Book Review: The Witch’s Broom by Deborah Blake

The Witch's Broom by Deborah BlakeLlewellyn’s Witch’s Tools series contains six small books, one for each of the major tools in witchcraft (athame, book of shadows, broom, cauldron, mirror, and wand) though I hope more are forthcoming. The author varies by the book with no author having more than two books in the series at the moment, similar to the Sabbat Essentials series. The Witch’s Book of Shadows: The Craft, Lore and Magick of Broomsticks is first book in the series and was written by Deborah Blake. While I enjoyed this book more than The Witch’s Book of Shadows, I didn’t think it was nearly as good as The Witch’s Cauldron. This is the third book I’ve read in the series; three down, three to go! Something interesting that I just noticed is that the praise for the book including on the inside cover is all from Llewellyn authors, seems like they would have a lot of motivation to provide positive reviews, and smacks of quid pro quo.

The book has also had its cover changed as the series is being revamped, I am happy to have a first edition (third printing) copy, so I have the original cover (above). The current cover can be seen below. The books in this series are presented as a guide to the major tools in witchcraft, including uses, history, folklore, notable references in myth, a craft section, and various spells. The Witch’s Broom is broken into nine sections to cover these topics, with guest blurbs and “broom lore” interspersed throughout. In the other two books in the series that I’ve read, I noted that the guest author sections were somewhat disruptive because the author wasn’t credited until the end of their article. Happily, in this book, the author is credited at the beginning of their section, which I found much easier to read. The chapters are number on the index, but not on the chapter pages, so if I mislabel any, forgive me now.

The Witch's Broom by Deborah BlakeAs for the substance of the book itself, I was most excited for the history and mythology part of the book. This section, “Brooms in History, Tradition, and Lore,” is only 18 pages long, and covers very little history of the broom. It is a huge part of the witch hunts and Christian stereotypes about witches, but this important, historical aspect is largely left out. Only four goddesses/myths are discussed, and this section, which sets the tone for the book, left me feeling a little flat.

Chapter 2 “The Witch’s Broom in Popular Culture” extends this section and discusses a few TV shows and movies that have witch’s brooms in them. I have to confess that, while Deborah Blake is one of my favorite witchcraft authors, this book was actually really disappointing to me, and I hate to say that because I adored Everyday Witchcraft. However, I feel that, if any of my readers trust my reviews, I have to be completely honest with them, and this is not make favorite Blake book. Mostly because, to be honest, it was kind of boring and repetitious.

In Chapter 3 “Broom Basics” there is a breakdown of the types of wood and bristles that a broom can be made out of. It’s very … detailed. I just couldn’t feel interested in it, no matter how hard I tried to get excited about the topic. Chapter 4 “A Broom of Your Own” is only 10 pages long, which barely felt like a chapter, and had a helpful diagram for making your own broom. Chapter 5 “Fast and Easy Spells, Charms, Crafts, and More” has quite a few short spells that can be done with a broom, and I did like the “Besom Chant” by an unknown author.

Chapter 6 “Specialty Brooms” covers what are essentially decorative brooms, including brooms for each direction, season, and Sabbat. While the ideas are nice and the illustrations are pretty, I just can’t see anyone bothering to make 8 super elaborate brooms. They’d seems like they’d be fragile and age poorly (I keep thinking about how they’d be really hard to dust), but maybe that’s me. I like crafting as much as the next which, but I can’t see having this many brooms. If you love making this type of stuff though I think this section would be packed full of ideas.

I got a little uncomfortable in Chapter 7 “Brooms in Ritual Use” when Blake referred to gay couples as “nontraditional” since I guess heterosexuality is the tradition (140). As the daughter of a gay man it just struck me wrong and I felt uncomfortable, but perhaps I’m too sensitive (water signs, am I right?). I bookmarked the house and baby blessings in this chapter, which I really liked.

Chapter 8 “Brooms in Ritual Use” is just shy of 100 pages long, about a third of the book. My main issue with the book is this huge chapter because it’s so repetitious, reading through it was not very pleasurable. There’s so little variations in the rituals, all use a while cloth, sage “smudge” (a term is falling out of fashion), colored elemental candles, god and goddess candles, and anointing oil. The phrasing is almost identical in each and every ritual; once you’d read one you really don’t need to read more, let alone 90 pages of more.

Chapter 9 “For the Young Witch” is another 10 page chapter, I wish it had been longer because I would have liked this to be longer. It has ideas for witchlings and brooms, including a little sweeping ritual for them.

I’m not sure where, but the book also warns against using flying ointment, which is one of the major uses of the broom: flight. Hedge witches use flying ointment today and, even though it’s not the safest aspect of witchcraft, I’d be hesitant to dismiss it, since it is a part of the broom’s heritage. Blake also using a male neutral pronoun throughout, which pretty much no one does anymore, so it jumped out at me.

Conclusion

I would recommend this book for baby witches who are new to besom (broom) magick and are looking for a place to start. For seasoned witches I would pass on it, unless you want a complete set of the Witch’s Tools books (me), but I wouldn’t expect to get too much out of it. Blessed be, friends.

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