Birch, 1st Moon of the Celtic Year (Dec 24th – Jan 20st)
Folklore of Birch: The graceful white bole of the Birch rises from the chaos of shrubs and thorns. It is one of the first trees to flower in Spring. Known as the “Lady of the Woods”, Birch is associated with fertility and new beginnings. Children’s cradles were made from birch and it was used to bestow fertility on cattle and newlyweds.
It’s distinctive white bark symbolizes purity of thought and determination. Although slender and gentle in appearance, it’s endurance and inner strength allows it to grow on terrain where other trees cannot, creating the opportunity for other flora to grow and thus it births entire forests.
One of the first trees to grow in Ireland after the Ice Age; in Celtic Astrology Birch symbolized the dawn of spring and the sun and is sacred during the festival of Samhain. In Celtic lore, Birch is the symbol of love, greened birch twigs strewn on the floor before those to be married, it was the bedding of choice for Diarmuid and Gráinne (that’s a whole other kettle of fish).
Birch is believed to keep evil away and beat the evil out. Faeries weren’t fans of the beautiful Birch; indeed, in the very first use of Ogham, Lugh was cautioned that his wife would be taken away by faeries “unless Birch guarded her”.
Birch was seen as the tree of rebirth after death. The ritual for the departed in Ireland once involved carrying the deceased to their burial plot in a covering of green bushy branches of birch. After the funeral games, of course.
Birch is associated with the Ogham letter, Beith.
The Life of Birch: Birch is easily established and regenerates freely from seed that travels long distances on the wind. It can establish itself in poor soils but does not like thick grass beds- competing grass needs to be removed to facilitate growth. If given light, Birch can grow 10 meters in 10-years. It’s a soil enhancing tree and pushes the frontier of forestry into otherwise inaccessible areas.
Keep larger animals, like deer and cows, away and it will grow for up to 80 years. It’s often planted as an ornamental urban or roadside tree; its light shading makes it well suited in riparian woodlands (along waterways). They’re 334 known species that feed of the Birch tree.
Birch bark will burns easily and makes a great firestarter, even in the rain. Peel off the bark and roll it up, creating space for airflow, and ignite. This bark can also be used as paper, so make poetry.