Runes – BERKANO
(B: Berchta, the birch-goddess.)
DIVINATORY MEANINGS: Birth, general fertility, both mental and physical and personal growth, liberation. Regenerative power and light of spring, renewal, promise of new beginnings, new growth. Arousal of desire. A love affair or new birth. The prospering of an enterprise or venture.fertility, health, new beginnings, growth, conception, plenty, clearance
MAGICAL USES: healing (especially infections), achieving conception, making a fresh start
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES: Frigg, Idunna
ANALYSIS: The birch is fundamentally a symbol of fertility. There are numerous instances in European folk tradition where birch twigs are to bring prosperity and encourage conception. They were fixed above a sweetheart’s door on May Day in Cheshire, England, and were placed in stables and houses to promote fertility. On the continent, young men, women and cattle were struck with birch twigs for this same purpose, and young boys would be sent out to “beat the bounds of the parish” with branches of birch to prosperity in the coming year. Witches were said to ride broomsticks made from birch, an image which probably originated with fertility rituals where dancers would ‘ride’ brooms through the fields, the height of their jumping indicating how high the grain should grow.
If teiwaz is the fundamental male mystery, then berkano certainly belongs to the women, for it represents the path of the mother, the healer and the midwife, bringing new life after death just as the birch puts out the first leaves after winter. While Tyr’s wound is acquired through his encounter with death, berkana’s wound is that of menstruation, and her ordeal is that of childbirth. The birch is abundant and all providing, and heals through nourishment, cleansing and empathy.