As I was strolling through the park on a summer day, I stumbled upon a unique sight. The tall trees surrounding me were nothing out of the ordinary until I looked closer and realized that they were all beech trees.
Oak and maple trees may be common in these parts, but beech is not often seen in such abundance. Each tree had its distinct characteristics – some had smooth grey bark, others boasted fissured patterns, and one even had the distinctive triangular marks left by a woodpecker’s dinner.
To top it off, many of the branches were covered with beautiful hanging clusters of beech nuts. As I continued on my walk, I couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty and diversity of these majestic trees.
Beech trees have long been associated with a variety of folklore and symbolism. In many cultures, the beech tree is seen as a symbol of creativity and divination. In others, it is seen as a symbol of luck and peace. Today, beech trees are still revered by many cultures for their symbolism and mythology.
Understanding, sustenance and preservation, creativity, divination, luck, peace
Jupiter Fagutalis (Celtic and Roman)
In 18th century Westphalia, Germany it was believed that instead of being delivered by storks, babies were chosen from a hollow beech tree.
The printing press was invented by Johannes Gutenberg in approximately 1450. Interestingly, it is said that he got the idea for this machine when a letter he had carved into beech bark left an imprint on the paper it was wrapped in.
About Beech Trees
There are ten types of large deciduous Beech trees and they are located in north temperate regions and can be recognized by their smooth silver-grey bark. The leaves alternate and
are toothed. Male flowers occur in drooping heads, while the fruit is a three-angled nut enclosed in a prickly involucre.
The European beech (F. sylvatica) thrives in deep, well-drained soils and can grow to a maximum height of 80ft (24m). These trees have a lifespan of around 250 to 300 years, although some specimens have been known to live for up 500 years or more.
Beech trees are susceptible to core rot after their second century due to the lack of tannic acid (found in oaks) or resin ( found in conifers). Despite this drawback, the European beech is a very successful species that spread widely across temperate Europe after the last Ice Age.
The European beech has ovate, toothed leaves up to 4in (10cm) long, with five to nine pairs of veins. They are shiny green above and acid-green in spring and turn copper-brown in autumn.
The popular cultivar is the copper beech (var. purpurea), whose leaves appear purple from below.
The American beech (F. americana or F. grandifolia) has broad leaves with 9 to 15 pairs of veins, while the Oriental beech’s leave (F. orientalis or F. macrophylla) are significantly longer at up to 100ft (32m).
The Oriental beech also has silky, hairy twigs in contrast to the American beech.
The beech tree was vital to human diets up until the Iron Age. It’s no surprise that the ancient Greek name for this tree, phegos, is related to their word for “to eat”, phagein. The leaf buds and spring leaves make a great addition to salads or soups.
Beech nuts can be roasted and used in bread, pastries, or made into a coffee-like drink. In regions where olive trees don’t grow, such as the Alps, beech nuts were an important source of cooking oil.
They contain up to 50% oil which can be extracted by pressing. Additionally, beech oil contains 23% protein.
Not only have beech nuts been widely used as food among Native North American tribes, but the Tsalagi actively seek out chipmunks and raid their stores of beech nuts.
This not only saves the Tsalagi from having to put in the time and effort to gather and hull the nuts, but it also guarantees that any bad nuts have already been discarded.
The beech tree has long been a source of food for both humans and animals. In ancient times, people would eat the leaves of the beech tree as a way to get their daily minerals, protein, and starch.
However, in more recent history the main use for the beech tree has been feeding livestock such as cattle, goats, and sheep. This changed in the 20th century when artificial fodder became available.
You may still see cows and horses chewing on wooden fences today because they are missing out on essential carbohydrates that they used to get from eating beech leaves.
The beech tree is important for its nutritious nuts, or “mast”. traditionally, pigs were fed these mast in the autumnal oak and beech forests. Cultivating pig mast was a widely accepted practice in many parts of Europe right up until the Middle Ages.
The three trees that produce the most nutrient-rich fruit – oak, beech and sweet chestnut – are all from the beech family (Fagaceae). Also, due to its heaviness and hardness, beech wood has been commonly used in furniture, tool handles and bowls.
Herbalists in both Native North American and European cultures have long appreciated the astringent, antiseptic, and disinfectant properties of beech tree bark.
Beech is generally cooling, and a bark preparation was once a popular remedy for fever. However, it is no longer used in herbal medicine today. The Bach Flower Remedy of beech enhances sympathy and tolerance; while the tree essence brings confidence in self-expression.
Folklore, Myth and Symbol of the Beech Trees
Throughout the French Pyrenees, various ancient Celtic altars dedicated to the god Fagus, or “beech tree” have been discovered. Similarly in Rome, Jupiter – who was widely regarded as the equivalent of Zeus and the god of oak trees – was also worshipped under the name of Jupiter Fagutalis in a beech sanctuary located on one of Rome’s seven hills (Esquiline). Another beech grove held sacred is the Tusculum which is dedicated to Diana, the goddess of wild woods.
People in Germanic tribes would tell fortunes by writing runes on sticks or small tablets during the Iron Age.
Even though most of the runic talismans left from that time are wood from yew trees, different types were used based on where people lived, what the rune-reader liked and what questions needed to be answered.
In the rune family, Beechwood was one of them. Also, during or before the eighth century when people transitioned from using the magical alphabet to normal alphabet letters, runes that were once sacred gradually turned into simply being seen as letters (from Latin littera).
The German word for letters, Buchstaben, comes from “beech sticks”. In the early days of books, people would bind thin tablets made of beech together as an alternative to scrolls.
This was a new way to store and share knowledge: the book. That’s why many words for “book” are derived from the name of the beech tree – for example, Anglo-Saxon bok (beech) and bec (book), modern German Buche (beech) and Buch (book); Swedish bok (beech) and bok (book).
Not only has the beech given us physical nourishment, but it has also fed our minds by being associated with the development of writing in Europe.
Writing allowed humans to gain greater access to knowledge, so one could say that the beech unites the traditions of both the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge.
Symbolism and Meanings of the Beech Tree
The beech tree is a symbol of strength, resilience, and endurance. This tree has a long history of being associated with important cultural and spiritual meanings and has long been a popular subject in literature, art, and folklore.
Healing Our Deepest Wounds
The compassionate beech is ruled by the planet Chiron, associated in astrology with the concept of the “wounded healer”.
Magically, the beech supports us in finding, shedding light on, and eventually healing the source of our deepest pain. While this can be excruciating, in terms of evolution, harmony, and personal growth, there is nothing better that we could be doing with our free time.
Not to mention, it’s ultimately much less painful than perpetually avoiding and tiptoeing around our most fundamental issues.
The beech tree is very sensitive, and its bark doesn’t heal once it’s scarred. Additionally, the beech tree doesn’t thrive in polluted areas and can be especially susceptible to Aphids and fungal infections.
Therefore, he is a sympathetic ally for those of us who are empathic, allergenic, or just plain sensitive to harshness or negativity.
Additionally, beech can help people develop greater sensitivity and openness to the thoughts, feelings, and needs of others.
For example, if you feel that your tough exterior shell is preventing you from manifesting a romantic relationship or connecting as deeply with others as you would like, spending time in quiet contemplation with a beech could help remedy this condition.
The beech tree has been a symbol of strength, resilience, and adaptability throughout history. Its wood was used to create ships and houses that stood the test of time, and its leaves have been used as a food source during times of famine.
Today, the beech tree continues to be a popular choice for landscaping due to its ability to thrive in diverse conditions. If you’re looking for a tree that symbolizes growth and change, the beech tree may be the perfect option for you.