Berkano. Berkana. Beorc. The birch. Berkano’s literal meaning is the birch tree, which is known as the mother of the forest. This rune relates strongly to the earthy feminine energy, the mother, the breast, the baby, the birth and all other aspects of nature that are related to the woman. Berkano speaks of the birthing phase of magick, when the seed that has been germinating has come to full term, and is now freed out into the wider world.
The birch tree is the mother of a developing forest. After a forest fire, or other interruption, the birch will often grow first. The birch grow fast and die fast, leaving their rotting nurse logs to create a new forest after the birch themselves have gone. Thus, the birch tree is a symbol of motherhood and birth. It is a nurturing energy that is equated with femininity.
Berkano is a nurturing energy that is equated with femininity
This is the final step of the death/rebirth cycle in our hero’s journey after he has passed Tyr’s judgement. The three trimester runes have passed, which were largely a time of peace and introspection. Our hero has learned of his connection to the divine, his light and his truth and is armed and truly ready to go out into the world again. He is stronger than he once was, he learned the lessons of Hagal and the three Norns, and though he may be coming from a place of safety like a baby, he is a new and better person.
Berkano is a rune of gentleness and feminine energy, the divine feminine if you will, where Tyr was strongly masculine. All humans are a balance of both, and this rune is the feminine to balance the masculine, Venus to balance Mars, Yin to balance the Yang. Our hero is now in touch with his feminine side as well as masculine, and truly ready for his birth back into the world. Let us recall that Sol is feminine and that the sun, rather than the moon, represents femininity to the old Germanic peoples. The fires of Sol are that of power and expression, the female warrior. Now, Berkano is the grounded and earthy feminine, the mother, the nurturer, a soft and receptive tenderness. But in Ingwaz, we will see that there is powerful earth energy in the masculine also, as all four elements of fire, air, water and earth have both masculine and feminine expressions.
Berkano is related to physical, mental and spiritual aspects of women. It is in the way women look, walk, grow their hair, their voice, their curves and their soft skin. It is in their tenderness, their receptivity, their ability to take on many tasks, to care and nurture, and to love unconditionally. This rune is very similar to the Empress card of the tarot.
Another symbol within Berkano is that of the bear. The word Bear (Bär in German) is in the root of Berkano and is thus in the word itself. The bear is powerful mother energy, she is the keeper of the forest who tends her young protectively for several years. She is peaceful, but can be fierce when needed. Bear spirit is also highly linked with plant medicine, as she not only understands their medicine but is also a catalyst in spreading seeds through her scat to help create and birth new plants.
The bear is powerful mother energy, she is the keeper of the forest who tends her young protectively for several years
The image of Berkano is that of breasts, where each of the points are nipples. The breast is that from which the baby feeds, and is again a symbol of femininity. In my painting, I chose not to directly paint this image, to keep my paintings free to be shared on any media, but instead created the image of a mother with a babe at her breast, which hints at the shape and image.
Berkano merkstave is disconnection from the feminine. This may represent an imbalance of masculine energy, or dishonouring your feminine self, such as using sexuality in a way that is unhealthy. Or perhaps your birth, that thing which you attempted to bring forth into the world, has failed.