Tree Lore: Birch

by Winter Cymraes

Birch - Beith
Betula

I am a Stag of Seven Tines

The White Lady of the Woods, also known as the White Birch stands, slender and graceful, with long branches reaching toward the sky. This Tree is rarely seen singly, growing most often in Groves. She embodies the ideal of graceful femininity and light-filled grace. The Birch grows out of a common, joined trunk so that many appear to grow from the one. People who have been ‘claimed’ by Birch tend to be very gentle in nature and do not stand alone but are joined to others as supportive and close allies, showing devotion to their beliefs and having a strong desire to make others happy and to enhance growth and development.

Birch, as with all Trees, has specific attributes and associations. The Ogham are divided into classification of Chieftain, Shrub, Peasant and Bramble. Beith is a Chieftain. Birch relates, also, to the Tarot card, the Star. It represents the Bardic Grade of Druidry, the ‘youngest’ of the ranks.

Beith is the first Ogham and resonates with the number one. Its colour is white. In the Oghamic alphabet, it is the letter B. The animals associated with Beith are the pheasant and the white cow and it's plant is the Fly Agaric mushroom.

Its name probably comes from the Sanskrit word bhurga which relates to the continuous phases of life, the alpha-omega principle. Taliesin represents the Birch. He was the offspring of Cel and Cerridwen. In the Arthurian legend, Taliesin was known as Merlyn. Although it is commonly accepted that the sage Taliesin was actually named Merlyn, this was the title of the person who was considered the Chief Bard among the Druids, a title that had passed from person-to-person throughout history.

Birch also represents the common everyday work performed to make a living, rather than being associated with a specific occupation or trade, as is the case with other Trees.

Beith is also known for its protective magical abilities, along with its role as the herald of new beginnings. A Tree of extreme hardiness, Birch thrives in places where Oak would die. Although the wood of Oak (Duir) is used for building due to its strength and durability, the resilience and specific magickal properties of Birch lend the use of its fibre to very specific ends.

In ancient times, brooms made of Birch twigs were commonly used to drive out the spirits of the old year and to ‘beat the bounds’ of property for protection. Thus, broomsticks made of Birch have the added benefit of these protective qualities. This is the Tree commonly used by the shaman to climb the sky ladder to make contact with the Gods of the Air and Beith is associated with Air and winds. Maypoles were often of Birch, as were the twigs used to ignite the Beltane fires, signifying new beginnings and a fresh start. The Yule log is, traditionally, Birch also. Cradles made of Birch are said to protect the infant from harm, particularly of a psychic nature. For the same reasons it is said that a small piece of Birch carried upon a person will prevent kidnapping of the individual by the sidhe, or the Faerie Folk.