The Shining Tree is so loved…especially in the darkened deep of Winter! For this Winter Solstice, some important details about Birch, and then a poem:
The Birch tree is a Tree of Life for many cold climate Peoples across North America and Eurasia, including Siberia, where the word “shaman” comes from. Birch is also the Rune Berkana.
The strong and water-resistant cardboard-like bark can be easily cut, bent, and sewn, which made it a valuable building, crafting, and writing material, since pre-historic times. Even today birch bark remains a popular type of wood for various handicrafts and arts.
Birch bark also contains substances of medicinal and chemical interest. Some of those products (such as betulin) also have fungicidal properties that help preserve bark artifacts, as well as food preserved in bark containers.
Birch bark was a valuable construction material in any part of the world where birch trees were available. Containers like wrappings, bags, baskets, boxes, or quivers were made by most societies well before pottery was invented. Other uses include:
- In various Asian countries (including Siberia) birch bark was used to make storage boxes, paper, tinder, canoes, roof coverings, tents, and waterproof covering for composite bows, such as the Mongol bow, the Chinese bow, Korean bow, Turkish bows, Assyrian bow, the Perso-Parthian bow….etc. It is still being used. More than one variety of birch is used.
- In North America, the native population used birch bark for canoes, wigwams, scrolls, ritual art (birch bark biting), maps (including the oldest maps of North America), torches, fans, musical instruments, clothing, and more.
- In Scandinavia and Finland, it was used as the substratum of sod roofs and birch-bark roofs, for making boxes, casks and buckets, fishing implements, and shoes (as used by the Egtved Girl), etc..
- In Russia, many birch bark documents have survived from the Middle Ages.
- Birch bark knife handles are popular tools to be made currently.
- In the Indian civilization birch-bark, along with dried palm leaves, replaced parchment as the primary writing medium. The oldest known Buddhist manuscripts (some of the Gandharan Buddhist Texts), from Afghanistan, were written on birch bark.
Birch bark also makes an outstanding tinder, as the inner layers will stay dry even through heavy rainstorms. To render birch bark useless as tinder, it must be soaked for an extended period of time.
The Rune Berkana represents:
Renewal, regeneration, purification, healing, and recovery. It is the rune of the family and the home, and represents the enjoyment of sexual relations, fertility, and birth. Birth in this context can be literal or symbolic, such as the successful start of any new idea or enterprise. A symbol of new beginnings, regeneration and new growth. However, patience is required to see the result, just as a sapling takes time to grow into a mature tree.
Quynn Red Mountain of Earth Web Media traveled two summers in a row to the far northern corner of Washington state to gather bark from downed Birch trees. She cut, stripped and processed pieces of bark, and then layed them flat under her futon as she drove back to the southern desert of Arizona.
Below is a poem that Quynn wrote in 2010 while surrounded by beautiful Birch trees. Inspired by the soft, leathery sexy feel of her inner bark, here is a poetic tale about the sacred Birch Goddess~
Written by Quynn Red Mountain – summer 2010 NE Washington state