Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Thanks to their tiny airborne seeds, birch trees can advance into abandoned fields and reclaim clearings.   After the glaciers retreated at the end of the last Ice Age, the birches were among the first trees to return to the barren landscape. When a fire clears a forest, the birches will restore themselves from cloned "root suckers" which spring up around the charred trunk.

This fecundity is reflected in the Birch-Rune, Berkana. The organic power of Berkana is as implacable as the forces of death and entropy. Berkana reminds us that life can be found beneath Antarctic ice, in the pitch blackness of deep-sea hydrothermal vents, and on the salt-choked soils of high Andean plateaus. There are few environments so harsh as to be sterile: Berkana will manifest and adapt in almost any condition. It will raise up its children despite any obstacles which may stand in its way and find a way for them to not only survive but thrive.

Berkana can also be a rune of communication. The name "birch" comes from the Sanskrit bhurj (paper), since its bark has long been used for writing paper. Birch wood is also an excellent carrier of sound and is used in making drums and speaker cabinets. If you want to convey a message, Berkana can ensure that it is received favorably and that it spreads to a wider audience.   (For added effect, combine it in a bindrune with Ansuz and Chalc).  Berkana is not just about organic life. Many postmodern theorists have postulated that memes take on a form of life, and the Neoplatonists long before them spoke of Ideals and Forms as sentient beings. By tapping into that power we can help bring our ideas to fruition in the form best suited for their environment.

Birch is also an important healing plant. Derivatives from the betulin contained in its bark have powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-parasitic properties: they have also shown promise in treating cancer and HIV. Native Americans wrapped wet birch bark around broken limbs: when it dried it became stiff and served as a very effective cast. In Siberia and Russia birch was used to alleviate the pain of arthritis: other herbalists have found its oil effective for treating psoriasis and eczema. Birch leaves contain diuretics which can help in passing kidney stones or clearing bladder infections. Berkana can push us towards life and health and give us the strength to recover from wounds and diseases. It is one of the most powerful healing-runes, and can be used to treat many medical conditions. (As always, rune-work is an adjunct to professional medical treatment, not a substitute for it!)

As it can heal physical ills, Berkana can also treat unpleasant spiritual conditions. In the Finnish sauna and the Russian banya bathers strike themselves with birch twigs to induce sweating and cleanse their bodies and skin. Berkana can help you to "sweat out" negativity which has become attached to you and purify you of psychic toxins. It can also encourage optimum conditions for growth and development. If you face difficult situations at work or at home, Berkana can work to pacify the angry and bring an air of peace and serenity to your area.  If necessary, it can even do this in a firm way: birch switches were the weapon of choice for those applying the rod of correction to a wayward child. Berkana is not a violent rune, but do not mistake its gentleness for weakness. Like any loving mother it can be stern and, if circumstances require, implacable in its anger.