Cognate to German Birke ‘birch’ and to English birch. The etymology also links it to the word bright in English.
Its most common form is . The forms and are the only ones found between 175 and 400. After 400 the form also appears in Scandinavia as well as on the continent. On the continent the form clearly dominates. In England, the two forms and have the same frequency.

Texts linked to Berkanan

Viking rune poem

bjarkan (birch) is the greenest-leaved of
Loki was lucky in his deception.

Icelandic rune poem

Bjarkan (birch) is leafy branch
and little tree
and youthful shrub.

Old English rune poem

The birch has no fruit;
nonetheless it bears shoots without seed;
it is beautiful in its branches, high of crown, fairly adorned;
tall and leafy, it reaches up to touch the sky.

Old English Rune Poem, as translated by Marijane Osborn

Birch bears no fruit
yet budding forth her shoot without seeding,
has shining branches high overhead in a helmet laden with leaves
that glitter against the sky.

Thirteenth Runic Stanza of the Havamal

I know a thirteenth:
If I throw water on the son of a warrior
He will not fall in combat,
No sword will be able to kill him.


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