I have previously blogged on the use of besom brooms before so I will try to avoid too much repetition and duplication here today.
The history of the broom in witchcraft is interesting as it is a hidden tool of both genders; synonymous with witchcraft and witchtrials as accusations of the power of flight appeared in many denunciations and trials. The first official record of flight by broomstick appears in the confession of one Guillaume (William) Edelin in 1453 thought the figure of a witch flying in enchanted sticks and tree limbs seems to predate this.
The traditional broom is made of an ash handle and birch twig bristles bound in willow and all three trees are associated with liminality of fairy realms. Ash is usually considered a masculine tree aligned with various male deities whilst Birch and willow are held to be feminine and associated with female divinity. For this reason it is seen as a tool of balance and unity between genders and is often used in marriage ceremonies, with newlyweds leaping across and broom laid out on the floor to symbolise their “crossing over” into a new life. More often than not however the purpose of the broom of a cleansing one and the action of sweeping an area acts both on the physical and metaphysical level.
The image of the female witch riding the broomstick is often seen as expressly sexual. In art the witches upon the broomstick are often deliberately naked and artists such as Parmigianino deliberately overemphasise the phallic nature of the broom. This interplays with social conflicts between how a woman was expected to behave and may be perceived as behaving, with the naked witch riding the phallic symbol of her domestic bondage the ultimate image of rebellion.
Whatever the case the flying broomstick usually appears alongside tales of flying ointments. These ointments represent shamanic practices where hallucinogenic substances were smeared on the body and the following state of altered awareness likened to that of flight. Again, the first official recording of the use of flying ointment appears in 1456 in Johannes Hartlieb book “The book of all forbidden arts”.
The use of psychedelics to achieve an altered state of mind is not just a hang over from the 1970’s but a recognised practice within various indigenous and shamanic traditions. Various South American cultures used them, as did (and probably still do) North American and Nordic shamanic traditions. The Ancient Greeks are also likely to have used them with the debate about the mind altering nature of kykeon still going on (for more information I recommend reading this article by Peter Webster and Daniel M. Perrine).
Modern practitioners are a little wary of using this kind of substance for various reasons and prefer to rely upon developed meditative skills to achieve a similar state of mind. That being said there is an increased recognition of how such substances can aid amd deepen spiritual experiences and it is possible to purchase flying ointment and similar oils. Sarah Anne Lawless is well known for her ointments and information on this subject so please check out both her blog and shop. The Demoniacal has information on different recipes both “traditional” and modern though I advise you use your discretion when choosing your recipe. And finally KittytheDreamer (aka May Canfield) has a useful article on hubpages.com on making infused flying oils.
Riding the Astral Broomstick
In writing this blog I started thinking, could the flying broomstick become a focus of meditation and astral travel? Ive never come across a meditation using a broom as a tool of travel and after a quick flick through my bookshelves and Google I found little which fit my purpose so set to writing my own.
Find yourself a comfortable space in which to meditate. Your clothing should be loose and environment temperate. Sitting with both feet on the floor is the best position to meditate in however if you choose to lay down try to avoid falling asleep. This meditation is intended to last for around 15 minutes but this can be shortened or lengthened to suit your needs and ability.
Take a few deep cleansing breaths, breathing in for the count of four, holding for the count of four, breath out for the same count and hold for the same. Feel yourself relaxing with each breath in and out, muscle by muscle until you are fully relaxed.
Connect yourself with the Earth by visualising roots extending down from your body and deep into the earth. Once firmly rooted you feel the energy of the Earth flowing into you. With each breath inwards the energy is drawn into your body; with each breath out it is distributed around your body. Soon you are filled with energy and ready to continue the meditation.
Visualise yourself surrounded by a thick mist, neither cold nor wet, which you find strangely comforting. After a moment the mist begins to clear. Above you is the starry sky with the full moon hanging pregnant just above the horizon and a hauntingly familiar landscape is laid out before you. Your attention is drawn to a lone tree stood on a hill which you begin to climb. At the top you find a wooden broom propped against the tree. You reach out and touch the polished ash wood handle and feel a ripple of energy run through your fingertips. You know that this broom can fly you anywhere you may desire and that it is just waiting for you, the Rider. You pick up the broom and sit upon the handle. It is immediately comfortable and feels natural. The broom lifts you up into the midnight sky and on towards a journey of discovery.
Now you have a choice. You can either allow the broom to take you or a journey through the astral plane as it wishes or you can tell it where you wish to go. For example I have been using this meditation to visit my ancestors and spirit guides in recent weeks. As you travel take note of the things you see and places you go. You can land the broom and explore the landscape at any time and your broom will always be waiting for you when you are ready to return.
When it is time to leave your broom lifts itself into the air and transports you back to the hill with amazing speed. Return the broom to the Tree and thank it for the journey and the things it has shown you,. You know that it will always be waiting for you in this place should you wish to journey the astral this way again. As you walk back down the hill the thick mist returns to engulf you. A feeling of deep contentment and relaxation fills you which will remain with you after this meditation.
Be aware of coming back into your body. Gently flex your fingers and toes before stretching your arms and legs and opening your eyes. Stand up and move around for a moment before recording and reflecting on your experiences during this meditation.