Written and Compiled by George Knowles
The common birch tree (Betula
pendula alba, also B.
pubescens, and B.
verrucosa) is one of the sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft.
Coleridge (the English poet and critic 1772–1834) spoke of the birch
as the “Lady of the Woods”, due to its lightness, grace, elegance and
fragrance particularly after rain. The
wood of the birch is soft and not very durable but being cheap and the tree
being able to thrive in any situation or soil, it is grown all over Europe and
used for a wide variety of purposes. In
country districts the lighter twigs are used for thatching, wattle fencing and
brooms. Bobbins for thread-mills,
herring-barrel staves and various fancy articles are made from birch, as is the
manufacture of cloth. The tree is
also a source from which asphyxiating gases have been manufactured, and its
charcoal was and still is used for gunpowder.
The white epidermis of its bark when separated into thin layers can be
employed as a substitute for oiled paper and applied to various economical uses.
It yields Oil of Birch Tar and the peculiar well-known odour of Russian
leather is due to the use of this in the process of its dressing.
Its use imparts durability to leather and it is owing to its presence
that books bound in Russian leather are not liable to become mouldy. The production of Oil of Birch Tar is a Russian industry of
considerable importance. It is also
distilled in Holland and Germany but these are appreciably different from the
When the stem of the birch tree is wounded a saccharine juice flows out
and when added to yeast it produces a vinous fermentation from which beer, wine,
spirits and vinegar are made in various parts of Europe.
Normally during March incisions are cut into the tree from which a thin
sugary sap is collected. Honey, cloves and lemon peel is then added and the whole
fermented with yeast from which Birch Wine and a very pleasant cordial is made.
From 16 to 18 gallons of sap may be drawn from one large tree and a
moderate tapping does it no harm.
The bark of the birch contains only about 3 per cent of tannic acid but
is still used extensively for tanning throughout Northern Europe or wherever
there are large birch forests. As
it’s tannic acid gives a pale colour to the skin it is used for the
preliminary and the final stages of tanning.
The bark also contains betulin and betuls camphor, while the leaves
contain betulorentic acid. By
destructive distillation the white epidermis of the bark yields empyreumatic oil
known variously in commerce as: Oil
of Birch Tar, Oleum Rusci, Oleum Betulinum or Dagget. This is a thick bituminous brownish-black liquid with a
pungent balsamic odour. It contains
a high percentage of methylsalicylate as well as creosol and guaiacol.
The Rectified Oil (Oleum Rusci Rectificatum) is sometimes
substituted for Oil of Cade. The
Oil of Birch Tar is almost identical with Wintergreen Oil.
In Wicca/Witchcraft the
Druids placed the birch at the start of the Celtic tree calendar from whence it
became associated with inception and new beginnings and twigs of the birch were
use at Beltane celebrations to light the festival fires marking the beginning of
a new season. The birch was also
associated with the spirits of the dead and the Underworld. An old folk-ballad known as “The Wife of Usher’s Well”
tells of souls returning from the realms of the dead wearing hats and clothing
of made of birch.
One of the ritual tools
of a Witch is the Broom, which traditionally it was made by tying the twigs of a
Birch tree around a handle made of Ash with strips of Willow.
In folklore it was thought that the Ash with its association with water
had command over the four elements. The
Birch with its connection to the spirits of the dead drew those spirits into
one’s service and the Willow through its connection with Hecate allowed
communication with the Goddess. The
handle, brush and binding of the broom are also symbolic of the triformis
aspects of the Goddess.
Birch tree is known by several folk-names:
Beithe, Bereza, Berke, Beth and Bouleau. Its associated deity is Thor.
Its gender type is Feminine, its planet ruler is Venus, and its
associated element is Water. Birch
is used to attract the powers needed for protection, purification and exorcism.
folklore, tying a red ribbon around the stem or branch of a birch tree would
ward off the evil eye. Because of
its purificatory and cleansing properties as well as its association with the
Underworld, birch twigs can be used to exorcise evil spirits by gently striking
possessed people or animals. Babies’
cradles were once made from birch wood to protect their innocent charges and the
birch was also used for protection against lightning.
Various parts of the tree have also been applied to medicinal uses. For instance, the young shoots and leaves of the birch secrete a resinous substance having acidic properties, which when combined with alkalis is said to be a tonic laxative. The leaves have a peculiar aromatic though agreeable odour with a bitter taste and have been employed in the form of infusion (Birch Tea) for use in gout, rheumatism and dropsy. It was also recommended as a reliable solvent of kidney stones and with the bark they resolve and resist putrefaction, a decoction of which is good for bathing skin eruptions.
Oil of Birch Tar is astringent and is mainly used for its curative effects in skin affections, especially eczema, but is also used for some Internal maladies. Rubbing the oil onto the hands or skin also keeps away insects and prevents gnat bites. The inner bark is bitter and astringent and has been used in intermittent fevers. The vernal sap is diuretic and Moxa is made from the yellow fungous excrescences of the wood, which sometimes swell out from the fissures.
Astrologically birch people (i.e. those people born in the month of December) can be vivacious, attractive, elegant, friendly, pretentious and modest. They do not like anything in excess and abhors the vulgar. They love life in nature and create a calm and content atmosphere, but while they can be full of imagination, they are not very passionate and have little ambition.
