Called the “White Lady of the Woods,” Birch is a tree of great strength and beauty. As one of the first plants to sprout new leaves in the spring, Birch has long been associated with renewal. Birch is extremely important in Celtic, European, and Native American folklore. Birch is linked to the Norse rune Berkana and also to Beith, the first letter of the Ogham alphabet
The Birch is a medium-sized, straight-grained tree that tends to grow in groups or “stands.” It is slender, graceful, and hardy. Birch trees are found all over the Northern Hemisphere, thriving in all but the coldest areas of the North. Most people recognize Birch by its white papery bark marked with grey or brown.
Birch is a natural diuretic, and some people drink Birch tea it to cleanse and detoxify the urinary system. It is also used externally as a skin tonic and remedy for sore muscles. Birch extract has a fresh, wintergreen aroma and was once a popular flavoring for chewing gum and soft drinks. (Ask your grandpa.) Birch sap is a reliable winter food source for native peoples of Siberia and North America.
Birch wood is hard and smooth with a fine yellow-white color. You can obtain Birch wood in many different forms, from freshly gathered twigs to firewood to fine furniture veneers. Birch is prized as firewood because it burns without popping, even when harvested fresh. Bark and wood pieces are available from natural health suppliers.
Birch “paper” (or strips of the dried bark) is valuable for spellcraft—but be careful when buying it because craft stores sometimes carry imitations. Birch essential oil is also available, and is usually steam-distilled from the pulverized bark. Synthetic Birch fragrances rarely get it right. Most smell like minty mouthwash, sandalwood, or tar, missing the complexity of Birch’s spicy, woody bouquet.
Magickal Uses of Birch
Early peoples would have been amazed to see Birch groves sprouting in barren Northern lands, ground only recently occupied by glaciers. Birch trees are considered pioneer species, rapidly colonizing land that has been leveled by fire or clear-cutting. They sprout fresh green leaves in early Spring, just as the first thaw begins. Hence, Birch’s age-old association with fertility and new beginnings.
In magick, Birch is associated with inception, fertility, and sometimes with purification. (Birch has natural antiseptic properties.) Birch is traditionally used for the Witch’s besom, Beltane fires and Maypoles, and Yule logs. “Birch into the fire goes/In sign of what the Lady knows,” goes the traditional Wiccan rhyme.
Birch does well in rough, acidic soil and cold climates—places where larger deciduous trees cannot grow. Although Birch appears fragile, it is extremely strong. The spirit of Birch offers courage and protection to those who would venture outside of the safe and the normal.
A secondary use of Birch is for protection, especially psychic protection. Birch groves provide shelter for the psychoactive Fly Agaric mushrooms, so Birch is also a patron of sorts for hallucinogenic journeyers. Where Birch is the guardian, the wanderer is said to be safe from madness and Faery tricks.
Birch has been variously linked to the Norse goddesses Frigg, Freya, Idunna, and Hel. It is also surely related to the white maidens (Faeries?) that haunt the forests of Germanic folklore. But the Birch spirit is a larger, older being than even these great Ladies. Nor does Birch easily fit into any one of the Wiccan concepts of the Goddess.
Birch has the fresh innocence of the Maiden, the generosity of the Mother, and the silent courage of the Crone. It has a deep, long relationship with humans as a provider and guide.
Birch brings an abundance of potent, positive energy to magick. Invoke the Birch spirit for an auspicious start to new ventures. Meditate on Birch for resilience during hardship. Incorporate Birch into charms for love, protection, and wisdom.
Correspondences of Birch
Birch is a Goddess tree with links to the love goddess Freya. Therefore, most writers assign it to Venus. It’s a beautiful tree, to be sure—but it’s neither fragrant nor sensual in the tradition of Venus plants. Birch’s white color (and its energy of renewal and change) could support a Lunar correspondence.
This short-lived, fast-growing, and flexible tree begs to be assigned to the element of Air. Scott Cunningham and some other sources go with Water, perhaps thinking of the tree’s abundant sap or its planetary attributions.
Birch corresponds to the color white, the number 1, and the time between Yule and Imbolc on the Pagan calendar.
Spells and Formulas with Birch
Write wishes on Birch paper and burn them to make them come true.
Birch has long been hailed as a protective charm against bad Faeries. In Ireland, a cradle made from Birch was said to protect the sleeping infant from being carried off. Carry a Birch charm in your pocket to ward off hexes and tricks.
A broom made from Birch twigs purifies the home or ritual space. Sweep the dust out with Birch at Yuletide, so that blessings can flow in for the new year.
Birch rods are used in European folk magick rituals to drive out evil spirits.
A Birch tree, bough, or carving near the front door will prevent ill-wishers from entering the home.
Burn pieces of Birch bark as a purifying incense. Essential oil and infusions of Birch may be added to cleansing floor washes.
A Birch log burned at Yule will bring luck and prosperity for the arrival of Spring. (If that’s not practical, apartment-dwelling Witches, use a white candle wrapped in Birch paper or scented with Birch).
A magick wand made from Birch is ideal for protective magick and inspiration.
Birch is generally safe for external ritual use, and for food use in moderate quantities. The following precautions apply to concentrated forms of Birch:
Birch essential oil is a possible skin irritant and should be diluted properly. Never consume essential oils internally. Use caution if pregnant or nursing. Birch contains methyl salicylate, the same active ingredient in aspirin. It should not be used with blood-thinning medications, by the elderly, or by people with bleeding disorders.
Scent Profile: Wintergreen, Root Beer, Woody, Smoky
Correspondences: Venus/Moon, Air/Water
Occult properties of herbs are provided for historical interest only, and no outcome is guaranteed. Nothing on this website should be taken as medical or legal advice. Please use herbs responsibly.