I am Birch and My Story is Beginnings

I am BIRCH and my story is BEGINNINGS. I stand sentinel in the ancient Celtic forest, beckoning you with my sliver bark toward the sacred grove. To enter this place of knowledge and healing, you must resist your old thinking and shed habits that keep you comfortable, stuck, and numb.  

Beginnings demand you strip away the trappings of the face you show the outside world and reconnect to your essential core. This primal part of you is curious, alert, mindful, and instinctive. It responds naturally and effectively to life’s challenges when it is not burdened by the past. 

I ask you now to travel in new territory, without known landmarks, to places where the dialect is foreign and the customs are strange. The parts of yourself that do things the way they have always been done are no longer needed. You have outgrown their complaints and fears. Leave them behind.

Yes. It is true. Beginning anything is radical. Beginning anything takes courage. Birth cannot come without some measure of pain. Call on your inner mother to tend this new thing with her loving warmth. Call on your inner warrior to protect it while it grows. Call on your wise self to guide its decisions and stay focus on the good things you are manifesting with your trust. If you stay brave and true through midnight, morning is coming and with it joy! 

About Birch Trees 

Birch trees are small to medium sized pioneer species, rapidly colonizing open ground especially following a fire or other natural disturbance. The birch genus, Betula, contains more than 60 different species of deciduous hardwood trees with thin yellow-green leaves, and bark ranging in color from pure white, to silver, to shades of gray, to black. The name, Betula, comes from the Latin, adapted from the Gaulish betua,from the Old Irish bethe. The root of these words means “to shine” in reference to the gleam of the beautiful bark shimmering through the dark of the forest. 

The ancient Birch of the Celts is Betula pendula, known by the common names silver birch, European white birch, or warty birch. Aromatherapists are familiar with Betula lenta  (sweet birch), which produces an essential oil famous as a powerful analgesic composed of 98% methyl salicylate. 

The birch tree holds a special place in the Celtic Ogam as the first tree of the alphabet, probably because it grows on the edge of the forest and is the first tree a seeker encounters. In case you are not familiar with Ogam, it might be helpful to share that Ogam is an enchanted tree oracle and ancient script of 20 symbols named for forest trees. Each tree in Ogam has a group of mythical and magical associations that offer wisdom and insight into fate and the future. Birch is associated with the birth of a new phase, new energy, beginnings, manifestation of ideas, new relationships, or new projects. Inherent in an idea of newness, is an assumption that the old is put to rest, buried, cleared away, or left behind. Purification is preparation for beginnings and part of the symbolism of birch trees. 

A Birch Tree Devotion for Beginnings 

At any time, but especially as a New Year dawns, we can purify our lives, move forward from what is outdated, and embrace the fresh energy of beginnings. This simple devotion celebrates clean slates, fresh starts, new relationships, new projects, or the New Year. 

Prepare the Space: Determine the place where you will perform this devotion. You might be outside in a forest or in your living room. If you wish, decorate (though this is optional) by spreading a white cloth over a table or the ground, and placing special objects on the cloth. These objects might be pictures, stones, candles, silver charms, flowers, a bowl of water, and anything else that is pleasing and inspiring.  If you live in some areas of the United States or Canada you can walk through the forest and pick up birch branches or birch bark. You might also purchase birch slices (small cutting of birch branches that look like discs), birch sticks, and birch wands from magical and herbal shops. These lovely decorative pieces add a unique luster to this devotion but are not necessary to invoke the spirit of the birch (all you need is your imagination). I love the aroma of sweet birch essential oil and so I’ll diffuse 6 drops in an aromatherapy diffuser to fill my space with a clean, bracing aroma if I am practicing indoors. 

Gather Supplies: You’ll need 2 or more sheets of fine white paper and a pen, a metal bowl or pan with sand or dirt inside, a white candle, matches, and 12 inches of green cord or ribbon. Place these supplies on or beside the white cloth. In your bathroom, you will need 2 tablespoons of expeller-pressed vegetable oil like sunflower or avocado oil and ¼ cup of fine-grained sea salt (don’t use table salt as it can burn your skin). 

Purify Your Body: Fill a tub with warm water, or start a warm shower. Apply the vegetable oil to all areas of your skin except your feet (you could slip in the shower if your feet are oily). Stand in the tub or stand in the shower stall alongside the stream of water. Apply the sea salt to your body with gentle, circular strokes working from your legs, up your trunk to your arms and hands.  Add more oil if necessary so that the salt is well lubricated and feels comfortable on your skin. As you apply the salt to each area of your body say, “I purify and renew my legs. I purify and renew my knees. I purify and renew my thighs,” and so forth. Sit down in the water of the tub or move into the shower stream and let the water wash away the salt. Know that anything that makes your spirit feel heavy disappears as the salt is rinsed from your body. When you feel ready, dry off and put on clean pajamas or a robe. If you are outdoors, you can purify your body mentally by touching areas and saying “I purify and renew…” or you can do a polar bear plunge into a nearby lake or slow-moving river. Don’t do anything unsafe. If you do a cold water plunge you’ll want to be in good health, be a strong swimmer, and have a fire going and warm clothing ready. Maybe there is a hot spring around instead!

Purify Your Spirit: Light the candles on your white cloth and sit in front of one white candle and contemplate the flame. Think about those things that hold you back, burden your heart, cause you to feel stuck, or get in the way of your best life. When these things are present in your mind, write them on a piece of paper. Don’t edit; just write them down in rapid pen strokes. You can draw images or symbols if it feels right.  

Release the Old: Roll the piece of paper into a cylinder. Pull the metal bowl of sand close and light the cylinder on one end, holding it as it burns until it gets close to your hand. Place it in the bowl of sand and let it burn out. You can douse the flame with a cup of water if it feels right (or safer). Say aloud as you do this something along the lines of (feel free to improvise), “I let go of the past. I release what is old and outmoded. I let go of old ideas, old loves, old thinking, old burdens, and dreams whose time has past. I am clear now in body, mind, emotions, and spirit. I am ready now for beginnings and new energy!”   

Revitalize Your Spirit: Return your eyes to the white candle and contemplate the flame. Think about those things you want for the New Year (or for a new project, new relationship, etc.). Think about how you want to live and how you want to love. Think about everything good coming your way. Embrace your right to health, happiness, peace, success, and satisfaction. When these things are present in your mind, write them on a piece of paper. Don’t edit; just write them down in rapid pen strokes. You can draw images or symbols if it feels right.  I like to make a series of sentences in a row that begin with the words “I want”. I write, “I want” statements until I can’t think of anything else I want. 

Bring in the New: Roll the paper into a neat cylinder scroll and tie it with the green cord (the green represents the green leaves of birch trees in spring, and the green of new growth). Hold the scroll and visualize all of the good things written there, traveling towards you from the corners of the universe. Imagine them, and see them, and want them, and know that you deserve them. Breathe deeply and slowly and continue to bring your mind back to visions of the things you want if your mind wanders. 

Integrate the Experience: Let everything you have experienced during this devotion shimmer around you in silvery light and see that light absorb into your body in your mind’s eye. Send love in a pure white light from your heart to the hearts of all those you love. In any words that feel right, thank the spirit of the birch tree for watching over you. End the devotion by saying aloud, “New Year I welcome you! This is going to be a wonderful year!” or say, “New project, new relationship, new etc. I welcome you!” 

Put out the candles and tidy away your objects and supplies. Put the scroll in a special place where you will see it everyday. Untie the scroll at any time and say your “I want” statements to the universe. Have a beautiful year (or project, or relationship, or goal, etc.)!