|Photo by Cassi Saari. Creative Commons license.|
|Proto-Germanic Rune Berkanan|
The symbolism of purity and new beginnings as embodied in the birch tree has not stayed solely in the realm of Celtic or Germanic Pagans, but has become a symbol recognized by many under the Pagan umbrella. It has also become strongly associated with mother-type Goddesses, but there is no evidence to suggest that Goddesses such as Brigid or Frige were ever explicitly linked with the birch tree. The theory that Berkanan's shape is a pictogram for a pair of breasts is probably also nothing but conjecture, considering that its shape was likely adopted from a Latin letter which as far as we know had no relation either to the birch tree or the concept of motherhood. Nonetheless, it has become so ingrained in Neo-Pagan culture that it is worth acknowledging that this symbolism is helpful to many people.
As with all nature spirits, my opinion is that the best way to get a feel for its energies or to bring its spirit into your life is to go out and get to know one! Birch trees are often used as an ornamental tree here in the midwest, and so are easily found in public parks or arboretums; I advise finding a particular one that seems most open to interaction. I find offerings of water are often appreciated by tree spirits, but you may want to bring only a poem or song depending on where the tree is located. If nothing else, they are fascinating trees to study, and a Pagan can rarely go wrong spending some time beneath trees!