by Nan De Grove

The birch tree is a stately, ethereal beauty as she rises tall in the forest with her white bole and spreading branches. The birch is the holy tree of the first month in the tree calendar, beginning just after the Winter Solstice and Yule. She finds us in an in-between time, recovering from the festivities of the past month, incubating plans, like seeds, in the dark. The birch speaks of purification, releasing the old to embrace the new gifts that will arrive over the weeks ahead. This is a time for dreams and solitude.

birch tree

The name Guinevere means “white enchantress,” “white wave,” or “white tree.” Perhaps the birch is sacred to that ancient, legendary goddess-queen. The connection of trees to feminine healing, sorcery and prophecy seems universal when we explore their folklore, though many trees have masculine associations as well. Numerous mythologies and dreams of humanity are woven into this full Moon, like a faded, patched tapestry suddenly illuminated.

"Queen Guinevere," William Morris, 1858

“Queen Guinevere,” William Morris, 1858

The first Full Moon of the new year, the birch Moon, January 4 at 9:53 PM MST, falls in Cancer, sign of family lineage and ancestral heritage. Our ancestors are the light and dark angels of our destiny, bestowing their gifts — indeed the gift of life itself — but also seeking redemption and absolution through us and the freedoms we have that they may have lacked.

As a water sign, ruled by the Moon, Cancer derives its power and truth from feeling. Emotions that rise to the surface with this full Moon may relate to experiences long buried, as the full Moon is in opposition to Pluto. This Pluto theme suggests the need to awaken emotion and passion to resist the monolithic corporate and political powers that threaten our planet, our communities and our children.

In Egyptian mythology Cancer was associated with the Scarab Beetle, symbol of immortality and rebirth. A small nebula in the constellation was called the cradle or manger, further emphasizing the sacred meaning of this sign as a portal and vessel of life.

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The full Moon falls near Sirius, a brilliant, binary star with a cast shimmering blue light. Sirius, the dog-star, is the sacred star of Isis, the Moon goddess of ancient Egypt, who morphed into the Virgin Mary in the Christian era. The blue hue of Mary’s robes, almost universal in her iconography, recalls the blue shimmer of Sirius.

And so we have the eternal Mother Goddess, the cradle, and the full Moon falling on the Christian feast of Epiphany, the arrival of the Magi to offer their gifts to the Holy Child.

Epiphany: manifestation of the divine or supernatural. May we open our eyes to the epiphanies that await us. Seeing is believing … believing is seeing.

Nan De Grove is a gardener, painter and astrologer. She writes the monthly full-Moon column for The Lore of the Garden, as well as other occasional contributions. She can be reached at