It probably goes without saying that birch is not much considered in hoodoo. Having grown up in tropical and subtropical climates, the discipline probably had no knowledge of birch originally. Wicca and Druidism both make use of birch, however. Surprisingly to me, I can find no mention of its use in American Pow-wow practice.
In high northern areas of Europe and
Asia, birch was used for numerous pursuits, both mundane and magickal. The abundant leaves, which are usually resistant to local bugs and infections, were raked up as they fell in the fall and used as insulation in animal and human bedding.
Birch twigs were particularly popular bound together as brooms for keeping homes clean. The autumn ritual of gathering dead twigs, stripping and binding them to broom handles and trying them out on front stoops may have been one of the origins for the notion that witches flew to esbats on brooms. While Scott Cunningham points out that Wiccans continue to be fond of birch brooms, there is scant documentation of their use by witches prior to the European witch craze.
Birch twigs were used since ancient times to exorcise people afflicted by spirits. A moderate to severe beating with a birch switch was considered a sure cure for possession by Celtic Druids. A birch switch was also a tool for punishing children and it is hard not to make a comparison. Were parents hoping to “beat the devil” out of a naughty child aside from simply teaching them a lesson?
Birch trees are thought to bring good luck when planted in one’s yard in
Russia, Alaska and northern . In Canada , red ribbons are tied around the trunks of birch trees to ward off the evil eye. An added bonus is that birch trees are thought to attract lightening, keeping it away from home and barn. Bon chance ~ Russia
Header: 16th century engraving of witches on brooms by Gillot de Givry