American Birch produces a hard, heavy wood that is used in construction and for carving. European Birchwood is soft and fibrous and used mainly for firewood. The sap of the black Birch contains wintergreen oil and has been used for food flavourings as well as to produce birch beer. The sap can be boiled down like maple syrup.
The Birch is associated with renewal because of its ability to take hold and grow more quickly than other trees. It is a cold climate tree that can compete with evergreens. Often it is the first to spring up after a forest fire, seemingly as a herald of the great woods that will eventually return. Birch is a hardy tree that can do well in many types of conditions. It is most often found in groves rather than individually.
Birch was frequently used for Maypoles and is one of the nine sacred woods for a sabbat fire, in which it represents the Goddess. In the traditional witches’ besom broom, a bundle of birch twigs can be used for the brush. Because of the belief in its protective qualities, baby cradles were commonly made of birch.
According to Jean Markale, Birch was a tree dedicated to the dead. Since death was believed to be a passage into another life, it was also associated with rebirth. In Celtic burials, bodies were transported to their graves with bushy birch branches for a covering, which was called a strophais.
In England and Ireland, December 26 included the custom called “the hunting of the wren,” which marked the transition of the old year to new. The wren represented the old year and was said to be hunted down by a robin (the spring bird) that carried a Birch rod in his claws.
In the thirteenth – and fourteenth-century Wales, lovers met in “the house of leaves,” which meant under a Birch tree. Birch wreaths were given as love tokens to remember these meetings. Going “a-maying” referred to these trysts and meant birch trees as often as hawthorns. (Another name for the Hawthorne is “May tree.”) During the Victorian era, Birch was a symbol of grace and meekness.
Derived from the trees Gaelic name, beith, the place name of Aghavea (Achadh-beith) in Ireland means “the field of the birch trees.”
In ancient Rome, Birch, along with oak and yew, represented the three pillars of wisdom. Slavic folktales, the Genii of the Forest, or Ljesch, and other mythical beings favoured the birch. The tree is a symbol of the country Estonia and its culture.
Archaeologists have found birch bark with inscriptions. The bark easily peels from the tree and has a smooth surface on its inner side. I have found birch an interesting surface for artwork, which also makes it useful in spell craft and ritual.
Latin Name: Betula papyrifera (American white virtual paper birch), B. Alba (European white birch), B. pendula (European weeping Birch), B. Lenta (black Birch or sweet Birch), B. Nigra (River Birch)
Seasonal Details: yellow-green catkins in March; Oval/heart-shaped, finely serrated leaves; bark colours range from drab grey to salmon, or cinnamon red (River Birch) to white (paper birch); the River Birch has shaggy bark.
Powers/attributes: beginnings, birth, blessings, creativity, crafts, fertility, growth, healing, aspiration, love, protection, purification, renewal.
Celtic Calendar Dates: December 24 – January 20
Feng Shui Sectors: Southeast, west, north-west, negative areas
Goddesses: Audhumla, Cerridwen, Fand, Freya, Frigg
Gods: Angus Mac Og, Dagda, Lugh, Thor
Other Beings/Characters: Ljescg, Taliesen, wood nymphs
Other Names for Tree: Lady of the Woods, silver birch
Celestial Bodies: Jupiter, Moon, Sun, Venus
Plants: daisy, fly agaric mushroom
Gemstones: fluorite, quartz
Wildlife: Eagle, pheasant, white cow, white egret, white stag
Other Trees: fir, spruce
Colours: dark green, white
Other Associations: the arts, travel to the faery realm, date: June 24; Sabbats:Ostara/vernal equinox, Beltane; springtime in general; North; Sunday; Celtic peasant/commentary
Spellwork and Ritual: celebrating a birth; moon rituals; blessing the beginning of a project, relationship, new home, or making any kind of fresh start
Source: Whispers from the Woods by Sandra Kynes
Celtic Tree Zodiac
The Celtic Tree Zodiac is based on the ancient idea that the time of our births is pivotal to the formation of our personality and behavior. The spiritually savvy Celts, particularly the druids were expert observers. Over time, they recognized that a child born within a certain season would develop certain qualities. Further, the druids observed patterns in the color and shape of a persons life according to the motions of the moon (their calendar being based on a lunar year being 13 months) and the season in which we are born. Below is listed the Tree characteristics of each Tree.