The birch tree is the absolute embodiment of this concept – a totally benevolent tree, radiating the love of the Earth for her children. Merely to walk in a grove of birch is to feel the heart uplifted, and know peace and profound joy.
This tree is the healer of the Earth’s wounds, the cleanser of evil, and the pathfinder. Wherever natural or man-made devastation strikes, the birch tree appears, to make fertile again a land laid waste, and to prepare the way for the new forest that is to come.
The fine roots delve the soil, bringing fertility, and in the shade of birch groves seedlings of long-lived forest trees – oak, ash, and beach – are nursed. When they, have reached an age to stand alone the birch grove dies, its substance soon breaks down, adding fertility to the soil, and a new forest is thus established.
Our ancestors considered the birch to be a profoundly magical tree. Its trunk was used to make the old May-Pole, and it was believed to have the power to repel evil spirits. Sun wheels made from its wood were raised above the doors of houses and stables to protect both men and animals from bad luck. It symbolises the mystical concept of ‘life-death-re-birth’.
Its wood is used to make furniture and small household items. The arrows of the old ‘Bowmen of England’ were made from birch. It is used as both a medicinal and a culinary herb. The twig bundles used for whipping massage after a sauna bath are of value because oil from the leaves stimulates the skin. Birch tea is a good stimulant, and a stronger infusion has a diuretic action if taken internally, or can be used to shift catarrh if the steam is inhaled. It is also used externally as a skin lotion, or disinfectant. The tea is a remedy for rheumatic conditions.
Birch trees can be ‘tapped’, like sugar maples, and the sap fermented to make a potent wine. Leaves added to home-brewed beer, add a pleasant and distinctive flavour.