common form.  So is candle working.  Once the choice has been made on how to counter these things, and this is of course after ascertaining if they even exist, there should always be a follow-up working.

The follow-up is like tying up loose ends.  It sweeps away the debris, and clears the road for progress.  It also facilitates and environment for healing of the client.  After battle, the medics always come in to patch, but long-term care is important for a proper recovery.

When working with your client, you may be tempted to do success work right away.  While this is not necessarily wrong, it can be incomplete.  If they are still emotionally and mentally compromised from the attacks against them they will be hindered.  Experience advises you to suggest clearing work, path opening work, and the critical task of building up their defenses and confidence.  Why help them fight if you do not provide the tools needed to mount a good strong level of protection and defense?  When a person neutralizes malevolent spells and workings, without sending a strong message, it sometimes becomes more dangerous and emboldens the adversaries to up the stakes.  In these cases, it is important to advise the client of ALL options.

Let’s look at a case where this comes into play.

Mattsson_Interrogation_of_the_sorceress.jpg
Mattsson_Interrogation_of_the_sorceress.jpg

Timone V. has been beaten down for a long time.  She has always managed to make things work, no matter how unhappy she may have been with her current project by constantly bending and doing the work that other don’t do.  She even has not made an issue when others came in at the last-minute to do a minor touch on the finished project in order to take credit for the work.

But recently, she hit the wall and reached her limit and spoke up.  Within record time, forces and working were cast against her in an attempt to compel her into submission.  Quietly,  detractors organized and set about a whisper chain to destroy her.  Being a practitioner herself, she was hesitant about acting rashly, so decided to seek an objective opinion.

Timone V. came to your shop and gave you a breakdown of her situation.   You joined together in deciding the best course of action.  You consulted with her in choosing work to stop gossip, to break any compulsions, and to clear her roads.  She did not wish to attack anyone, just to defend.  This was successful, however the attacks resumed and she found herself right back in the same dire straits of being assailed from all sides.  In fact, it became worse, as her enemies doubled down and increased their workings against her.  Now you find yourself in a quandary of what the correct action will be.

Quick and easy, and a little cheesy

You decide to use the honey jar method, as that is the new “go-to” panacea in folk magick popularity.  Using what you have prepackaged on the shelf, you quickly assure her that this is all she needs to fix her situation.   You see no need to explain the principles behind what you are doing, and assure her that her situation will be fixed with this easy remedy.  You see no need for subsequent work.  After all, if she is a practitioner, she should know all the forms of spells anyway.  She leaves your shop, unsure as to why this will work.

Tombstone hand time, or empowering the unsure practitioner/client

Timone V. has been beaten down for a long time.  She has always managed to make things work, no matter how unhappy she may have been with her current project by constantly bending and doing the work that other don’t do.  She even has not made an issue when others came in at the last-minute to do a minor touch on the finished project in order to take credit for the work.

But recently, she hit the wall and reached her limit and spoke up.  Within record time, forces and working were cast against her in an attempt to compel her into submission.  Quietly,  detractors organized and set about a whisper chain to destroy her.  Being a practitioner herself, she was hesitant about acting rashly, so decided to seek an objective opinion.

Antonio de Pereda [Public domain]
Antonio de Pereda [Public domain]
Timone V. came to your shop and gave you a breakdown of her situation.   You joined together in deciding the best course of action.  You consulted with her in choosing herbs to make a powder to stop gossip, to break any compulsions, and to clear her roads.  She did not wish to attack anyone, just to defend.  This was successful, however the attacks resumed and she found herself right back in the same dire straits of being assailed from all sides.  In fact, it became worse, as her enemies doubled down and increased their workings against her.  Now you find yourself in a quandary of what the correct action will be.

You explain that it is like going into a boxing ring and just holding up the gloves to trying to block punches.  Eventually, that person will get worn down, be slow to move,  and be pummeled.  This makes no sense.  The fact that the person does not want to fight does not matter, the opponent will keep swinging until they take them down.  In order to survive the fight, the proper course of action is to block AND strike.  This way, you defend, counter, and have a chance to make it to the end without being on your back and at your opponent’s mercy. If you knock them out, all the better.

Self preservation must be the first law.

Timone V. sees the wisdom of this and decides that it is time to end this cycle of conflict.  She decides to defend herself and also send a clear message of strong defense.  She designs a working that allows her to control the measure of retaliation and attack so that it stays within what she deems the limits of fairness according to her belief system.

In this case, ritual tools are incorporated into the sale.  These include a huge bag of Devil’s Shoe String that will be added to the anointing oil for cord working – turns out she is a textile worker, and some Witch’s Grass.  Items she usually had no call to utilize are now a part of her stratagems.  You have a variety of wares and this enables you to meet her needs.  You also supply her the chance to order additional items from your catalogs.  This extra mile will assure repeated visits and an opportunity to build her magickal toolbox.

You assemble the components and she makes sure she has the tools she needs to empower her working before she leaves.  You client is satisfied and confident, her faith in her own right to defend herself restored.  She also has a new level of faith in her Pagan business owner as well.  You watch her leave, and hear the Thunder in her steps.

 

The Frugal Witch and her Working Tools Part 2

Working tools are items that you want or need to practice your craft. In part 1, I gave you a list of some. Here are a few more. Remember that you may want all, some, none, or even more than what is listed.  So this is just a guide to help you find what will work the best for you in working your particular craft.

