Monday, January 25, 2010

The Lady of the Woods - The Birch Tree

There are 60 species of Birch through out the world. Some can grow to 80 feet tall and live for 100 years. It takes the Silver Birch 25 years to bear fruit. The national tree of Russia is the Birch. It is here where it is worshiped as a goddess during the Green week which is held in early June. The Birch tree is also special to Finland where is the national symbol.
     There are several folk names for the birch; Beithe, Bereza, Berka, Beth and Bouleau. Three of the Norse Gods have an association with the Birch tree; Frigga, the goddess of married love, goddess of the skies and clouds, Freya and Thor, who made the Birch tree his personal sacred tree.
     Every part of the Birch is edible. The Native Americans and early settlers of the New World used it's sap as a source of sugar. The inner bark can be used as a  pain reliever and the leaves used to treat arthritis. The Native Americans used the bark of the Birch for their canoes to travel the lakes and rivers of North America. Also a usage for the bark, because it contains a large amount of resin which makes it resistant to water, was for basket making and for roofing. The charcoal from the Birch was and is still used today to make gunpowder. The lighter twigs were used for thatching roofs, wattle for fences and brooms.
    The Witch's Broom was traditionally made from twigs from the Birch as well as Ash and Willow. The broom was made by tying the Birch twigs around a handle of Ash with strips of Willow. The three together represented the triple goddess. The Ash had an association with water and had command over the four elements. The Birch drew the spirits of the dead into one's service and the Willow allowed communication with the Goddess.
     The Druids considered the tree very sacred. They place the Birch at the start of the Celtic Tree calendar. A Birch can grow on bare soil and it has become the birth of many large forest and groves. The Birch tree has had a long association with fertility and healing magic. Children's cradle were made from Birch wood, because it was thought to protect the child from evil and to bless the child in the beginning of his/her life. If a criminal was caught, then sometimes they were beaten with a limb from the  Birch to drive out the evil influences that cause them to commit the crime. Animals and people would be gently whipped by Birch twigs if they were thought to be possessed. This was done to exorcise the evil spirits out.
     Cattle and deer don't like the taste of the Birch so they stayed away from it, but the twigs were used to bestow fertility on the cattle and also newlyweds as well. People would tied a red ribbon around the stem or branch of a Birch to ward off the evil eye. In the ol' country a lot of the Maypoles were often the Birch tree. The Yule logs were usually birch, too. If someone was planning on building a fire but could not find any dry wood to burn, usually use the wood from the Birch because it will burn even when it's wet.
     Coleridge the English poet of 1772 - 1834 called the Silver Birch the "Lady of the Woods" because of the way she gentle sways with the wind as it blows through it's branches.
     If there are any Birch around where you live maybe go to her and ask if she could help you with any healing or blessings, but don't forget to leave her some treats. If not, just sit and watch her sway and dance with the wind. There are some down here on the river where I live and I have stood and watch them several times dancing. It's a peaceful feeling.

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