Hello folks! Just a shout out that on my Patreon page, on top of other benefits that I’m offering there is also an herbal which I add to each and every month (at the Extra-Special Thanks and also Deepest Gratitude tier). This month I’m looking at one of my favourite trees: beech. I thought I’d share this post with you all here on my blog page, in case you are interested in joining me on my Patreon community page as well!
Beech is a tree that, for some reason, often gets overlooked in many modern and magical herbals. It is not part of the Druid tree ogham, and shows up rarely in other Pagan herbals. As an indigenous British tree, I feel that we need to include the beech once again in our herbal grimoires, and honour this most beautiful and magnificent being.
According to Mrs Grieve, the word beech is thought to derive from the Germanic language and refers to the word “book”. It’s thought that early books were made from beech. Maybe this is why the Druids didn’t include it in their tree ogham? As members of an oral tradition, this might be one use that they’re not terribly comfortable with…
It’s one of our largest and most gorgeous trees. It spreads its canopy and isn’t afraid to shine. In the autumn especially, we see its enchanting beauty as the chlorophyll retreats and the golden leaves begin to glow in the late, slanting sunlight. They then turn to a beautiful, rust colour if they’re not blown away by the autumn winds. The pale grey, smooth trunks stand in silent glory, with little to no undergrowth beneath them to mar their stately splendour. They are truly magical beings, and always make me think of the Fair folk, of the elven wood of Lothlorien in Tolkein’s work, these majestic and proud trees.
Beech wood was often used in the making of chairs, wooden panels for furniture, carpenter’s planes and charcoal for gunpowder. But it’s not just the wood that is useful: the nuts (mast) were very valuable for owners of livestock who grazed their animals in the woods and under these trees on the village common. Like acorns, beech nuts are very nutritious for pigs, and the wild deer, squirrels and badgers are also very fond of them. The whole nuts are not good for human consumption, but the oil extracted from them is used in cooking on the continent. You can also use the oil as a furniture polish.
The tar has been used medicinally as an antiseptic, and also for treating chronic bronchitis. You can also make a liquer from the young leaves (pick them before midsummer). Here is a recipe from Anna Franklin: Fill a jar with them, top up with your favourite spirit (for me, that’s gin) and leave for 10 days. Then and add a pound of sugar per pint of spirit, dissolving the sugar over a low heat but do not boil off the alcohol. Bottle, let it sit for three months to a year, and enjoy!
For magical purposes, beech can be used in spells to enhance one’s appearance, or in spells that call for strength, grace, or adaptability. You can use beech to consecrate your Book of Shadows, or even better, use slats of beech wood as the covers! I also think that beech is a great tree to connect to the Fair Folk, though this is from personal experience, and not something that is written down in any lore.
Grive, M. A Modern Herbal, Cresset Press, 1992
Franklin, A. The Hearth Witch’s Compendium, Llewellyn, 2018