The Celtic calendar begins with the month of the Birch Moon, (December 24-January 20) a time of new beginnings and making plans for the future.
The first of the 13 Lunar months of the Celtic calendar is the month of the Birch Moon. It begins just after Yuletide, and runs through most of January.
Starting just after the Winter Solstice the shortest day of the year the month of the Birch Moon marks the period of the year when the hours of daylight start to increase over the hours of darkness. Its associated color is flame red, from this comes the red candles that we burn at Yuletide.
The month of the Birch Moon falls into the quiet time' during the bleakest period of winter. None of the eight major sabbat festivals occur in this month, so there is little to do but wait for the warmer weather.
This month is primarily a time of contemplation, of looking to the future and starting to make plans for the year ahead 0 hens the tradition of making New Year's resolutions.
The Gaelic word for birch is beith' which also means inception or beginning.
The silvery bark that cover the trunk of the birch tree resembles the silver of moonlight, which it reflects at night giving it a magical look.
With its long, slender branches that stretch up to the sky, the birch symbolizes the female aspect of nature and is often known as the Lady of the Woods'. Growing up to 100 feet high, it has also been thought of as a ladder that shamans can climb to reach the gods.
The month of the Birch Moon is the ideal time to weave magic focusing on new beginnings and purification, or to cast spells for support, shielding and cleansing.
The birch is the first tree to grow back after a forest has been cut down or razed reinforcing its associations with new beginnings. It is a tree of extreme hardiness, thriving in places where the oak cannot. When you make a New Year's resolution, increase your chances of sticking to your guns by performing a blessing spell.
You will need a red candle, red ribbon, birch wand, frankincense, and rose and benzoin essential oils.
Go for a walk in your local park and collect a birch twig no more than 30cm long.
Mix a few drops of rose, frankincense and benzoin essential oils into the palm of your hand and rub the mixture into a red candle.
Light the candle, and stand in front of it for a few moments visualizing your resolution. If you are planning to learn to play the guitar, for instance, visualize yourself happily strumming your favorite song. You may want to state your intent aloud, saying "I will learn to play the guitar".
Holding your birch twig at one end, pass it through the candle's flame. Then turn around, anticlockwise, holding the twig in front of you so that you use it to draw a circle around yourself.
Repeat the incantation. "I manifest new chances for good fortune, clarity and insight. I open myself to new experience and allow change to manifest in my life".
Now sit down for a few minutes and quietly contemplate your wish. When you have finished, blow out the candle.
The silver color of the birch's bark is associated with purity and cleansing. Criminals and naughty schoolboys were often beaten with birch twigs birched' in order to purify them and drive out any evil influences.
This is a good time to cleanse your mind of negative thoughts or attitudes such as anger and jealousy, or addictive behavior such as smoking. A full Moon that falls within the month of the Birch Moon is called the Cold Moon; you can strengthen your intent by performing the following ritual at this time.
Light a white candle beside a small bowl of natural spring or rain water.
Stand over the water and pray for the strength to let go of your vice.
Write down your negative behavior nine times on a piece of paper.
Fold up the paper, place it inside a freezer bag, and pour in some of the prayer water.
Place the bag inside your freezer to freeze' your bad habits putting them behind you forever.
Throughout the year Birch is used for purification, exorcism and protection. A red ribbon tied to a birch twig will help ward off the evil eye.
Witches' brooms are made of birch twigs tied around an ash branch with strips of willow. The purifying birch sweeps away evil spirits as well as dirt.
At Beltane (May Day), birch twigs are used to light the fires that signal the beginning of the new season.