First and foremost, Berkana is a rune bursting with vibrant life. It is the cow with full udders, the fully stocked larder, the plants uncurling up through the dirt reaching tenaciously toward the sun, the young tree bursting into green bloom. It is the mother nursing her child, it is the furious, tempestuous, never-ending, never-yielding cycle of life, that which pushes ahead, pushes onward and seeks wholeness.
Sigyn is about wholeness too, in the face of sometimes crushing anguish. She is the Lady of Enduring Grace, the One Who does not yield ever. She does what she committed her heart and mind and hands to do, even when the cost is terrible. Berkana has a certain stubborn tenaciousness to it. It is a beautiful rune, often gentle and encouraging, but scratch that surface and you may see the immensity of its power, it’s focus, it’s unyielding commitment to endurance. It is growth, even in the hardest, rockiest, most unwelcoming of climates.
Because of this, berkana is a very good rune to meditate on in periods of emotional or spiritual darkness. It demands growth. It may be gentle about it, but it will not stop demanding growth, that we look at that which is keeping us from growth, and prune it away. If we cannot nourish our spirituality, it might just decide to do that for us in a way that will plunge us inevitably into the process of dealing with our shit; and berkana will look and smile and nod and say “this is a good thing. Just look what lies beyond that, look at what you are denying yourself. Come on, it is time to cut those spiritual weeds down to size and get on with the process of growing.”
Until my Mom’s epiphany, I usually associated this rune with Frigga (and I still do in addition to Sigyn). Frigga is a power broker. She is firm and very much in control of Her territory. She is the only Deity that consistently gets the better of Odin, a God known for His cunning and wisdom. She is often seen as a Goddess of frith, or right order. What many moderns don’t realize is that right order occasionally entailed thrusting a knife into one’s enemy to restore peace. She is that too and so is this rune. She is, as poet Elizabeth Vongvisith so beautifully pointed out:
“the war-hammer’s keeper in peace-time, frithweaver who bears a knife within my skirt, a bear who mercilessly defends my cubs…” (“Runes: Theory and Practice,” p. 104).
Life and the impulse toward life is merciless. Berkana softens that by tempering it with an understanding of the complexities of humanity but at its core, there is still a merciless endurance inherent in this rune. That is a good thing, a positive thing, because it can teach us to pick up and keep going even when the vagaries of life and its tragedies would grind us down and out. It is a rune of terrible gentleness. That is where I taste the connection to Sigyn for She too is a Goddess of terrible gentleness.
I admit though, that I still do not know this rune well. I can truly plumb its depths only by first meditating on Sigyn or Frigga. I have not yet learned to speak berkana’s dialect without the intermediary of such contemplations. I do know that berkana holds enormous power, especially when it comes to manifestation and growth. This rune is a nourisher and sometimes nourishing means building up, sometimes it means attacking and tearing down that which would strangle growth and limit wholeness. Berkana does it all.
This rune is often associated with the birch tree and birch is very, very special tree. It is a colonizing tree. After forest fires, birch will often be the first tree to grow again on the burnt soil. It brings nutrients back to the land and readies it to sustain other life. As the soil is restored and other trees also grow, there comes a time where they often overshadow birch and block the sun that it needs to thrive. Then the birch will die, giving further nutrients to the soil. In magic and energy work, the spirit of birch and the tree itself can be approached for cleansing. It brings wholeness, cleansing, restoration. Berkana too is a rune of restoration and by extension blessing. To our ancestors, health and wholeness were one in the same. That organic balance is berkana in action.
“Sigyn, Our Lady of the Staying Power” by G. Krasskova available at: http://www.amazon.com/Sigyn-Staying-Power-Galina-Krasskova/dp/0578031051/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1272203672&sr=8-8
“Runes: Theory and Practice” by G. Krasskova available at http://www.amazon.com/Runes-Theory-Practice-Galina-Krasskova/dp/1601630859/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1272203672&sr=8-1
Other good books:
“Lives of the Trees” by Diana Wells available at: http://www.amazon.com/Lives-Trees-Uncommon-Diana-Wells/dp/156512491X/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1272204710&sr=8-4
“Celebrating Birch” by The North House Folk School available at http://www.amazon.com/Celebrating-Birch-Lore-Craft-Ancient/dp/1565233077/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1272204768&sr=1-1
“The Birch” by John Peyton available at http://www.amazon.com/Birch-Bright-Tree-Life-Legend/dp/0939923424/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1272204768&sr=1-3