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Recently I've been thinking about an encounter that I had before Yule 2006. It's kind of strange because I haven't thought about it for ages and yesterday I wrote a poem about it

The Birch Lady and the Wounded Patch

There are eyes upon me
In this wood of mists
This wood of birch

I look around
Try to seek them out
My friend watches me

That's when I see her
Pale, slender and full of grace
She moves among the birches
And I follow

As fast as I dare
I run through the bracken
and rocks
To the birches where I saw her
Then I stop

A fleeting glimpse
And I'm chasing again

She leads me to birch
where three grow in a triangle
where branches hang with brooms
And the grass grows dark within

This is her place
I feel her once more as
I open myself to the forest
And bitter Yuletide cold

She's not happy about the people
That meet by the oak tree
So I promise her action
And no harm from me

The trees seem to relax
The winter seems less cold
As I make my way back up
To the wound tree

When we leave the woods, we're followed
Sometimes you see it and sometimes you don't
A large black hare that shifts in our wake.

A week later we come back
Our minds fixed on surprise attack

First we stop by
The birch lady's place
Make goodwill offerings
Of bread men, cider and cake

Then we wend our way
Up the twisted path
To the wounded tree
In its wounded patch

One by one I hammer them in
And my friend walks the ground
As I sing their runes
She carries incense around

She's lost in her magic
And I'm lost in mine

I sing to cleanse
I sing of strength
I sing of fury and storms
I curse
I protect

Then comes the point
When the place is taken back
The forest swells up
Reabsorbs this wounded patch

This time we when leave
Nothing follows us on
As we make our way to seas of grass
And circles of ancient stone

and I'm beginning to think there's some kind of synchronicity going on here too - especially with the recent conversation topic on here.

So I've been looking into Birch Goddesses and the significance of the birch because my encounter was very birch related and I friend that I told about it yesterday suggested that my interpretation of events might not have been what was going on.

Here's what I've found so far about Birch Goddesses but I'd be very grateful for more links/ideas on this one

Firstly, the birch is a highly sacred tree. A birch goddess has always played an important part in the religion of our paleopagan ancestors, from the Nerthus of the Germanic tribes, described by Tacitus, to the later Bertha or Perchta, and possibly including Freya (Nerthus' daughter). Nerthus brought fertility to the land during her twice yearly processionals. A ritual followed these processionals where the cart used to carry her was cleansed and then those who cleansed it strangled or drowned in a grove of birches. Perchta led processionals of devotees possessed by the dead, and other variations of the birch goddess such as Huldra and Bertha led the Wild Hunt. Other legends speak of woodwives or "huldrafolk" as being the quarry of the Wild Hunt led by Odin. The birch goddess brings both life and death to the land as a part of the natural processes of the year. Birth and death, becoming and passing away. Fertility and harvest. In a related vein the birch goddess is also known for giving out gifts and rewards during the Yule season, especially to children and women who have fulfilled their household duties.

Secondly, in a related manner, the ancient Norse viewed the budding of the first leaves on the birch as the signal to begin the year's planting.

Thirdly, there are many ancient rituals involving scourging with birch sticks. Cattle were sometimes hit with them to make them fertile. Young men and women were also hit with them on Walpurgis in some places for the same reason. And Odin often left birch twigs at the homes of naughty children at Yule to punish them with.

The mystery of the birch is the mystery of the numinous force, the "life energy" of the world, which gives health, well being, and luck. The athling must cultivate it, seek the blessings of the birch. This rune says to the athling: "be aware, plant your seed when the signs are right, rewards will follow". But this rune also says to the athling "harvest when the time comes". This is the mystery of new beginnings, that come from something else's ending. The athling must let go of anything and everything (even himself, as those who die in Nerthus' grove do) in order to make way for the new. This mystery counsels the athling to become like a leaf in the autumn, able to all at once let go of its hold on the tree and fall. Then in the spring the athling can become the new leaf; fresh, and young, and full of vitality, ready to continue the road of mysteries.

Source :Uppasala Online http://www.uppsalaonline.com/uppsala/runes.htm

So what do you think of all that? Any thoughts to add?


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 5th, 2008 08:32 am (UTC)
What a beautiful poem! Thanks for sharing that and the birch lore.

I know that birch is connected with purification. Birch twigs were used on besoms and brooms. The leaves have a medicinal use in purification and must be picked when new in the spring. It's the tree that can grow the furthest north. The wood is very hard and difficult to carve, unlike beech, say. Traditionally cradles were made of birkenwood to keep the baby safe from evil magic.
Mar. 5th, 2008 09:06 am (UTC)
Thank you :D

Here's a question for you - what do you know about the Perchtenlauf and have you ever witnessed/taken part in it? What were your impressions?
Mar. 5th, 2008 09:49 am (UTC)
The village that I lived in used to make a big deal about Perchtenlauf. They also had a group of "witches" dancing every year on Walpurgisnacht and the Summer Solstice. People in this organisation would spend all year perfecting their costumes and working on their handcarved wooden masks. It was written up in the papers and they made a big deal about it.

However, in the official literature, the organisation states that they are not Heathen or Pagan and they are doing this for folkloric/heritage purposes, not for magical purposes.

I have a coffee table book on it that I can show you when you come back.
Mar. 5th, 2008 10:54 am (UTC)
Oooh that sounds good.

I'm only home for a couple of weeks mind. I need to get to Germany sooner now that Josh is going to Iraq :(
Mar. 5th, 2008 05:13 pm (UTC)
Why do you need to be in Germany if Josh is in Iraq?

We miss you!
Mar. 6th, 2008 12:37 am (UTC)
>>Why do you need to be in Germany if Josh is in Iraq?

Because he's going to the sand in September and I want to spend as much time with him as possible.

Besides my path doesn't lie in England at the moment. Maybe one day it will bring me back there but right now - no.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )