This Air plant has furnished
ritual brooms (besoms) and floor brooms for hundreds of years.
A besom made from this plant is handy for purification of a space
through ritual sweeping (nice as a mini-broom for your altar). Some believe this broom to
be offensive to the Fae, though this is also the broom that folk
jumped over when they wed. Traditionally, this plant is a substitute for furze/gorse,
heather, holly, or butcher's broom
in Celtic pathways. It is Ngetal, the twelfth letter of the Ogham
alphabet, according to The Scholar's Primer. It has played a role in Air magic, having been
burned to calm blustery winds and thrown into the air to raise winds. In Scotland, broom flowers among others
were used to decorate female figures made from sheaves of corn and
paraded on Imbolc (St. Bride's Day) in what was apparently a maiden
celebration. The yellow flowers are considered
good luck, but in Suffolk and Surrey you were not to make a
besom of broom when it was in flower, or you would sweep away your
luck. Warriors might also consider it as a protective
charm, as Richard the Lion-Hearted always stuck some in his helmet
before riding into battle. This plant was chosen to represent Glasgow
by its inhabitants, so it's nice to work with if your ancestors
came from there. Its flower essence helps increase a positive
A native of the British Isles, it has been woven
into baskets and wattle-type fencing, and it has been
dried to make thatch roofs. The long, straight branches
of this tall (4-9ft/1.2-2.75m) perennial plant make great brooms. The leaves and tops give a yellow dye
very similar to that of weld, and it was also added to
beer for its bitterness and sedative qualities before the introducton
of hops. Its flowers don't make any nectar, but bumblebees love
its abundant pollen, which is triggered to shower them. They don't
seem to mind getting covered with it, and they busily carry it back
home. The blooms turn to hairy pods
that crack open loudly to release the ripe seeds, throwing them
up to 12ft/3.6 m. The leaves have been smoked for sedative effect, but this plant contains a strong
heart toxin (it's a traditional remedy for various heart ailments),
so don't ingest it. It is used in very small amounts in some historical
beers, and that kind of use is considered safe.
Witch's broom is also known as Scotch broom,
Banal, Basam, Besom, Bisom, Bizzon, Breeam, Browme,
Broom Tops, Brum, Genista Green Broom, Irish Broom, Irish Tops.
Dispensatory on Broom Top
to grow it: Seeds
germinate best if they are scarified (file off a bit of the seed coat on
the end with a nail file) and then soak in a thermos of hot water for three
hours. Plant in sterile planting medium. About 50% of the seeds
will actually germinate; the rest will remain in the soil and germinate
over a very long period. Seeds are very long-lived and can be viable
in the field for 30 years and with good storage for 80 years. They
are often planted by ants. Broom can also be propagated from cuttings
once it is established. It likes dry, sandy soils and in its native
habitat takes heather for a companion. It can get over 3ft/.9m
the first year. Broom
is an aggressive plant that is considered a weed in some areas.
It can get really big, especially if it is confined (otherwise,
it gets lanky and floppy). Stems stay green in the winter; 1"/2.5cm
flowers bloom on old wood and turn into hairy pods. The plant
can take two years to establish a large root system and flower;
in the meanwhile, it will be grassy. It can be grown in partly
shady areas when it's young but needs full sun when it's larger.
An excellent anti-erosion plant because of its large root system,
it can grow in cold, dry, and stony places that other plants reject.
Because it's a legume, it can handle soil of low fertility better
than other plants can; that and its prodigious production of seed can cause
it to become a pest in optimal conditions.
Witchcraft & Magic:
© 2004, 2013 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction of
any part without permission.