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silver birch2a copy

Birch Breath

“Bone white
birth reveals
all in beauty.”

The birch is amongst the most graceful of trees. Its white bark and long elegant boughs, often with down-swept branches, make it easy to see from a distance wherever it might be growing. Birch is a pioneer tree inhabiting the poor, rocky soils of heath land and lower mountainside. Living on the edges of the inhabited world of man it is easy to associate the tree with the spirits of the wild, particularly female lunar and fertility deities. In keeping with its character as a liminal dweller on thresholds the birch carries associations that appear contradictory but elucidate its significant role and symbolism.

The ghostly white bark represents both light and life- the power of life to conquer and regenerate, to give birth and flourish – and also of the cold, lifeless bones of the dead, the dwellers of the Otherworld and the ancestors. In the Scottish Highlands the birch is sometimes seen as a benevolent female spirit, a dangerous, devouring witch or a home for the spirits of dead girls. This symbolism may well reflect an ancient association with the Great Goddess, whose aspects included the nurturing fertile Mother at the same time as the ravening destructive force of War and Destruction. She is the Mother who goes to all lengths to protect her offspring from harm.

The name ‘birch’ derives from the same Indo-European root words as ‘light’, ‘shining’, ‘bright’. But birch also shows that all beauty is balance, for the white purity of the bark splits to reveal black underneath. There is no birth without death, no light without darkness, no beginning that is not also an ending. We cannot rest our eyes on true beauty until we accept the whole interaction of life with death, until we stop favouring, stop judging, stop comparing. The oldest traditions of the Great Mother are uncompromising in their clarity. All aspects of human experience, good and bad, are manifest in Her forms and faces. There is no possibility of compromise with human frailties or wishful thinking if we want to attain a true state of clear, birch-like awareness.

Breath:
Breathing in through the solar plexus.
Breathing out, imagining the breath swirling around the inner walls of the body(as liquid swirls around a vessel).

Tea: All parts are useful, including the rising sap in early spring which can be tapped to make an excellent wine. The bark is diuretic and laxative. The leaves are high in potassium so taken together with the bark can prevent the sodium-potassium imbalance that can occur when taking other diuretics. Both the leaves and the sap are anti-inflammatory and are useful for arthritic conditions and skin irritations like psoriasis. The buds can be used in cases of cystitis (the alkalising effects of potassium helpful here as well).

birch boughs

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