Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees – Birch

Birch

The graceful Birch is the White lady of the Woods. It is fitting that these trees,
ghostly in twilight, should stand at either side of the gate of the Celtic New
Year of October 31st, for it has come down to us that passing among the
birches can take you into the Otherworld.

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Witches Wheel

Birch, white stemmed birch
Stands pale in the dark forest.
A rod of Birch will cleanse us of evil
And usher us through November’s long doorway…

Beth (Beh)

There was an old Samhain tradition of running down an avenue of birch trees
while being flogged with the twigs as a means of purification for the New Year.
This birch portal at the gate of the New Year mirrors its position as first of the
letters, for it is the opener of the gate to the Ogham, the creation of Ogma
Sun-Face, God of Eloquence.

Birch was traditionally used to make cradles for babies to protect them from
being stolen by the Siddhe. It seems typically paradoxical that the tree that
opens the doors to the Otherworld would be used to protect a child from
possession by it, but perhaps the birch bark cradle served to fool the Gentry
into thinking the child was already theirs…

In Britain, the maypole is made of birch while the wonderful scraggly birch twigs
are used to kindle the Beltane fires. The best witches brooms are made of birch with those wonderful black twigs as sweepers.

There is an old tradition of burying the dead with conical birch bark hats on their heads to insure the purification of their souls.

The lines are from the English ballad: The Wife of Usher’s Well. The lady’s sons appear wearing their birch bark hats — proof that they are dead.

It fell about the Martinmass,
When nights are lang and mirk,
The carlin wife’s three sons came hame,
And their hats were o the birk.

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Birch Working

Imagine the birch trees standing across from each other, their topmost branches in the shape of a Gothic arch. On the other side, calling you with its mysterious, mist filled grandeur is Faery. If you walk through, you will enter the trance that allows divination by the Ogham.

Divination by Birch: Protection from harm both physical and magical. Cleansing, leaving the negative, life draining energies behind to start over refreshed. A time of going inward to store power in purity. Clear the ground of
obstructions so that new things may grow. Change comes gradually with the turning of the Wheel.

Magic can be done for fertility and creativity, healing and protection.
Tie a red ribbon around a birch tree to ward off negative energies. Hang birch twigs over a new baby’s cradle. Use birch bark as magical parchment to keep your writings safe.

Magical Correspondences:

Ogham Letter: Beth
Letter: B
Deities: The White Goddess, Belin, White Ladies of the Forest
Bird: Pheasant
Animal: White Cow
Herb: Fly Agaric Mushrooms — The Flowers of Annwn
Color: White

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Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees

Thirteen Moons: A Year of Magical Trees

by Alyne deWinter

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Writing is a magical rite, a way to ‘alter consciousness at will’. Writing opens the door to the unseen…

Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees

I am intrigued by the power of Ogham, the sacred alphabet that is formed by the way the branches of the trees cross each other against the sky. Imagine reading the branches, and then the sky through the branches…. a bird flies across the ‘empty’ space, the wind blows causing the branches to move and re-arrange themselves. The meaning changes, a sentence is created, a poem…
Whatever you communicate with communicates with you. Everything is connected.

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>Moonlit Shadow Night Trees Images

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Trees and the Moon

The first timekeeper was the Moon. Our earliest ancestors living as close to the earth as they did, would not have been able to help noticing the regularity of the lunar cycles. Women would have noticed their bleeding came and went with a particular phase of the moon — most likely the dark moon associated with death and the void. Ovulation, the preparation of the womb for the insemination of life, would have been linked to the full moon. Our ancestors would, of course, have noted the passing of the months by the changing moon,  the transformations of the seasons by alterations of the land, and the renewing cycle of the year at the crux of the thirteenth moon when the world was plunged into darkness.

Trees display the changing seasons quickly and dramatically. When trees begin and bud and burst into flower, we know that it is Spring and the days will grow longer and warmer. When the flowers turn in on themselves and become nuts, fruits, and seeds among leaves of lush and vivid green, it is a sure sign of Summer. When the trees start to turn golden, flame, russet, and brown, we know that Autumn has arrived and that the bare bones of Winter will follow like Fate.

So it is not difficult to understand how the moons were linked with the trees, and how someone might notice how trees express the characteristics of the seasons, and might suggest a connection that not only allows people to tell what season, and more precisely, what month it is, but also to know the qualities of that month and how to prepare for it.

Not all Faery Seers will agree the following associations of months and trees, but it seems most fitting to place Birch at the threshold of the New Year.

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Trees as Oracles

Our early ancestors would also have noticed how trees begin in the Underworld and reach up to touch the sky. There was a time when people saw the sky as a great dome set over the earth, so it must have seemed very magical that the trees could seem to touch the roof of the sky. Birds also live among the trees, fly through the branches and across the sky. Some birds migrate on schedule and were thus also tellers of the time. The coming of winter could be judged more exactly by when the birds chose to leave and how long they chose to stay. Thus our ancestors foretold the future by the flight of birds, and they used the patterns of the crossing branches to divine the deeper messages of earth and sky.

As the trees touch the sky, they also delve deep into the earth. In many traditions the place below the ground is the realm of the dead. This makes sense when we know that for many cultures, the dead are buried in the earth. Faeries, who are the spirits of ancestors, and even old gods “killed” by the invading cultures, also live down below in the Underworld. Both ancestors and Faeries have magical powers — living among the roots and seeds, they may have been credited with maintaining the fertility of the soil, of making the crops grow and even making the earth give birth to animals and humans alike. Thus, the trees join all the worlds: the Underworld of ancestors and faeries, the middle ground of earthly life, and the sky of weather, sun, moon, stars, and the birds who are their messengers.

Would it not be too far fetched then to see how our ancestors may have thought that the Gods spoke to them through the trees?

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