CANDLES

There are many different colors and scents that you may need for whatever magical undertaking you have planned. With this in mind, it is very hard to have all of them on hand. There are some simple solutions to this. You can purchase a few, days in advance of using them, so you know what exactly you need.

Another is to purchase a few boxes of cheap crayons. Most crayons made today are non-toxic but, always check to make sure. Light the end of the crayon and drip some of the wax onto a heat-proof, fire-proof surface.  Stand the crayon upright in the wax. Once the paper wrapping of the crayon is lit it acts like the wick on a candle. Regular size crayons will burn for about a half hour which is normally plenty of time for magical workings.

Candles can also be used on your altar to depict the Deities. A side note on this: white candles can be used for any spell and are usually cheaper than the colored ones. You can normally get them at dollar stores, and tea lights are great to use because you can let them burn completely out.

If you want to add color, fragrance, or herbs, you can place them on a sheet pan in a warm oven until the wax becomes liquid. Carefully remove them and add essential oil, herbs or shaved crayons for color. Let them cool and they will be ready to use.

©Ravenwings 2016
©Ravenwings 2016

DEVOTIONAL BOWLS

These are sometimes used on altars for offerings to the Deity from which you are asking help. Some Pagans keep salt or water in them for use during rituals as well. These do not need to be extravagant bowls.

I personally have a couple of small glass dishes that I use in my kitchen. I pull them out when needed, and consecrate them before use. They serve me well.

I also have a curious cat at home, so having a bowl of water or salt on my altar at all times would not be practical. Anyone who has pets at home knows they can be curious and sometimes destructive at the very least. The one that I keep empty on my altar  is a small one I picked up at a thrift store for a quarter.

©Ravenwings 2016
©Ravenwings 2016

GODDESS AND GOD IMAGES

Some traditions require you to have a Goddess or God image, or an image of a particular Deity, on your altar. Finding the perfect statue may become difficult. Here are some suggestions for what you can use to depict these images.

Goddess:

A statue resembling the Deity, a candle in a color to represent the Deity, water, a sea shell, plant, incense, or even a picture.

God:

A statue, candle in a color to represent the Deity, a stone, plant, wand, athame, Sword, or even a picture.

The ones that I have pictured here are on my altar. The Goddess statue was purchased at a flea market really cheap because she had wings and they had broken off. I took her home and painted her myself. The God statue was purchased at a thrift store originally as a gag gift for my Aunt on her birthday. After she passed he became a permanent part of my Altar.

©Ravenwings 2016
©Ravenwings 2016

BOOK OF SHADOWS

This is a book that is used to store all of the information that you need for your tradition, whatever Path you follow. This does not need to be an expensive purchase. I have a 3 ring binder with regular college lined paper in it. I covered it with black velvet and used gold cloth paint to draw a pentacle on the front of it. I took some thin black lace strips and sewed them to the velvet to make a bookmark.

With all of the crafting materials out there today, like scrapbook pages and stickers etc., you can create your own Book of Shadows very reasonably. I love using the 3 ring binder because I am always adding to my book and it makes it so much easier to do so this way. You can also make a Book of Shadows on your computer but, I have found that it holds more power if you write it in your own hand. Plus, it is much easier to place my Book of Shadows on my altar when I am using it to reference during a ritual or spell they it is to try to place my computer there.

©Ravenwings 2016
©Ravenwings 2016
©Ravenwings 2016
©Ravenwings 2016

ALTAR CLOTH

Some Paths and Traditions require an Altar Cloth of a certain color for particular Rites. These can easily be purchased at a dollar store, thrift store, or fabric store. In a pinch a towel could also be used. These do not need to be made of the finest silk. I suggest using a fabric that can be washed just in case something gets dropped or spilled on it.

©Ravenwings 2016
©Ravenwings 2016

THE ALTAR

Now onto the major tool. Your altar is the largest of all of your magical tools. It should be big enough to hold whatever items and tools that you will need to perform whatever magic you are performing. This does not mean that you have to have every tool on your altar all the time. This can be anything that you want it to be.  You can use a small table, bookcase, end table, coffee table, shelf or whatever you feel works for you.

There are circumstances where you can’t have an altar. Whether it is not having a space for it, or not wishing to have it out where others can see it. Whatever the reason, you can create a portable Altar.

This can be in a basket, a duffel bag, a box or whatever else you can store it in. Put all of your altar materials in this, and when you need them they are ready to go. This way you can use a coffee table, an end table, a kitchen table, or whatever you wish to use.

When you are finished you can just pack everything up and put it away. This is also helpful if you are planning on doing some magical workings outside. You can take your items with you to the woods, park, beach, wherever you wish to be.

When you are outside there are many things that you can use as an altar, a tree stump, flat rock surface, picnic table, even a blanket on the ground. You can also use visualization for an altar. Have you ever been somewhere and wanted to perform a magical rite but, didn’t have any of your tools with you? Don’t let that stop you. You can use visualization to create a magical working Altar with all of your tools in your mind. As I said before your finger can work as your wand or athame. It is all about the intent.

Pictured here are the altar in my bookcase that I have in my office, and my Fae altar that is in my bedroom.

©Ravenwings 2016
©Ravenwings 2016
©Ravenwings 2016
©Ravenwings 2016