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Besom is a dialectal or historical word for what is now known as a broom, a household implement used for sweeping. The term "besom" is now mostly reserved for a "traditionally constructed" broom, made from a bundle of twigs tied to a stouter pole. The twigs used could be broom (i.e. Genista, whence the modern name "broom" for the tool), heather or similar. The song "Buy Broom Buzzems" from Northern England refers to both types of twig. From the phrase broom besom the more common broom comes.
As a result of its construction around a central pole, the brush of the besom is rounded instead of flat. The bristles can be made of many materials including, but not limited to straw, herbs, or twigs. Traditionally the handle is of hazel wood and the head is of birch twigs. Modern construction uses bindings of wire and string (instead of the traditional split withy) and the head is secured by a steel nail instead of a wooden dowel.
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A besom is a tool used in Wicca to cleanse and purify a space which will be used for ritual. A traditional Wiccan besom is a hawthorn stave handle with bristles made from birch twigs. These twigs are tied on using thin pieces of willow wood. It is used to cleanse the ritual area before circle casting. While it does not usually touch the ground, it is used to "sweep out" the negative energies in a room, and is often held a few inches above the ground to do so. As a tool, the besom is usually thought of as masculine in nature due to its phallic shape and symbolism. However the besom's components are of both masculine and feminine orientation. The handle, an ash stave, is masculine in nature while the birch used for the bristles is thought of as feminine in nature. The besom is thought to be involved with fairies.
In Scotland, "besom" (pronounced "bih-zum") may be used to refer to a particularly annoying person or naughty child. 
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