Another indisputable symbol of Samhain is the witch's besom. The besom is the witch's broomstick, and though it is not a tool of paganism in the modern sense, it was often utilized in the magickal practice of the Middle Ages. Like the cauldron, the besom was an everyday household object and could not be held up as a sign of witchcraft in the courts. This fact elevated their prominence as magickal tools, often taking the place of wands and staves. Because of this association it is not surprising that they quickly became objects of magickal protection. Besoms were often placed near the hearth of the home to protect the opening, and many pagans still believe a besom at the fireplace will prevent evil from entering. If negativity is a problem, just take your besom and visualize yourself sweeping these feelings out the door. Using the besom to sweep away negativity from a circle site was common practice, one still observed by many pagans. The besom is a phallic symbol and was used by female witches in fertility rites, and it is from this that the idea of the Halloween witch riding around on a broomstick also may have materialized. The sweeping end was usually made of the European broom herb, a feminine herb. Thus the broom was complete as a representation of the male and female together. At Halloween we are bombarded with images of the demonized Crone Goddess riding her broom across the moon. The idea that witches could fly on broomsticks may have been a misunderstanding of astral projection, a sending forth of one's consciousness to other places. MAKING A BESOM If you would like a besom of your own, they are fairly easy to find in craft stores, country markets, or folk art fairs. You can also invest your energies into making one, a good idea if you wish to use it in place of a wand or other ritual tool. To make a besom you will need: A four foot dowel one inch in diameter ball of twine scissors straw or other long strands of pliable herbs Take the straw, or another herb you have chosen for the bristles, and allow them to soak overnight in warm, lightly salted water. The water softens the straws to make them pliable, and the salt soaks out former energies. When you are ready to make your besom, remove the straws from the water and allow them to dry a bit, but not so much that they lose the suppleness you will need to turn them into your besom. Find a work area where you can lay out the length of your dowel, and begin lining the straws alongside the dowel. Starting about three inches from the bottom, lay the straws, moving backward, along the length of the dowel. Begin binding these to the dowel with the twine. You will need to tie them very securely. You can add as many layers of straw as you wish, depending on how full you would like your besom to be. When the straw is secured, bend the top straws down over the twine ties. When they are all gently pulled over, tie off the straws again a few inches below the original tie. Leave the besom overnight to allow the straw to dry The dowel part of the besom can be stained, painted, or decorated with pagan symbols, your craft name, or any other embellishments you choose. Dedicate your finished besom in your circle as you would any other ritual tool.