This teaching is designed with your spiritual growth in mind. You have been been provided with links and resources to follow up in whatever way feels right for you. It may be a blog, book, an article, a video or an exercise that you feel drawn do or share to that will take these teachings one step further, then see where you go from there!
Follow your highest excitement!
Consider a tree for a moment. As beautiful as trees are to look at, we don't see what goes on underground - as they grow roots. Trees must develop deep roots in order to grow strong and produce their beauty. But we don't see the roots. We just see and enjoy the beauty. In much the same way, what goes on inside of us is like the roots of a tree.
I wish to start by giving thanks to the Birch Tree. For the use of its wood and for the healing energy it brings. I am grateful to every single tree on this beautiful planet. I recognize their beauty, their wisdom, their connection to the Divine and the work that they do for this Planet.
After I paint my mandalas I begin to research ideas and intuitions that the mandalas have been sharing with me whilst I have been painting. It's an amazing journey because all of those ideas and intuitions come together in a ‘teaching’. What else can I call it? The mandala has unlimited wisdom to share! These teachings activate us. They give us insights, direction, inspiration, wisdom, healing and clarity . Whatever it is that you need to evolve your consciousness.
I found a Russian Folk song called "Little Birch Tree." Birch tree, or "bereza," is an important symbol in the Russian culture, you just have to google it and the Russian literature is overwhelming. Bereza means Spring, light and beauty. Ancient Russians (Slavs) believed that birch trees had special "spirits" that would protect them so they planted them around their villages.
Here are the lyrics to the song.
1. See the lovely birch in the meadow,
Curly leaves all dancing when the wind blows.
Loo-lee-loo, when the wind blows,
Loo-lee-loo, when the wind blows.
2. Oh, my little tree, I need branches,
For the silver flutes I need branches.
Loo-lee-loo, three branches,
Loo-lee-loo, three branches.
3. From another birch I will make now,
I will make a tingling balalaika.
4. When I play my new balalaika,
I will think of you, my lovely birch tree.
Loo-lee-loo, lovely birch tree,
Loo-lee-loo, lovely birch tree.
Can’t you feel their love and honour for the little birch tree in their songs words? Like a small child that they cherish ever so much.
A balalaika is a Russian musical instrument similar to a guitar, I encourage you to find a Youtube video to hear its sound. It's wonderful. It has 3 strings and a triangular body traditionally made from birch. To me, it looks just like the tip of a leaf.
Interestly, when I researched the balalaikas origins it said ‘’The exact origins of the balalaika are unknown.However, it is commonly agreed that it descended from the domra, an instrument from the Caucasus region of Russia. There is also similarity to the Kazakh dombra, which has 2 strings, and the Mongolian topshur’’. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balalaika]
We never look deeply into the quality of a tree; we never really touch it, feel its solidity, its rough bark, and hear the sound that is part of the tree. Not the sound of wind through the leaves, not the breeze of a morning that flutters the leaves, but its own sound, the sound of the trunk and the silent sound of the roots.
Since the beginning of time there have been those who understand and honour the trees and their healing wisdom.
"Your life is potentially graceful and well balanced like the slender Silver Birch.
Mother Nature presides over this tree, bringing maternal protection, a deepening relationship with your mother, and the encouragement to learn new skills. Babies' cradles were made of Birch, signifying that an idea will materialize if it is nurtured.
Like the Silver Birch, which grows almost anywhere its seeds fall, you will make the most of opportunities.
The traditional witches' Birch broom implies a fresh sweep around Hallowe'en, and magical miracles as if by luck. Purity and Springtime, symbolized by the silvery-white bark, indicate happiness." [ Tree Magick - by Gillian Kemp]
Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.
“Medicinal properties: The oil from Birch bark is used for treating skin conditions, and insect repellant. The sap is a natural shampoo, and can be a remedy for dysentery and urinary infections. An infusion of Birch leaves is an antiseptic and diuretic.
Magickal properties: Birch wood is believed to ward off evil, banish fears and build courage.
Associated with beauty and tolerance, the Birch's vibration heightens tolerance of oneself and others. Use a Birch Broom to brush out the old year on the morning after Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. Add the cut bark to protection spells or drink birch beer if you feel you are under psychic attack”. [http://www.thegoddesstree.com/trees/Birch.htm]
“Birch moon teaches of potentials that stretch before you. She reflects the possibilities as the spectrum of color glistens on her white glittery face. Like a mother prepared to give birth, her belly rises and she presents you with a teaching.
