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January and New Beginnings by Sue Perryman

January is typically the month when our thoughts turn to new beginnings and making changes to our lives. Whether it's through making New Year resolutions, plotting and planning what you want to achieve through the coming months, or just a general idea that something’s got to change. I've looked at some plants and trees that can be used to attract the energies of transformation and new beginnings into our lives, and I’ve added a few ideas on how to use them that you may want to try.

Birch - Betula pendula

Gender - Female Element - Water, Air Planetary Ruler - Venus Magical Properties - Purification, Protection, New Beginnings, Birth, Initiation, Courage, Love, Release. The beautiful, slender birch tree is one of the first trees to colonize new ground. Magically birch symbolizes new beginnings and it can bring the courage and determination needed to make a fresh start. Birch will also help you to change old patterns of behaviour or negative influences in your life that you want to leave behind. It's thin and supple twigs are often used for the bristles on besoms which are in turn used to sweep away negativity from the circle before ritual.  The Birch is the first tree of the Ogham, known as Beithe. Birch wood was traditionally used to make babies cradles because of its association with fresh starts and protection.  The Silver birch sheds its white papery bark, which can be used to write your goals for your new start. This can be kept on your altar or burnt to send your wishes out to the Universe, whichever you prefer. Don't strip a ring of bark from around the trunk though as this can cause the tree to die. Occasional small pieces that are already peeling away should be fine, but always ask the tree for permission before doing so and thank it after. A small bunch of twigs tied together can be used to sweep away negativity around a person or place.  Add small twigs, pieces of bark or dried leaves of birch to spell bags and bottles for protection, fertility and courage. They can also be added to loose incense for purification and to release old unwanted habits.

Crocus - Crocus vernus

Gender - Female Element - Water Planetary ruler - Venus Magical Properties - New beginnings, happiness, hope, love, friendship, peace enhancing visions and intuitive dreams. These beautiful spring flowers are one of the first to bloom in the New Year. They attract the hungry bees emerging from their winter hibernation. Crocus can be used as a decoration for Imbolc celebrations. Grow crocus in pots indoors to bring the energy of new beginnings and inspiration for new projects, ideas and happiness into your life. There are around 80 different species of crocus, including Crocus sativas from which we get Saffron, the world’s most expensive spice. There are many different versions of the 'Language of Flowers', depending on where you live, but I found two for Crocus: Youth and Cheerfulness. According to Greek legend, a mortal named Crocus fell in love with the nymph Smilax. Smilax didn’t return his feelings and snubbed him. Crocus then became a lovely purple flower.

Yew - Taxus baccata

Gender - Female Element - Earth/ Water Planetary ruler - Mercury/ Saturn Magical Properties - Death, rebirth, transformation, astral travel, knowledge, connecting to the ancestors. Yew trees are associated with the Winter Solstice and the eternal cycle of death and rebirth. They are often found growing in churchyards, and many are much older than the churches themselves. Yew trees can live for several thousands of years due to their unusual growth pattern. The branches grow down to form new stems which become the trunks of new trees still linked to the original tree. This is the power of rebirth and transformation that the Yew has to teach us. Working with Yew will help you to release the past and open up to transformation. It is the perfect tree to support you through changes in your life. Burning yew or using it in incense is not advised as most parts of it are poisonous. The wood, dried leaves and berries can be used in spell bags and bottles. Yew is the last tree in the Ogham and is known as Idhadh. Yew rods were favoured as Ogham sticks. A Yew wand will help you in connecting with the ancestors, transformation, Divination and assist you in making journeys into the spirit realm. Sources: Herbcraft - Anna Franklin and Susan Lavender The Celtic Wisdom of trees - Jane Gifford A Kitchen Witches world of Magical Plants and Herbs The Sacred Tree - Glennie Kindred The Tree Ogham - Glennie Kindred.

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