01 Beith – the Birch
Beith (pronounced ‘BEH’)
Represents letter(s): B
Divinatory meaning: Beginning, birth, starting over
Associated Tree/Plant: Birch
Healing Properties: An infusion of birch leaves can be used to break up kidney and bladder stones. Birch bark can be used as an astringent. Tea made from the inner bark of the birch and/or its leaves is a mild sleep aid. Birch sap can also be boiled down into a syrup, and makes a natural sweetener when used in this way.
Magical Uses: In Celtic lands birch is known as the White Lady of the Woods. It is a tree of feminine energy, equated with the White Goddess Brighid in all her aspects. Brighid is a triple Goddess of poetry, blacksmithing, and healing. Likewise the birch is a triple Goddess in that the birch is traditionally used to make Maypoles. Originally Maypoles were a symbol of Celtic shamanism, enacting the Great Rite on Earth, thereby uniting the three realms of earth, sky, and Middle Earth where humans and our four-legged brothers and sisters dwell. This triple aspect of the birch makes it an excellent wood for vision-seeking activities. Celtic shamans climb birch trees in order to commune with the sky Gods for this reason.
It is said that if a birch tree leaves a white mark on your forehead, that you will go mad. If a birch leaves a mark over your heart, you will die soon.
Birch is one of the nine firewoods to be added to the Belfire for the festival of Beltane (May 1). The Nine Sacred Woods of the Belfire are birch, oak, rowan, willow, hawthorn, hazel, apple, grapevine and fir. In The Way of the Elder Grove, there are Three Pillars of Wisdom. These are represented by the birch, the oak, and the yew. Birch symbolizes the first degree of Elder Grove learning.
Brooms of birch are often used to sweep out the spirits of the old year at Hogmanay, and to “beat the bounds” of a farm’s property lines in order to secure the blessings of the Goddess for the coming year.
Gods/Goddesses Associated with This Tree/Plant: Taliesin and Brighid