Cunningham's Encyclopedia Of Magical Herbs - By Scott Cunningham.
Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft - By Raven Grimassi.
The Encyclopedia of Witches & Witchcraft - By Rosemary Ellen Guiley.
Tree Wisdom (The difinitive guidebook to the myth, folklore and healing power of Trees) - By Jacqueline Memory Paterson.
AA Book of Britain's Countryside.
The Penguin Hutchinson Reference Library (CD cassette).
Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia (CD cassette).
Plus many websites to numerous to mention.
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Best Wishes and Blessed Be.
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Wicca & Witchcraft
Wiccan Rede / Charge of the Goddess / Charge of the God / The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) / The Witches Chant / The Witches Creed / Descent of the Goddess / Drawing Down the Moon / The Great Rite Invocation / Invocation of the Horned God / The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief / The Witches Rede of Chivalry / A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality
Traditions Part 1 - Alexandrian Wicca / Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) / Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) / Blue Star Wicca / British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) / Celtic Wicca / Ceremonial Magic / Chaos Magic / Church and School of Wicca / Circle Sanctuary / Covenant of the Goddess (COG) / Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) / Cyber Wicca / Dianic Wicca / Eclectic Wicca / Feri Wicca /
Traditions Part 2 - Gardnerian Wicca / Georgian Tradition / Henge of Keltria / Hereditary Witchcraft / Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) / Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) / Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition / Nordic Paganism / Pagan Federation / Pectic-Wita / Seax-Wica / Shamanism / Solitary / Strega / Sylvan Tradition / Vodoun or Voodoo / Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /
Other things of interest:
Gods and Goddesses (Greek
Mythology) / Esbats &
Full Moons / Links
to Personal Friends & Resources / Wicca/Witchcraft
Resources / What's a spell? /
Circle Casting and
Sacred Space / Pentagram
- Pentacle / Marks
of a Witch / The Witches
Power / The Witches Hat
esoteric guide to visiting London / Satanism
Unitarian Universalist Association / Numerology: Part 1
/ Part 2 / Part
3 / A
history of the Malleus Maleficarum: includes: Pope
Innocent VIII /
papal Bull /
Malleus Maleficarum /
An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum
/ The letter of approbation
Nider’s Formicarius /
Heinrich Kramer /
/ Montague Summers /
/ The Albigenses
The Hussites / The
/ Shielding (Occult
and Psychic Protection) /
Sabbats and Rituals:
Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat
In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar. For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following: Birch / Rowan / Ash / Alder / Willow / Hawthorn / Oak / Holly / Hazel / Vine / Ivy / Reed / Elder. Also see: The Willow Tree (Folk Music)
Rocks and Stones:
Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin: / Apophyllite / Amber / Amethyst / Aquamarine / Aragonite / Aventurine / Black Tourmaline / Bloodstone / Calcite / Carnelian / Celestite / Citrine / Chrysanthemum Stone / Diamond / Emerald / Fluorite / Garnet / Hematite / Herkimer Diamond / Labradorite / Lapis Lazuli / Malachite / Moonstone / Obsidian / Opal / Pyrite / Quartz (Rock Crystal) / Rose Quartz / Ruby / Selenite / Seraphinite / Silver and Gold / Smoky Quartz / Sodalite / Sunstone / Thunderegg / Tree Agate / Zebra Marble
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murder by Witchcraft / The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch / The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) / Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife / The Story of Jack-O-Lantern / The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost / Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) / The Two Brothers - Light and Dark
Old Masters of Academia:
(Ancient, Past and Present)
(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders and Elders)
Abramelin the Mage / Agrippa / Aidan A. Kelly / Albertus Magnus “Albert the Great” / Aleister Crowley “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders "the King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Amber K / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Biddy Early / Bridget Cleary / Carl Llewellyn Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christina Oakley Harrington / Damh the Bard (Dave Smith) / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Dorothy Morrison / Doreen Valiente / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry / Fiona Horne / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gerald B. Gardner / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Herman Slater "Horrible Herman" / Israel Regardie / James "Cunning" Murrell / Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone / Jessie Wicker Bell “Lady Sheba” / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave (the White Fox) / John Michael Greer / John Score / Johannes Junius the Burgomaster of Bamberg / Karl von Eckartshausen / Laurie Cabot "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Marie Laveau the " Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Matthew Hopkins “The Witch-Finder General” / Max Ehrmann and the Desiderata / Monique Wilson the “Queen of the Witches” / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellers / Mrs. Grieve "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Paracelsus / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Philip Emmons Isaac Bonewits / Philip Heselton / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and "The White Goddess" /Rudolf Steiner / Rosaleen Norton “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Ross Nichols and The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids / Sabrina - The Ink Witch / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer / S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” / Starhawk / Stewart Farrar / Sybil Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather, Cotton Mather / Thomas Ady / Vera Chapman / Victor Henry Anderson / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest
Many of the above biographies are brief and far from complete. If you know about any of these individuals and can help with aditional information, please cantact me privately at my email address below. Many thanks for reading :-)
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