The Celtic Tree Month of Birch (Beith/Beth)
December 24th – January 20th.
Birch is the beginning of all things (life) and it is the opposite of last month’s tree Elder (death). This month is symbolized by the unconscious self and raw wild force of the natural world. The tree itself is a symbol of birth, initiation, and sacrifice. It is also associated with horned animals like goats and stags as well as the Horned Gods like Cernunnos, Dagda, and Pan. Other names for this tree are Tree of Birth, Lady of the Woods. The Irish Gaelic word for this tree is “Beith”, which is derived from “Achadhbeith” meaning “the field of birch trees.
This tree is very common in Europe where it is known as the Silver Birch, it is also grown in North America under the name “weeping birch”. The leaves are long and egg shaped with notched edges. The slender trees have silvery white bark which is close to the color of poplar and aspen and to the untrained eye, these trees may look the same. Birch can grow up to 100 feet in height and will do so unless they can take over their favorite soil which tends to be sandy, in which case they like to spread out in low clumps. In fact, birch trees grow so well that they are the first new trees to sprout up in cut areas. This may be the reason that they are associated with rebirth and birth.
BIRCH IN HEALING
This tree does have a few healing properties. The inner bark is said to be a good pain reliever as are the leaves which as tea, can be used for rheumatism. The sap produces syrup and from the bark comes flour and beer.
BIRCH IN MAGIC & MYTH
Birch is particularly useful for spells involving healing, fertility, new beginnings, blessings, protection, growth, love, and creative inspiration. It is also one of the nine sacred woods used in the sabbat fire and is a representation of the Goddess. Charms made of birch twigs were given to newlyweds to promote fertility and cattle were lightly struck with birch rods for the same reason. Brooms were traditionally made from birch, the twigs were called “Besom twigs” and love spells can be written on strips of birch bark that have been gathered during the new moon. This tree also plays an important role in the pagan tradition of jumping the broomstick which is part of the handfasting ceremony.
The birch can be found in folklore as well. Baby cradles were made from birch wood because it was thought to protect the innocent. On the Isle of Man criminals and lunatics were “birched” in a serious effort to drive out evil.
In Wales during the 13th-14th Centuries lovers were said to meet under these trees in the “house of leaves”. As a token, a remembrance for these occasions wreaths would be made from the leaves of the tree. There is also an English/ Irish custom that took place on December 26th called “the hunting of the wren.” The old year or the “wren” was hunted down by the new year which was symbolized by the robin and was said to carry a birch twig in its claws.
To choose Birch as a magical name is cleansing and promotes your inner light. It would be a good name for a caregiver or for someone who seeks to make positive changes in politic for social issues.
ABOUT BIRCH PEOPLE
Birch people have a marvelous ability to be uplifting to others. They do not care for excess in any areas of their lives and like to promote a calm and content atmosphere where ever they go.
Deities: All Horned Gods, Pan, the Dagda, Cernunnos, Thor, Freya, Frigg, Cewrridwen
Sacred Stones: Quartz Crystal, Fluorite
Colors: White and Dark Green
sources: the dutchie.org, The New Book of Magical Names, Phoenix McFarland
Cunninghams Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Scott Cunningham
Flower and Tree Magic, Richard Webster
Birch Tree photo courtesy of Vaclav Pastucha/freeimages.com