A device for magically enhanced travel favoured by witches. It takes the form of the standard besom, ie a stout stick with a bundle of broom twigs tied securely to one end. (From the broom plant, ie broomstick.) An early, more sophisticated, version encountered and used by Rincewind and Twoflower had handlebars, although most witches dispense with this accessory.
While associated with witches, wizards have been known to use them in extremis:
- There is apparently a museum at Unseen University where several fine examples are kept as curios.
- The Lancre coven fly them to Genua in Witches Abroad.
- Ridcully uses one to launch an aerial assault on the Ginger-monster in Moving Pictures.
- Another is used to fetch Dr. Lawn to a medical emergency in Night Watch.
- A previous Archchancellor daringly took Granny Weatherwax on a joy-ride. Well, she was driving and he was pillion, but there's the look of the thing to consider... Granny had just acquired her broom at that time; a low-performance but oddly durable device that has been likened to "a split-window Morris Minor." (It has been noted that in the Dutch translations of Pratchett's early books, the concept of a split-window Morris Minor has been replaced with a Dutch term used to describe the sort of clunking elderly one-gear bicycle ridden by elderly women in a very unsteady fashion (omafiets).).
- The University provides some in Thud! as one of the means to tune the coaches of Sam Vimes. He needs to get to Koom Valley very - you could say magically - fast, but only with a little hocus and no pocus.
A wizard's staff has been disguised as one by the cunning expedient of tying broom twigs to it, and in the hands of a mere cleaner, this potent magical artefact was overlooked by passing wizards. On the other hand, Moist von Lipwig disguised an ordinary besom as a magical broomstick to wind up (or put the wind up) Reacher Gilt before the great race in Going Postal.
There was the suggestion in Witches Abroad to create a huge besom with stewardess and meals served. So far nothing has come from this on the Disc.
Elsewhere on the Disc other flying aids are employed: Elves use yarrow stalks and in Klatch the magic carpet is the flying aid of preference. A lightly-loaded broomstick can achieve seventy miles per hour, about as much wind as the rider can withstand. (However, in keeping with the Wizardly ethos of "let's see what this baby can really do!", a wizard's staff used in the broomstick role can and will go much, much, much, faster. As an illustration, consider the Dean, who is undergoing a prolonged second childhood and who would leap at the chance to be considered a boy racer...) The carpet appears to be slower, if more comfortable.
In the north of England and elsewhere, a besom is a name for the classical broomstick made by firmly tying broom twigs to the end of a long stout staff of wood.
A besom is also a not-entirely-complimentary term for the sort of Nora Batty figure, a stout woman of firm ideas in late middle age (or elderly), who would wield a broomstick with almost as deadly an effect as she would wield her tongue. By natural extension, it was also a synonym for witch in both its descriptive and pejorative usages.