Celtic Tree Month Birch: December 24 - January 20

As we move from the Elder tree to the Birch Tree we celebrate the light as the days grow longer. We look up to the beautiful white birch trees in the cold winter for guidance.

The birch tree symbolizes starting over, fertility, rebirth, and regeneration. In fact, birches are one of the first trees to grow back after a forest fire.

Birch or Beithe, is the first tree of the Ogham, the Celtic tree alphabet. Beithe (pronounced ‘bey’) is the Gaelic word for birch and means inception or existence.

The Birch Tree

Such a beautiful, feminine-looking tree. She stands tall and slender. The birch tree like the willow loves to be near water.

Birches are deciduous trees that live predominantly in northern forests across North America and Europe. The River birch is a species that lives along waterways in the south.

Some species grow in clusters while others stand straight and tall on their own.

Birch trees are great for local wildlife. They provide habitat for insects, birds, and small mammals. Woodpeckers and other birds eat the insects that live on the tree while finches and titmice love the seeds. Moose, deer, and beavers all eat the bark and twigs during the winter.

Ways We Use Birch

  • Birch wood is extremely popular for cabinetry and furniture.

  • Native Americans used bark from the Paper Bark Birch (Betula papyrifera) as the first “writing paper”. It was also used for footwear and canoes.

  • The inner bark of the birch was used as an emergency food source.

  • Used to make paper (although please buy recycled paper!)

  • The tannin in birch is used in leather-making, thus the word tanning.

  • You can make beer, wine, and syrup from the birch trees sap. Druids made the sap into a cordial ( a sweet liquor) to ring in the spring equinox.

Birch Tree as Medicine

Birch has been used for millennia as a medicine for a number of ailments. It is good for cleansing the blood and urinary tract as well as treating infections and skin rashes.

Recent medical studies have shown the value of birch in modern medicine. One study showed that birch could be useful in the treatment of prostate cancer.

Placing birch water in cosmetics and lotions aids in keeping your skin healthy.

Birch water is sold commercially and can be a helpful addition to a healthy diet. It is high in Vitamin C, magnesium, and polyphenol antioxidants.

Keep in mind that birch pollen may be a cause of your spring allergies.

Birch Associations

  • Ogham Letter: Beith (B)

  • Symbolic Meaning: New Beginnings, Growth, Renewal, Rebirth, Adaptability

  • Ruling Planet: Venus

  • Ruling Elements: Air & Water

  • Season: Spring & Autumn

  • Corresponding Star Sign: Capricorn

  • Language of Flowers meaning: meekness

  • Colors: white, silver, and red

  • Associations: Beltane, Whitsun, Samhain, witches' besoms, fly agaric mushrooms, Freya, Frigga, Lugh, Arianrhod, Blodeuwedd

Birch Magic

Birch branches were used to clear negative energy and beat out the Old Year on 31st December

The birch tree is known for healing and protection as well as creativity.

Tie a red ribbon around the birch tree to ward off negative energy.

Make a mobile from birch twigs to hang over the crib of an infant for protection.

Gardeners still use a birch besom to ‘purify’ their gardens

Birch besoms were used in witches’ flights

Shamans use of extracts of the fly agaric mushrooms that live under birches for vision work.

Highland folklore says that when you herd a barren cow with a birch stick she will become fertile.

In Wales, it was tradition for a newly married couple would step over a birch broom to enter their new home together, representing a wish for fertility.

A gift of a birch twig could initiate a serious relationship.

Birch oil works well for love spells.

Birch wood is often used for the May Pole during Beltane.

This beautiful sculpture stands at the Wiawaka Center for Women in New York. She symbolizes strength in nature and was created by Artist Pam Golden. Photo by Kathy Dunlap

New Years Resolution Spell

Spells using birch help you to commit and secure your resolution
You will need:

  • Red candle - place on a table you can walk around

  • Red ribbon

  • Birch wand or birch branch

  • Frankincense essential oil

  • Sprig of Rosemary

  1. Think of a resolution you want to keep in the new year. It should be realistic and attainable.

  2. If you don’t have a birch wand go to a park or friend’s farm to gather one. You will need a small branch about twelve inches long.

  3. Anoint the red candle with the three drops of frankincense oil. Frankincense encourages encourage creativity, concentration, and inspiration.

  4. Place the rosemary sprig next to the candle. Rosemary helps us keep our promises.

  5. Light the candle

  6. Stand in front of the candle and visualize your resolution. Concentrate on seeing yourself attaining your goal. See yourself proud and happy at having met the resolution.

  7. Holding your birch wand walk clockwise around the candle. If you can not walk around the candle use the wand to stir the air around the candle in a clockwise direction.

  8. Repeat the words, “I manifest this resolution and state what resolution is. I open myself to this new experience and allow positive change to manifest in my life.”

  9. Stand in front of the candle and visualize the attainment of your goal.

  10. Say So mote it be.

  11. Blow out the candle.

Birch and the Gods and Goddesses

There are several Gods and Goddesses associated with the birch tree. Honor one or two of them at your altar this month.

Lugh is the Celtic god of light, oaths, and truth. When Lugh lost his wife to the underworld, the God Ogma carved birch seven times on a branch to make a talisman to keep her safe.

Arianrhod is the Celtic Goddess of fertility and birth. Celtic women traditionally used birch to ask for Arianrhod’s assistance in childbirth.

Venus (the planet and the goddess) rules over birch.

Birch is also connected to the Norse goddess of love and fertility, Freya.

Blodeuwedd, the Welsh goddess of springtime and flowers.

The birch tree is often connected with the mysteries of the otherworld – fairies and spirits of the dead.

Birch in World Cultures

  • The birch is the tree of life in many countries of the Near East.

  • In the Russian Tartar culture, the birch tree stands at the center of the world.

  • The birch is the guardian of the door and can provide access to the nine great celestial realms for the indigenous people of Mongolia.

Birch in Poetry

Such a lovely tree, the ladylike birch is often featured in poetry. When I was in middle school I recited the poem “Birches’ by Robert Frost for a drama team competition. I always loved the way he reflected on his life’s journey by swinging on birch branches.

Alfred Lord Tennyson popularised the adjective ‘silver’ in relationship to the birch.

The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge called it the ‘Lady of the Woods’.

“Beneath you birch with silver bark

And boughs so pendulous and fair,

The brook falls scattered down the rock:

and all is mossy there.”

The Picture or The Lover's Resolution 1802 by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Take Away

Embrace this month of new beginnings. Happy New Year!

Author Ame Vanorio is the founder of Celebrate Pagan Holidays. She is very excited for the New Year and all the ways that CPH is reaching and helping people.