I was feeling pretty uninspired when it came to the letter ‘B’ this week but I’m a witch and there’s something about broomsticks when you’re a witch – you have to admit the traditional image of the pointy hat goes very well with the traditional image of the broomstick!
For me though, that image means a little more than the stereotypical hag in black riding across the moon. The most effective meditation I’ve ever done on the nature of witchcraft was the summer I was sixteen, it was a meditative process that took weeks. My Mum’s miniature willow tree had died and I offered to dig it up – needless to say my parents leapt on that offer. I knew I was going to make a broomstick with it, I had no idea exactly how and I had no idea exactly why. Digging it up was the simple part, I won’t say it was easy because it wasn’t, but you know what you’re doing with a spade. Or I do anyway.
I remember spending a lot of the time rhythmically digging thinking about why I was making this broom, it felt an important thing to do but I knew it wasn’t going to make me a witch, it also was a part of the process of declaring myself to be a witch. I did some reading in the evenings too, about the symbolism of the broomstick and the myriad of cultures that it’s a fertility symbol for.
I redefined it for myself as a creative symbol, had no use for fertility, still don’t, but to inspire creativity, to fertilise that part of my mind that was open to the notion of being a witch, that was seeking something that I could not quite put into words.
Then I dug the tree up, the root ball almost balanced out the weeping branches at the top of the tree, the tree itself was a little taller than I was, I haven’t grown much since I was sixteen and I’m about five foot four so the tree was probably about five foot six. Dad, at this point said he’d be happy to cut it up for firewood now I’d got it out of the ground, so I told him what I was planning, so he set up the sawhorse for me and gave me the handsaw. It was a really hot summer and I think him and Mum were just happy not to have to deal with the tree.
Sawing up the tree so that my broom had a good shaft was another easy part, I just sawed as close as I could to the root ball and to the top of the tree. That was another instance of rythmic, meditative thought in the hot sun. This making was a way of really connecting with the why and the how of what I was choosing to do. I wanted to be a witch, I knew I was a witch, what exactly did I think a witch was? A woman who worked magic, who worked with nature to create and understand that magic a woman whose rhythms were magical. I can remember the thoughts as well as I can remember the back and forth of the sawing.
I used a smaller handsaw to take off the ‘weeping’ branches, that was the boring part, the repetition nearly killed me and it took days, in the evenings Dad and I talked about the practicalities of how to create the head of the broom. I knew it was a symbolic broom for me, had no intention of making it so that it could actually sweep up, so I had no problems with creating the head from the weepers. The fact it was to be symbolic only was something that I worked over and over in my mind as I had definied a witch to be eminently practical in her magic yet I was happy with it.
It’s not a traditional tree to make a broom out of – it’s not very good when it comes to sweeping as I mentioned, but it is associated with healing and magic. In my summer of active meditation it became associated with transformative magic and with the moon, though I suspect that was because it was tht summer that I really started to pay attention to the full moons. When I had finished cutting all of the weepers to the right size Dad took me to Brian’s, a hardware shop in the local town and he bought me circular brace to hold the twigs around the end of the staff. I sharpened the end and pulled the twigs tight with the brace and created my broom, finally it was broom-shaped.
I used an alice band with a moon print to cover over the brace. It was a very pretty broomstick. Having created it, having had so many periods of creative meditation I felt like I was closer to being a witch than I had been before. I think also I was closer to understanding what I meant by the word witch than I am a lot of the time having really thought about it.
So, broomstick, for me, the witches symbol of creativity and inspiration and for me at least, rooted in practicality.