Plant Magic: Wisdom from the Green World

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Birch and the Turning of the Year

The magical month of the birch tree, and its ogham character Beith, began on December 24th.  Beginning just after the winter solstice, this period (from December 24 to January 20) prepares the way for renewal in the New Year. Birch is associated with new beginnings, protection, purification and the increasing sunlight.

In Wales, birch was associated with love, and in German folklore it was the tree of life. Throughout Europe it was used medicinally. According to legend, Siberian shamans used birch in initiation rituals. Because the wood was often used for broom handles, birch eventually became affiliated with witches. In western England, crosses made of birch twigs were hung over doorways for protection against enchantment.

Use birch twigs to symbolically sweep and clear away negative energy before ritual. Also do this for protection during magic work. Burn a few small pieces of bark for purification and to attract abundance. As a symbol of birth and renewal, birch helps us learn from the past when we want to make a fresh start. For aid in this, place a couple of small twigs on your altar during times of transition.

Hold a twig before a divination session to focus your energy. It will help to bring clarity and aid in receiving knowledge. Use pieces of bark in a sachet for love spells and place a twig under the bed to aid in fertility. Crumble and sprinkle pieces of bark around your property to attract fairies.

Paper birch (Betula papyrifera), also known as white birch, grows fifty to seventy feet tall and can have one or several slender trunks. Its oval leaves are dull green on top and lighter underneath; they turn bright yellow in autumn. In the early spring, yellowish-brown male flowers grow in drooping catkins and greenish female flowers grow in smaller, upright catkins. The tree’s white bark peels off in papery strips.

The silver birch (B. pendula syn. B. alba, B. verrucosa), also known as European white birch, typically grows thirty to forty feet tall. Its oval leaves are glossy and turn greenish-yellow in the autumn. Silver birch also has yellowish-brown male flowers in drooping catkins and greenish female flowers in smaller, upright catkins that appear in early spring.

Blessings of the New Year.



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The author of over a dozen books, Sandra is an explorer of history, myth, and magic. Her writing has been featured in SageWoman, The Magical Times, The Portal, and Circle magazines, Utne Reader and Magical Buffet websites, and various Llewellyn almanacs. Although she is a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, she travels a solitary Goddess-centered path through the Druidic woods. She has lived in New York City, Europe, England, and now Maine where she lives in an 1850s farmhouse surrounded by meadows and woods.  


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