The birch tree is almost fragile in appearance yet has a hardy nature. It grows tall: up to 60 meters high. It is found mostly in northern climates – in places such as Scotland, England, Siberia and Scandinavia. It also grows in China, Japan, North Korea, the Himalayas and North America. Some varieties are found in the Mediterranean in mountainous terrains. The birch is equally at home in sandy or stony ground although she prefers boggy terrain. She will take root where other trees won’t and as such is something of a pioneer and once she has taken root and settled she makes the area around her more arable and thus enabling other species to grow. In early spring the small male flowers develop into long catkins and the female flowers grow into tiny cones.
The bark of the birch is very thin and peels away from the tree like paper. It is believed that the word “birch” came from the Sanskrit word “bhurga” which means “a tree whose bark is used for writing upon” or from “bher” meaning “shining white”. The birch has a variety of uses: the leaves are both a diuretic and antiseptic and can be used to help cystitis and other urinary tract infections. They have also been used to dissolve kidney stones and bring relief to gout and rheumatism. Drinking birch wine or cordial could prevent kidney or bladder stones. If applied externally the bark is believed to relieve muscle pain. Birch tar is often used as an ingredient in ointment for psoriasis and eczema. Birch wood is tough and heavy and has a straight grain and so can be used for many things. Historically it was used to make household and agricultural implements and also toys. The spray of the birch was used to smoke hams and herrings and also to make thatch for houses. The bark is water-resistant and Native Americans have used it for waterproofing the roofs of their huts.
Birch broom was used to make broomsticks and gardeners use a birch broom to purify their gardens. Deities associated with the birch are the love and fertility goddesses such as Freya, Frigga, Bridha or Brigid, Oestre, Ariadne and Venus.
The birch is a feminine tree associated with the Great Mother, it will protect your home, invite abundance and secure love. Using a besom made of birch to sweep your life clear of limitation. [gather a handful of birch branches and tie together with a ribbon of your choice, now walk through each room mentally clearing it of all negative energy.] Birch leaves are a sign of spring and vibrate with new beginnings.
The birch is the first of the tree symbols for the first moon cycle of the year. It is a symbol of new beginnings, hope, regeneration and the promise of what is to come.
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