31.12.2020 Birch

Beith (Birch) is the first letter of the Ogham alphabet and it is the tree given to the first month – from 24 December – 20 January on the Celtic Tree Calendar

The birch is known as a ‘Pioneer Tree’ – meaning that it can restart the colonisation of woodlands after long term natural disasters. It is believed to be the first tree to recolonize the land after the last Ice Age and is often the first to move in to damaged terrains, paving the way for others. It isn’t the most long lived of trees (40 – 60 years). The Birch has many folk names is The Lady of the Woods, The White Goddess, The Ribbon Tree and The Silver Maiden

The word ‘birch’ is believed to stem from the word ‘bhurga’ – a Sanskrit word meaning ‘a tree whose bark is used for writing upon’, or from ‘bher’ – meaning ‘shining white’ and its lovely papery bark rolls back from its trunk in scrolls exposing fresh scarring marks like texts, written in the skin.

The Birch tree has been associated with light, the silvery colour of it’s bark lighting up the dark woods and glowing in moonlight. Birch branches were used to ‘drive out’ the Old Year on 31st December to clear negative energies for the year ahead, and Birch twigs are used to make ‘besom’ brooms for sweeping the garden and are said to make the best witches’ broomsticks – the magical light that the twigs contain are imagined to make the broomsticks fly well, perhaps this magic also comes from the red and white toadstool, the Amanita muscara, also know as the Fly agaric, which grows at her roots.

for more on the Birch see here:

https://www.lottibrowndesigns.com/blog/celtic-birch-art-folklore-meaning

http://www.ecoenchantments.co.uk/myogham_birchpage.html

Published by @julforres

Julie Forrester, artist based in Cork City Ireland

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