First month of the Celtic Tree calendar: December 24th - January 20th. First consonant of the Ogham alphabet - Beith Birch gives the essence of truth. It is considered the 'giving tree'.
Since the dawn of human kind, birch bark has been highly valued and utilized for all manner of things to benefit us 'two legged's'. It is after all, the bark of the giving tree. The birch bark David uses to create his braided inlays is lovingly collected from the ground around the birch trees where we live. Because of the remarkable preservative properties of birch bark, it is possible to use the bark from dead or fallen trees to make all sorts of things.
Birch wood is a good hard wood which David jokingly calls hammer handle material. It's serviceable wood but not especially pretty being without any remarkable grain or figure. Having said that, David can create a beautiful ring from almost any wood and there are lots of ways to include a particular wood without having it be the primary focus of a ring.
Birch trees prefer cool, moist areas, including peat bogs, river banks and lake shores. Birch can be found in larger numbers in cool damp woods and forests were the ground does not dry out for most of the year.
Birch wood is often used for fire wood because it burns well without popping, even when frozen. Birch bark can be easily used to start fires and the bark can also be peeled into thin sheets to make a paper like kindling that can be ignited even with sparks. We don't burn birch or the precious bark.
LESSON OF THE BIRCH
The birch tree symbolizes a fresh start and can bring courage and determination to those of us who are treading the path of spiritual growth and development for the first time.
Although the birch does appear fragile, it is in fact extremely hardy. This teaches us that in apparent weakness there is often to be found great strength.
The birch also promises new life and love, and is a potent symbol of purification and renewal, which focuses our attention on our potential for the change and on the consideration of new directions and goals to be experienced in our lives.
It teaches the lesson of unselfishness and of caring for the needs of others in ways that help them to flourish of their own accord.
BEGINNINGS are always important, as are the ways we approach any new task. Good preparation and a willingness to lay the ground on which we will build are every bit as valuable as the eventual outcome. The Green Man's wisdom here is specific: make a good start and whatever you are undertaking will end well. This means paying attention to the moment of inspiration (which the Celts called 'awen') and following this to a satisfactory conclusion.
Traditionally birch was used to drive out evil spirits and return to sanity those who had become mad. Its calendrical association is with the beginnings of the year, and with the sacred festival of Samhain, hence its connection with making a fresh start. The birch is also one of the first trees to flower in the spring.
Wishing our new friends and old friends alike a wonderful new beginning this year!
Sources / Thanks to
Lesson of the Birch. The Wisdom of Trees by Jane Gifford
Beginnings. The Green Man Oracle by John Matthews and Will Worthington