Birch – ‘Lady of the Woods’
Birch is one of the first trees to come into leaf and is a representation of the emergence of spring. In early Celtic mythology, the birch came to symbolise renewal and purification. It was celebrated during the festival of Samhain (now Halloween in Britain), the start of the Celtic year, when purification was also important. Bundles of birch twigs were used to drive out the spirits of the old year. Birch besoms, or brooms were also the archetypal witches’ broomsticks, used in their shamanic flights, perhaps after the use of extracts of the fly agaric mushrooms commonly found in birchwoods.
Deities associated with birch are mostly love and fertility goddesses, such as the northern European Frigga and Freya. Eostre (from whom we derive the word Easter), the Anglo Saxon goddess of spring was celebrated around and through the birch tree between the spring equinox and Beltane.