Treelore: Silver Birch
Within witchcraft we work with the spirits and bodies of plants, including trees. In druidry the trees are often encountered through the Ogham, an old Irish-Celtic alphabet and mnemonic system, of which we have mainly tree-associations left recorded. The Silver Birch is considered to be the first tree of the Ogham, as a pioneer tree, seeds carried upon the breeze into new places... a spirit emerging from the emptiness... Here I share some treelore and writing around the Silver Birch, to inspire you in your own magical workings. If you don't know where to begin, start with the Grimoire Page on working with tree magic, here, or our self study Foundations of Witchcraft course.
Skin stretched paper-thin,
act two nears its end.
A Wisp carried us here,
a wind-wish winding
blown by whispered promises,
of love and longing.
Our roots are deep enough,
nestling in blown soil,
but leaves turn
and winter carries our wishes far from here.
Silver Birch, the tree of beginnings. First sign of the forest, carried by the wind, bright bark peeling and waiting for wishes to be inked on its curls. White lady watching over the keys to the otherworld, she keeps her counsel. Her footsteps across the threshold lead the way into lands beyond the everyday, wherever we wish to go, she has been there before. Her delicate fingers point the way, gusts whipping her pale green shawl about her shoulders as she turns back to her current craft, carving a love spoon to stir fresh flying ointment, bubbling over the bright fire.
Latin Name: Betula pendula
Edible: (In moderation) Sap can be made into syrup/wine, full of vitamins and minerals. Steep leaves in apple cider vinegar for a few weeks to extract nutrients. Buds are high in vitamin C.
Herbal Properties: Anti-inflammatory, astringent, laxative/stimulates digestive system, diuretic. Buds are antibiotic and diuretic. Steep leaves in water to make an astringent skin wash.
Contraindications: Contains methyl salicylate, as in aspirin. Avoid if allergic to aspirin, using medications containing aspirin or blood thinning meds, if elderly, or have blood related issues. Use with caution if pregnant or nursing.
Magical Properties: Linked to the Norse rune Berkana and the Ogham letter Beith, beginnings, renewal, courage, birthing. Psychic protection from spirits or on (astral) journeys. Resilience. Love and fertility, particularly conception. Associated with the wintery Germanic Goddess, Frau Holla, who cares for lost children.
Historical Notes: Once used to flavour chewing gum and soft drinks!
Practical Properties: Pale wood, used in handicrafts, furniture making and to make paper, good kindling/tinder. Used to make besom brooms. Resin makes a waterproof glue. It grows fast, spread by the wind, and is a pioneer species, often one of the earliest trees to grow in an area, and one of the first to leaf in spring... A hardy tree, even though it appears fragile.
Clues for Identification: White birch that peels like paper in young trees, catkins in spring, small, smooth, triangular leaves with serrated edges, visually delicate branches.
Magical Activities: Sit with the Birch tree and listen to her whisper of new beginnings, of letting go of the old so it may be cleared away by the breezes, and so you may be lifted on to a new chapter. Write wishes on the papery slips of her bark, shed beneath her boughs, and set them floating down the river to carry your dreams into the world. If Birch appears in a divination, consider what needs renewal, or what is beginning, and follow the path she reveals.
(Please consult a qualified herbalist if using medicinally, this information is shared for inspirational purposes only! Some further medicinal information can be found here: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-352/birch )
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