WELL done to Phillip Ridge, John Harrison , Cath Cooney, Roger Nelson and Anne Lindsay for all correctly identifying last week’s Craven curiosity as a besom broom, and a special mention to Anne for pointing out such brooms were also used by witches. David Henderson suggested the metal ring was a device to hold and gauge the amount of twigs needed to make a ‘twig brush’ hmm.

This ‘besom’ can be seen at Craven Museum and Gallery, in Skipton Town Hall. Besoms have a head made from heather or ling and are bound with hazel bark, with a hazel shaft.

Collections assistant, Bryan Morgan, tells us this one is part of a besom engine and belonged to John Ibbotson of Threshfield who was known as “Besom Jamie” and made besoms for Queen Victoria. Both his father and grandfather had been besom makers and they were famous throughout Yorkshire and Lancashire.

“While the main use of besoms is for sweeping just like any other broom, they also have an association with witchcraft. In Wicca, a form of pagan witchcraft, besoms are used to sweep out the negative energies out of a ritual area before circle casting takes place. Besoms are also used pagan commitment ceremonies where couples will jump over a besom during the ceremony. Besoms have also been associated with the idea of witches using brooms to fly. It is thought that the witches would use a psychoactive drug in the form of a flying ointment which they would administer themselves, and then would jump onto the besoms and then leap around the field having hallucinations that they were flying.

Suggestions for this week’s Craven curiosity should be sent no later than 8am on Monday to lesley.tate@cravenherald.co.uk