"This moon time will be like kneading bread and letting it rise before you cook it." Birch says to you.
Now, with the essence of Birch, you come into the rhythm of life, the empowerment of dreams, and the ability to vision your possibilities.
Birch's essence is to create, bring together dreams and prepare for the new patterns of living. Understand Her. Use the lessons of the moon mothers you have already embraced... look at the bigger picture, listen and unfold your plans through creative visualization”. [A Celtic Oracle of Avalon]
Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.
“The birch tree symbolizes a fresh start and can bring courage and determination to those of us who are treading the path of spiritual growth and development for the first time.
Although the birch does appear fragile, it is in fact extremely hardy. This teaches us that in apparent weakness there is often to be found great strength.
The birch also promises new life and love, and is a potent symbol of purification and renewal, which focuses our attention on our potential for the change and on the consideration of new directions and goals to be experienced in our lives.
It teaches the lesson of unselfishness and of caring for the needs of others in ways that help them to flourish of their own accord”. [LESSON OF THE BIRCH - from The Wisdom of Trees by Jane Gifford]
“Tree Lore: Birch - by Winter Cymraes
Birch - Beith - Betula
I am a Stag of Seven Tines
The White Lady of the Woods, also known as the White Birch stands, slender and graceful, with long branches reaching toward the sky. This Tree is rarely seen singly, growing most often in Groves. She embodies the ideal of graceful femininity and light-filled grace. The Birch grows out of a common, joined trunk so that many appear to grow from the one. People who have been ‘claimed’ by Birch tend to be very gentle in nature and do not stand alone but are joined to others as supportive and close allies, showing devotion to their beliefs and having a strong desire to make others happy and to enhance growth and development.
Birch, as with all Trees, has specific attributes and associations. The Ogham are divided into classification of Chieftain, Shrub, Peasant and Bramble. Beith is a Chieftain. Birch relates, also, to the Tarot card, the Star. It represents the Bardic Grade of Druidry, the ‘youngest’ of the ranks.
Beith is the first Ogham and resonates with the number one. Its colour is white. In the Oghamic alphabet, it is the letter B. The animals associated with Beith are the pheasant and the white cow and it's plant is the Fly Agaric mushroom.
Its name probably comes from the Sanskrit word bhurga which relates to the continuous phases of life, the alpha-omega principle. Taliesin represents the Birch. He was the offspring of Cel and Cerridwen. In the Arthurian legend, Taliesin was known as Merlyn. Although it is commonly accepted that the sage Taliesin was actually named Merlyn, this was the title of the person who was considered the Chief Bard among the Druids, a title that had passed from person-to-person throughout history.
Birch also represents the common everyday work performed to make a living, rather than being associated with a specific occupation or trade, as is the case with other Trees.
Beith is also known for its protective magical abilities, along with its role as the herald of new beginnings. A Tree of extreme hardiness, Birch thrives in places where Oak would die. Although the wood of Oak (Duir) is used for building due to its strength and durability, the resilience and specific magickal properties of Birch lend the use of its fibre to very specific ends.
In ancient times, brooms made of Birch twigs were commonly used to drive out the spirits of the old year and to ‘beat the bounds’ of property for protection. Thus, broomsticks made of Birch have the added benefit of these protective qualities. This is the Tree commonly used by the shaman to climb the sky ladder to make contact with the Gods of the Air and Beith is associated with Air and winds. Maypoles were often of Birch, as were the twigs used to ignite the Beltane fires, signifying new beginnings and a fresh start. The Yule log is, traditionally, Birch also. Cradles made of Birch are said to protect the infant from harm, particularly of a psychic nature. For the same reasons it is said that a small piece of Birch carried upon a person will prevent kidnapping of the individual by the sidhe, or the Faerie Folk’’. [https://www.druidry.org/library/trees/tree-lore-birch]
" An apple reflects a shade of red to the retina, forming impulses that travel as coded messages to the brain, where hormones are released, altering metabolism, sleeping, feeding and temperature patterns. So you see, we don't just notice colors, we feel them. Mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually, they empower us. Dawn to dusk, they rule our world, transforming nature's energy into personal realization. Every color has its own personality and in each lies knowledge and clarity." [Suza Scalora]
Nature always wears the colors of the spirit
The different shades of green in this mandala bring a very healing and balancing energy. It is the most predominant colour on earth, if you are in search of balance and harmony, green is the ideal colour for you. The beautiful metallic 18 carat gold leaf highlights and copper leaf highlights bring in added dimensions and a regal feeling. As the light hits the mandala it brings it to life, you’ll be amazed at how it can transform before your eyes. Every angle brings a new perspective.
