Purple gradient banner with two arrows

Birch Tree

Birch Tree | Wiigwaasaatig | Weeg-WA-sa-tig | Anishinaabe/Ojibwe

Known as the grandfather tree, wiigwaasaatig is a sacred gift from the trickster Nanabush (Nanabozho). Wiigwaasaatig is the tree of the first moon each lunar year. Its leaves teem with vitamin C. Wiigwaas (birch bark) is harvested in the spring when it’s easy to remove. The waterproof bark is used for pots, dishes, baskets, and the construction of canoes and wigwams. Under the bark is a thin layer of inner bark that can be used to treat ailments ranging from sprained muscles to headaches. The wiigwaas resin has disinfectant properties, energizing effects and can lessen stomach pains. The Anishinaabe wrote complex patterns and shapes (written language) on wiigwaasaback (birch bark scrolls).

The sap that comes from wiigwaasaatig can be used as a syrup and health tonics, medicinal cough syrup and as a food source. The sap is harvested near the end of winter. Chaga (a medicinal fungus that grows on dying birch trees), is used to reduce inflammation, lowers blood sugar and cholesterol, and treats certain types of cancer. It should be harvested in mid-winter when its nutrient rich properties and benefits are their most potent. It is often found higher up on the trees where it is difficult to reach. The Anishinaabe say this tells us how to use its medicine. It shouldn’t be accessed all the time, only when it is needed.

Wiigwaasaatig teaches us that there is a time for everything, about healing, purification, and the renewal of life.