Berkano is the eighteenth rune in the Elder Futhark and the third tree rune. It looks like a capital letter B with points or two triangles on their sides. It is seen as deriving from an archaic name for birch tree, which is reflected in the ancient poems, though the Anglo Saxon rune poem also refers to it as the poplar.
"Poplar/birch bears no fruit, bears without seed
suckers, for from its leaves it's generated.
Splendid are its branches, gloriously adorned
its lofty crown, lifting to the sky."
Both the Icelandic and Norwegian poems refer to it as birch: "leafy birch" and "greenest-leaved of branches".
The "Sigdrifumal" refers to Berkano as the healing rune.
"Branch-runes you must learn if you want to heal
And know how to treat wounds.
Cut them on the bark of forest trees
Whose branches bend eastward."
Birch is used quite a lot as a herbal oil as an antiseptic or for sore muscles, as a gargle for sore mouth and as a tea to calm nerves and induce sleep. It is useful in pain relief. In Holland a liquid is also used on the scalp against baldness!
Berkano is seen by some (Thorsson, Gundarsson) as the rune of the Earth Mother in her bright aspect as Nerthus and her dark aspect as Hella, as it's dual shape represents a pregnant belly with breasts. According to Thorsson it reveals the mystery of the perpetual cycle of birth, death and rebirth from the womb of the goddess. Gundarsson says Berkano is "the rune of the earth who receives the sacrifice/seed and holds it within herself, guarding and nourishing it until the time has come for it to return to the worlds outside again."
Berkano guards mothers and children, so because of this it can also be seen as the rune of Frigg/Frigga, the most motherly of the Northern goddesses.
In readings and divination it is a rune that turns up at significant passages in life. It indicates birth and becoming, the feminine, the "bringing into being". It is useful in fertility magic and women's mysteries. It is a rune of birth and suggests success for new enterprises or something beginning.
Berkano can be used on its own as a magical tool, through writing, chanting, standing the rune and journeying with the rune into the other worlds. But it can also be used effectively in bind rune magic. This is where a number of runes are written and overlaid to form different patterns that contain the runes. Berkano can initiate the power of the othe runes.
When I was starting out as a pagan I often tried out different kinds of magic, such as candle or crystal magic, as many people have. When I became a heathen I was sometimes disappointed to hear that some heathens don't practise magic. But when I discovered the heathen shamanic path of seidr I was really happy to discover a form of magic I could use which was really powerful and that is rune magic. When I write and sing and stand the runes the power is tangible, running throughout my body, into the earth and into the other realms. Rune magic is very very effective. If you want to give it a go Berkano is a good rune to start with as it is the rune of beginnings. Beginnings of new paths, new knowledge and new powerful magic.
Berkano is an ideal rune for the Pagan Blog project as so many people writing and reading these blogs will find many new beginnings which will change the course of their lives.