The Birch Tree
There are many magickal trees in Wicca, but some are more sacred than others. The Birch Tree is one of the nine sacred woods of the Beltane bonfire and represents the first month of the Celtic tree calendar after the Winter Solstice (December 24–January 20). Birch trees are thin-leaved, hardwood trees. They are deciduous (meaning they shed their leaves and regrow them) and of the genus Betula.
She is known for her beauty, the gently peeling white bark, slender trunk, and feathery leaves. She is called many names: The White Goddess, the Ribbon Tree, the Lady of the Woods, the Silver Maiden. Birch is a “pioneer tree” – it is the first to grow after fires or in previously barren lands. It is the state tree of New Hampshire and the national tree of several countries. It is commonly used to manufacture speaker cabinets due to its amazing natural resonance for high and low frequencies, which are hard to reproduce.
The birch has a multitude of art dedicated to it. From Gustav Klimt’s painting of forests filled with birch to poems written by Robert Frost and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the birch’s elegance and beauty has long captured the admiration and love of humans. It also has its place in the folklore of different regions, especially in many Native American tribes.
In one tale, of the Fighting Hare, a trickster hare asks each tree what they are good for. Each has its own answer, including the birch, who says her bark is used by the people for picture writing. She says that no Chief could stay connected to his brother, who lives far away, without sending such writings on her bark.
An Ojibwe legend explains how the birch got her burns. Another story of a trickster, this legend tells how Waynaboozhoo’s grandmother asked him to seek out the Thunderbird in the west and find its fire. He becomes a rabbit for his journey, and upon reaching the home of the Thunderbird, Waynaboozhoo asks to be let inside, cold and hungry as he is. The Thunderbird allows Waynaboozhoo in, and as soon as his back is turned, Waynaboozhoo steals the fire. He does so by rolling in the fire to attach it to his back. Furious at the deception, the Thunderbird flies angrily behind Waynaboozhoo, shooting lightning bolts at him, hoping to sear him. A sweet birch offers protection to Waynaboozhoo, who eagerly accepts. Hidden in the protection of the birch, Waynaboozhoo remains unscathed, but the birch is burned many times by the Thunderbird.
There are also many tales of the birch being deep-rooted so as to protect those that might be blown away by angry winds. The birch also has much lore regarding love and marriage, in addition to its more prominent magickal correspondences.
It is important to know the correspondences of the items you are working with, not only to power your ritual and spell work as highly as possible but also so you aren’t working with two objects that will work against each other. Like all things in Wicca, birch is more powerful when used with its correspondences.
- The planet most associated with birch is Venus. The moon is also a correspondence. Birch is best harvested under a full moon.
- Of the four elements, it is most closely tied to Air and Water (which element you use depends largely on what the overall intention of your spell is).
- Perhaps not a surprise given its planetary association, Venus is one of the deities that correspond with birch. So are Freya, Thor, Baba Yaga, and the White Goddess Brigid. Faery folk are also associated with birch.
- Its time is just after Yule, as the days begin to stretch.
- Some additional correspondences include crystal for stone; daisy for flower; the birds egret, eagle, and pheasant; and white for color.
- Some folk names of birch: Beth, Berke, Beith/Beithe, Bouleau
Birch Tree Magical Properties and Uses
Birch is most closely tied to the energies of renewal and new beginnings. Not surprising, as pioneer trees are the first to renew land that has been cleared of plant life. They are also often the first trees to sprout new leaves after winter, again showcasing their ties to renewal and new beginnings.
Birch is also used for fertility and protection. Sweeping or beating an area with a birch besom is believed to rid the area or object of evil spirits. Adorning doorways and windows in your home with birch works as a protective charm for the home. Carrying birch helps to protect you from evil spirits and curses. Having a child carry birch protects them from being taken by the Fae. Herding a cow with a birch stick will make her fertile. Boosting creativity is another function of birch.
Birch is one of the nine sacred woods burned in Beltane bonfires. It is used to make besoms. Wands made of birch have a strong connection to Fae magick. Birch bark can be used as paper to write your spells, intentions, sigils, and many other aspects of rituals. Maypoles are traditionally made of birchwood. Burning a birch log at Yule brings prosperity and luck with the arrival of spring.
Medically, birch has many uses. It is a diuretic, and many drink birch tea to help with urinary tract issues. The sap is used as a winter food source in areas with hard, cold winters. The sap can also be used as a shampoo.