Ogham: B – Beith/Birch

Birch’s day is the first day of the new year, the beginnings of new things, the beginning of a new cycle.

Shining One

The word birch means bright and/or shining in many languages including a Sanskrit root “Bhräjate” “it shines” and “bhurja” for birch. Indo-European and proto-Indo-European tree names are (*bherH-ģ-o ) as meaning  “shining”, “bright”, “gleaming”. It’s also known as finnbheann na coille “the bright lady of the woods”.

Shining … sun-bright … giving off light. The glimmering white trunk of the tree in northern woods is stunning and gives the truth to the naming.

The thesaurus gives us the following for bright and shining …

Bright … Vivid Intense Dazzling Light Clear

Shining … Unblemished Immaculate Glowing Radiating Virgin Original Primeval

That last word, primeval, is significant here. The birch is one of the primeval trees, one of the first trees in the world and one of the first trees to help reclaim old building sites, to bring them back to nature. It and the Scots Pine work and live together.

Sit-with these words, see what gifts of insight they offer you at the beginning of the year.

Birch Tree

New Beginnings

In Scandinavia the farmers use it’s leafing to time the planting of wheat. In many countries Birch is the earliest tree to put on leaves, and one of the trees that begins to make new land along with the Scots pine.

You have just worked with the first vowel tree, Ailm, the Scots pine. Both trees work with newness and ask you to always be open to all possibilities, but without being so gullible that otherworld is able to send you off for a tin of striped paint … LOL. This is the sort of paradox-line you continually walk as a shaman, always having to discern what is both true and pertinent to the moment. You must learn to know when you are being tested. It will be to see if you are really awake or just bumbling along on auto-pilot J.

Birch is the tree of inception. What does this mean? Here are some words for you to sit-with and ponder on to help open up your mind and intuition to what Birch and inception is about, what Birch does, what its job is.

Inception begin, set up, start, set in motion, commence, inauguration, open, origin, foundation, launch, establishment, creation, activate, initiate.

Sit-with these words. What pictures come into your mind from them? Take them into your journey as foci, guiding and directing you towards finding the spirit of the wood.


In the medieval kennings, the verses associated with Beith are:

  • Féocos foltchaín: “Withered foot with fine hair” (Word Ogham of Morann mic Moín)
  • Glaisem cnis: “Greyest of skin” (Word Ogham of Mac ind Óc)
  • Maise malach: “Beauty of the eyebrow” (Word Ogham of Culainn)

Kennings are knowings … not knowledge! To ken something is about having an acquaintance with it, a cognisance of it, and understanding of it, an awareness of it. To have any or all of these things of another ensures you have a new beginning of your relationship with it … be it animal, vegetable, mineral or human. The birch is a tree of kennings.


The birch twigs make the flying tail for the witch’s broomstick … so the birch is about flying too. The French broomstick’s handle is traditionally of hazel – the tree of Elen of the Ways, so giving the broomstick its ability to find its way across the worlds. In Britain it is often given a handle of Ash, Gwydion’s tree, the shapeshifter’s tree that helps with the flying between worlds. The birch twigs are tied to the stem with fine willow strippings, bringing in the goddess Brighid = she of the Bright Fiery Arrow. The birch gives the broom the shining, glimmering light of otherworld to light the ways which it will travel.

Birch Tea Benefits, particularly their anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties, have been highly regarded for centuries.

The broomstick is used in many traditions as a method of cleansing or purifying a space. In some cultures, the rite of jumping the broom is considered an important part of a marriage ceremony, signifying new beginnings and a clearing away of the past for a new future. This ritual has seen some resurgence in popularity as more and more Pagan couples celebrate handfastings.

Take all of this into your meditations for the beginning of the year.

Elen Sentier

behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …


Wye’s Women Elen’s Books Rainbow Warriors

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