The classic images of Witches riding broomsticks may have originated from ancient fertility rites. People would jump high in the air on brooms to 'show' the crops how high to grow. This is a form of sympathetic magick.
There are many other myths and associations of Witches with brooms. In Ireland, the besom was sometimes called a "Faery's Horse". In medieval times, the besom was equated with marriages outside of the church. So much so, that it was recorded that weddings 'by the broom' were to be considered illegitimate.
The broom eventually became a symbol of antiestablishmentarianism and and sensuality. This led at one time to the word 'besom' becoming a slang term for an easy woman. These associations may have been promoted by the church to discourage marriages outside of the church.
Chapter 13 of "The Magical Household" by Scott Cunningham and "An ABC of Witchcraft" by Doreen Valiente have additional information and lore about besoms.
*Baneful in this instance is defined as energies that are not conducive to the working at hand, are harmful, or are considered negative.
Free e-books (can be downloaded):Howard Phillips Lovecraft - From Beyond
Anonymous - Book Of Spells
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