Birch Tree: A Native American Tribal Story

A few posts back I told you of the Birch Tree and how it belongs in the Native American Totems.  Today, I would like to tell you the story of Birch Tree and how it came to have the marks on its bark.

A long time ago back in the days of our ancestors, Old-Man was really hot. You see the time was of summer and the earth had become very warm, too warm.  Old-Man traveled to the hilltops and it was still too hot. He traveled to the riverbed and found it too warm. Everywhere he traveled he found no relief and the traveling made him even hotter.

Old-Man called to the winds to blow so that he might feel some coolness from the breeze. The winds blew but not too hard because they feared they would make Old-Man angry.

“Blow harder, winds! Blow harder than you have ever blown before and push this heat from the world!”

The winds obeyed and blew as hard as they thought they could.

“Bend and break Fir Tree!” And the fir tree did bend and did break. “Bend and break Pine Tree!” And the pine tree did bend and break.  “Spruce Tree you bend and break!” The spruce tree obeyed and bent and broke as it was commanded. “Bend and break O Birch Tree!” The birch tree bent but did not break.

“Ho, Birch Tree! Bend and break! Mind me!” All the birch tree would do was bend. It bent to the ground. It bent double trying so hard to please Old-Man, but it would not break.

Old-Man became very angry and told the winds to blow even harder and break the birch tree.  The winds tried but they could not blow any harder than they were.  “I tell you Birch Tree, break right now!”

“I will never break for any wind” said Birch Tree. “I will bend but I shall never break!”

This made Old-Man so angry that he went a little crazy. He took out his knife and slashed the bark of Birch Tree.  He made slashes all up and down the tree in his anger.

“There! That is for not minding me! You shall look like this forever for as long as time lasts so that all will know that you refused to mind your maker! All the birch trees will look like you.”

And as you know, they do. If you have ever wondered why the Birch Tree has the marks on their bark, now you know why from this story.

Old-Man in this story represents the Great Spirit or the Creator of all things.  In Native American Totems, Birch Tree helps us remember Ancient Traditions and wisdom perhaps because it always bends and never breaks.

~Mitakuye Oyasin~ We are all related

Birch Tree Totem

The birch tree as a totem is associated with the Earth Renewal Moon which falls between December 22nd and January 19th.  One of the most ancient and abundant of trees the birch tree was used for many things by Native American Peoples. The bark was used for writing or painting stories on. The sap was used both as a syrup and a beverage. Teas and medicinal remedies were made from the bark and leaves of the birch. Placing the leaves of the birch tree on hot rocks in a sweat lodge creates a vapor that helps to cleanse the body and get rid of static electricity. To expel toxins the branches can be bound together and used to thrash the body while in a sweat lodge. Birch tea can be used to treat skin conditions, arthritis, rheumatism, kidney, bladder and digestive problems.

birch tree totem

As a totem the Birch tree brings knowledge of ancient traditions and lost wisdom. It opens all energies so they can flow well, helping one’s ability to transmit and receive the powers of the Universe.

birch wigwam Some tribes of the First People or Native Americans refer to the trees that inhabit Mother Earth as the Tall People. The spirits of the Tall People can help us poor two-leggeds if we will listen and open our hearts to learn from them.  The Birch Tree gives us so much of itself for physical purposes and it gives us knowledge from it’s long experience here on Mother Earth.  It offers us shade when Grandfather Sun shines too brightly. A little shelter when rains fall from Father Sky. Many tribes used the bark from the birch tree to provide even more shelter from the elements by covering their homes with the bark.  The picture is an example of a typical wigwam of the Ojibwe.  Canoes were also sometimes made with birch bark.

White Birch Lane

White Birch Lane
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As time passes we will learn about other members of the Tall People and the medicine and gifts they offer us.

~Mitakuye Oyasin~ We are all related