“Green is a Feminine Color and is composed of Blue and Yellow. Green is an Earth color- abundance, growth and life- with North-East as it's direction. Green moves in the Soul, with powers of decision making, structuring and spanning the bridge of the Physical Body with the Spiritual Body. It is excellent for lovers and for families and mostly for the whole of society. Green wants abundance for all and tolerance, acceptance and a fair balance of giving and receiving. Green is comforting, soothing and builds a thriving structure. It is the Growth of the earth the abundance of life and it wants to be all inclusive. It is the best color when you need to increase acceptance, tolerance and forgiveness; the actions of Love’’. [ http://www.old-earth.com/color-meanings.html#anchor-green]
Green is the colour of the heart chakra and it is associated with the heart and the breasts. Its endocrine gland is the thymus gland.
The heart chakra and thus the colour green are related to love and self esteem. Green brings harmony and balances our energies. It promotes relaxation, hope, tolerance and understanding. It is the colour of nature, energy, birth, growth, purity, and healing.
Gold has long been associated with enlightenment and abundance. It is a very spiritual colour associated with sun energy. It draws in powerful cosmic influences. It helps with protection, peace and safety, and removes negativity and disputes between people. Gold also brings about a deeper understanding and awakens your higher mind.
Copper is a wonderful conductor of energy. I believe it amplifies my mandala and helps it to cancel out any negative energies around it. Copper is great for purification and clearing electromagnetic energies around electronics.
I wrapped my arms around him like I was saving an oak tree.
“Tree hugger may refer to: A slang, sometimes derogatory, term for environmentalists” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tree_hugger]
It's unfortunate and sad that if someone calls you a ‘’tree hugger’’, they are not paying you a compliment.
If you're not a tree hugger, then you're a what, a tree hater?
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals can change the world, indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.
Trees form complex relationships with one another to survive which, offers lessons for us to learn how we can do the same. For example; trees can actually communicate with one another by sending electrical signals among themselves so that they can find out what each other needs and share precious resources such as sugar, nitrogen, and phosphorus.
“Nature might not be all about a ruthless "survival of the fittest". Research suggests that trees don't just compete for survival, but also cooperate and share resources using underground fungi networks.
"A forest has an amazing ability to communicate and behave like a single organism -- an ecosystem," Suzanne Simard, an ecologist at the University of British Columbia, told CNN.
Simard studied how, over the summer, shaded fir trees receive carbon from sun brushed birch trees, while in autumn the opposite happens -- birch trees receive carbon from fir trees as they start to lose their leaves. This exchange takes place through an underground "mycorrhizal network," a symbiotic association between a fungus and the roots of its host plant.
But whether we see trees to be "communicating", "collaborating" or simply "exchanging" resources, it appears that trees are indeed forming a network.
In this system the older trees, also called "hub trees", play a crucial role. They are better connected through the fungi network and their excess carbon helps the development of seedlings. In a TED talk, Simard said that this increases their chances of survival fourfold.
These "hub trees" can also help forests adapt to climate change. For instance, some of the oldest trees in the world like New Zealand's Kauri trees or California's bristlecone pine trees have been around for thousands of years.
"They've lived for a long time and they've lived through many fluctuations in climate. They curate that memory in the DNA. The DNA is encoded and has adapted through mutations to this environment. So that genetic code carries the code for variable climates coming up", Simard added.
The "hub trees" are not just connected to other trees but also to wildlife and water quality. For example, when grizzles and wolves fish salmon, they tend to eat the guts and the brains by these old hub trees and leave the flesh there to decay. The nitrogen from the salmon then goes into the soil and is dispersed, through fungi, from the old tree to the other trees in the forest.
But overfishing and climate change harm aquatic habitats and decimate salmon populations. This reduces the availability of nitrogen in forests.
