Whilst out for a walk, I rounded a bend in the path to find a newly fallen birch bough covered with fresh leaves and flowers.
Silver birch has both male and female flowers (catkins) on the same tree. The male catkins are formed in the autumn and will remain on the tree all winter, opening in April or May. The female catkins appear in spring with the new shoots. The seeds are dispersed by the wind. They are tiny nutlets (only 2-3mm across) with two wings, which helps them to travel up to one mile from the parent tree. The female catkins, where the seeds develop, eventually disintegrate in September and October, releasing the seeds. One tree can produce thousands of seeds each year.
Sensing this was a gift, I brought it home, hung it in a warm dry place to dry, then collected the birch fruits (seed heads) and some of the leaves, to use in spells, pouches, poppets and incense.
Although known by the title ‘White Lady of the woods’, in fact I feel birch has a balance of feminine and male energy. It is a sacred tree of Celtic Astrology 24 December to 20 January. Birch is one of the first trees to establish on any cleared land, making it synonymous with new beginnings, renewal, calming emotional turmoil, and perseverance. Also useful in spells for Lunar energies, love, wisdom, healing, purification and protection. A birch wand can be used during cleansing spells or rituals
Magical associations for birch -
The elements of water and air.
The Druids associated this wood with the white stag.
Planets – Moon, Venus, Sun, Jupiter
Runes – Berkana and Ur
Ogham - Beith
Deity – Frigg, Freya, Elen of the Ways, Idunna, Hel, Thor, Angus Mac Og, Dagda, Audhumla, Cerridwen, Fand, Lugh, Eostre
Colours – white and green
Birch “paper”, the strips of the dried bark, can be used to write spells or petitions on. You don't need to pull the bark from growing trees either, as birch copses have plenty of fallen branches or trees and you can collect the curling 'paper' from these.
Birch is traditionally used for the Witch’s besom as sweeping the dust out with birch at Yuletide meant that blessings could flow in for the coming year. It is also used for Yule logs, “Birch into the fire goes/In sign of what the Lady knows,” is a known rhyme, as a Birch log burned at Yule will bring luck and prosperity for the arrival of Spring. If that’s not practical, in our modern homes not all of us have log burning stoves, use a white candle wrapped in Birch paper (bark) or open a rolled beeswax candle and insert some bark chips/seeds or dried leaves.
Birch is also the wood of choice for Beltane fires and for Maypoles.
The spirit of Birch offers courage and protection to those who want to explore outside of the safe and the normal.
In Ireland, a cradle made from Birch was said to protect the sleeping infant from being carried off.
Carrying a Birch charm in your pocket is believed to ward off hexes and tricks.
Witchcraft into the Wilds by Rachel Patterson