Yesterday I introduced the Ogham and today I wanted to discuss the meaning of the first letter in the Ogham alphabet - Beith (Birch).
Full disclosure - this is something that I myself am just learning about. I knew that Ogham was an alphabet. I knew that Ogham was a method of writing ancient Irish. But I didn’t know much about what each Ogham stands for on its own.
The Birch tree itself is a hardy tree. There are actually over 30 different species of Birch - many of them native to both European and North American places. Since the Ogham comes from Ireland, the feda (tree) that the Irish most likely saw was the Betula Pendula - also known as the Silver Birch (1).
The silver birch is a hardy tree, a pioneer species, and one of the first trees to appear on bare or fire-swept land. Many species of birds and animals are found in birch woodland, the tree supports a wide range of insects and the light shade it casts allows shrubby and other plants to grow beneath its canopy. It is planted decoratively in parks and gardens and is used for forest products such as joinery timber, firewood, tanning, racecourse jumps, and brooms. Various parts of the tree are used in traditional medicine and the bark contains triterpenes, which have been shown to have medicinal properties. (1)
Look at the Birch tree and how it behaves. It is silver or white in color. The bark on the outside easily peels back to reveal what is underneath. The Birch tree is one of the first trees to appear on land that is barren or has been swept by fire. These are all helpful symbols in figuring out what Beith means if you are casting Ogham staves.
When this symbol is used, it is representative of new beginnings, change, release, and rebirth. In some traditions, it also has connections with purification. (2)
If you are reading Ogham staves and Beith makes an appearance, something new is happening. A new beginning. Clearing out the old so new opportunities can be brought to you. It is also an Ogham of purification and cleansing. The silver/white color is definitely symbolic of purity, but also of rebirth. The way the bark peels back on the tree makes me think of peeling back layers of an onion. What we see on the surface is not always what lies beneath.