Simard, who worked as a forester in the past, thinks we should change our view of forests accordingly: "We look at them as a bunch of trees competing with each other and forestry practices are all built on that premise."
She argues that we must slow the rate of deforestation, preserve older trees and maintain diversity instead of going for "simplified plantations" of only one or two species: "Forests are huge carbon storers, they're our biggest assets against climate change."
Her latest research project, funded by the Canadian government, involves planting seeds of trees from warmer areas such as California to northern climates like British Columbia. She predicts that since many of British Columbia's current species are likely to dry out as temperatures increase over the next few decades, the interaction with seedlings from hotter climates may help them adapt as well.
"The prediction is quite radical. But now that we've created all this changes in climate, we need to be part of the process of helping forests adapt to it." [https://www.cnn.com/2017/02/07/world/secret-life-of-trees/index.html]
“I’m sure most people have heard of the term “tree-hugger,” often a nickname given to people who care about the environment and the planet. But did you know that hugging trees can actually improve your health? As a matter of fact, you don’t even have to hug a tree to reap the numerous health benefits, just being around trees and plants in nature is enough.
In a book that was published by author Matthew Silverstone entitled, “Blinded By Science” the evidence confirming the healthful benefits of trees includes the effects they have on various issues like depression, concentration levels and even the ability to alleviate headaches. This practice has been going on since ancient times so it’s not just a new discovery.
The book cites a large variety of various studies which showcase that children show extreme psychological and physiological effects in terms of their mental health and well-being when they regularly interact with plants and trees.
A public health report that investigated the association between green space and mental health concluded “access to nature can significantly contribute to our mental and capital wellbeing.”
There has also been a study done that shows the effectiveness of nature to alleviate symptoms of depression, and even promote attention and working memory. Maybe getting back to the basics, and connected to who we are and where we came from is just what we need to center ourselves in this busy world.
Another report stated: “safe, green spaces may be as effective as prescription drugs in treating some forms of mental illnesses.”
Everything in the entire world vibrates, everything is literally vibration. Different vibrations affect biological behaviours. So naturally, when one touches a tree, or is in the general vicinity of a tree, its different vibrational pattern will affect various biological behaviours within your body.
Imagine if doctors were able to prescribe, an hour a day in a forest, instead of various different pharmaceutical drugs with various different side effects.
This method may sound too good to be true, but what have you got to lose? It would be worth trying for sure! Perhaps this could even supplement other treatments’’. [http://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/12/02/science-proves-hugging-trees-is-good-for-health/]
“In Japan, people practise ‘forest bathing’, where they spend quiet time absorbing the wisdom of ancient forests, taking long walks among the trees to stimulate their immune system. In Taoism, students are encouraged to meditate among trees, and it is believed that the trees will absorb negative energies, replacing them with healthy ones. Trees are seen as a source of emotional and physical healing, and themselves as meditators, absorbing universal energies.” [NatureAndHealth.com]
What is your favourite tree? It can be very insightful to find out the medicinal and magical properties of your favourite trees, to find ways to work with them and honour them. They usually are calling out to us for a good reason.
“Here are five simple ways to begin your own exploration of Celtic Tree Magic, that can be applied all over the world, with the trees near you.
This practice is key to working with trees. Gaining a slow, steady state of consciousness, just sitting and "being" with a tree of any species has profound effects upon our well being. With regular practice, this can be developed further to fine-tune our senses in order to become more aware of the spirit presence of the tree and its energetic qualities. Try making yourself comfortable on the ground, with your back against a tree trunk, and breathing deeply and steadily for five minutes. With each in breath, let your body awareness rise up into the branches, straightening and stretching your back slightly, and focusing your attention on the branches and air above you. With each out breath, send your awareness down into the earth. Take your time, and if your mind wanders that's fine—just bring your attention gently back to this present moment once again. Use your imagination and be like the tree: still, strong, with deep roots and the ability to reach up high and far out into the world without losing your center.
