The Birch tree is a truly beautiful and very magical tree indeed. One of it’s folk names is ‘Lady of the Woods’, and it’s not much of a struggle to see that being silvery in appearance, it has lunar, and therefore feminine associations. In Tarot Birch corresponds to the Star, and also to Venus in planetary realms.
Birch is a tree of strong Druidic Ogham associations and indeed it represents beginnings, and is the first Moon of the Celtic year (24th December – January 21st). It is one of the nine sacred woods of the beltane fire, and one of the three pillars of wisdom (Birch, Oak, Yew – also corresponding to the three ages of man).
“Birch trees often have tree spirits attached to them and the “Lieschi” or “Genii of the Forest” are said to dwell in their tree tops. The Ghillie Dhu (pronounced “Gillee Doo or Yoo”) are guardian tree spirits who are disguised as foliage and dislike human beings. They prefer birch trees to all others, and jealously guard them from humans. If the spirit of the Birch tree touches a head it leaves a white mark and the person turns insane. If it touches a heart, the person will die.” – dutchie.org
Birch twigs have been used to exorcise spirits by gently striking possessed people or animals, since the birch has purification abilities. The tree is also used for protection, particularly against lightening (it is sacred to Thor). The traditional witches broom is made of birch twigs, ash staff and willow binding and these were particularly powerful in magic.
Images from Wikipedia, sources Cunningham Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Dutchie.org, Druidry.org