With patience and practice the Tree Mediation may assist you in becoming aware of the tree's spirit presence, its own particular feeling and even its personality. You may get feelings of tingling warmth when you enter the tree's energy field, and you may even have shifts in emotion or fleeting images cross your mind. These are all known to be ways in which tree spirits communicate with humans. In some cases, the tree spirits might appear as humanoid beings. The tree spirit may take on any form, and the images it presents will all be forms of communication, so allow yourself to approach this intuitively, thinking mythically about the spirit contact rather than trying to apply logic or any formal set of rules or symbolism. Make biodegradable offerings to the tree, such as gifts of spring water, and in time you may be able to develop a relationship with your chosen tree spirit, if they are willing, and will find that you can work together in a variety of ways, just as you would with other spirit allies (such as familiars and elementals, etc.)
When we think of magical wands, we tend to think of them as tools to direct the power of the magician, and often only give a passing thought to the wood used or its magical properties. When working with or choosing a wand, we may feel attracted to a specific kind of wood for a variety of reasons. However, we rarely think of them as objects that are in fact carrying the spirit of the tree from which they came. In many instances, a wand can hold the tree spirit, whilst the tree itself simultaneously remains living and home to the tree spirit as well. Thus, when we work with a wand, we can find ourselves working together as a team, and our magic can thus become far more effective. To do this we need to be suitably aware and have built a good relationship with the tree over time, as well as ideally having cut the wand ourselves, with the tree's permission. There is no substitute for making your own magical tools; however, we can always meditate and use journeying skills as well as invocation to call upon the indwelling tree spirit of a wand that we have bought or have been given, and can build the relationship from there if we apply due care and respect. A wand where the practitioner and the indwelling spirit are allied and aligned is a far more powerful object than the most arcane or beautiful looking of shop bought equivalents.
To cut your own wand you will need to use your intuition to guide you to an appropriate tree, and spend time in meditation and communion with it for some time, to get a real relationship with its spirit first. Then, in time, it may grant you permission to use its wood. To work with your wand, remember that it is a spirit ally, and use your intuition and inner vision to work with the spirit of the wood. Direct your will and energy along the wand following its direction of growth-what would have been from the trunk to the tip of the branch when it was growing.
Spells, Charms, and Incenses
Many trees have magical properties that can be used for spell work, or to make charms. In the Celtic Tradition the rowan is highly magical and used to protect against malevolent spirits, whether in spells, as a talisman, or burnt either in a sacred, magical fire or as an incense. Elder is useful for attracting faeries, as is the hawthorn, and can be used in a variety of ways according to intuition or practicality. That said, beware! Hawthorn should never be brought into the house or chaos will ensue, and neither the hawthorn or the elder should ever be cut without the first gaining the tree's permission and making an offering. Aspen is good for calling the ancestors; try scattering the dried leaves around your circle or altar as an offering at Samhain. Acorns are good talismans for strength and to invoke the Green Man and the lords of the forest (such as Cernunnos); carry some in your wallet for luck and prosperity.
Many sacred trees in the Celtic tradition have wonderful herbal properties. Birch sap is traditionally gathered fresh from a plug in the tree in early spring and taken as a tonic by tribal peoples all over the northern hemisphere; it has excellent detoxifying and nutritional properties. These days it's possible to buy birch sap in health stores. Delicious elderflower tea or tisane is excellent for bringing down fevers, and elderberry can be taken as a tincture or a honey elixir for coughs and colds. Hawthorn tea is good for stress and mild heart palpitations caused by emotional upset, and is used in greater doses by qualified herbalists for some heart conditions. Willow bark contains Salicin, used in aspirin and is a great pain reliever. These are but a few. Give thanks to the spirit of the tree and ask for its blessing to add magic to the medicine. With responsible research and sensible application many of these can be used at home with ease, although for serious conditions medical advice and the support of a medical herbalist are always advised.
Grow Your Own
The best way to work with trees magically is to get your hands dirty first: gather nuts, berries, and seeds and sow your own-even a small container on a windowsill can be enough to get a new tree. They'll probably need a period of cold to germinate, so be patient. Tend to these carefully, and with most trees it will take a year or two before they get so big they need to be planted in the ground. If you can, try making your own grove or sacred space encircled by trees you have grown or planted yourself, or have just one "tree ally" in a special place. These powerful spirit beings will respect the care you have put into them, and be valuable magical allies to call upon in need—as well as wonderful spirit friends that will grow with you as the years go by, and for generations to come’’. [ http://www.llewellyn.com/journal/article/2466]
Trees exhale for us so that we can inhale them to stay alive. Can we ever forget that? Let us love trees with every breath we take until we perish.