I’ve had Chaga on the brain for awhile now. Chaga, that King of Mushrooms who grows like a black charcoal tumor on the sleek white birch tree. Chaga, the ultimate in wild food and free medicine. I love birch trees, and I love Chaga.
Birch trees are represented by the Berkano Rune, with a mystical meaning: “The most obvious Truth is hidden deep within, and only you will ever know it.”
Berkano reminds us of the mother who nurtures her unborn child, trusting the growth process, even though the inner workings remain unseen. Secrecy, especially secrecy that eventually births something new and marvelous, is another meaning of Berkano. Think about potent inner transformation bursting forth as undeniable external reality. Think “womb.” Think breasts that nourish the newly born. Deeply feminine, the birch grove offers sacred sanctuary and a chance for rebirth and rejuvenation. Berkano stands for new beginnings, as birch groves reveal the arrival of Spring after Winter’s “Death.” The Robin Wood Tarot deck picks up on this theme by picturing Death alongside birch trees and a yellow butterfly:
Springtime buds and the sugar substitute known as “xylitol” or “birch sweetener” come from deep within the birch tree, but we might also consider Chaga in relation to Berkano. This magical black mushroom grows on the white bark, offering a strong male counterpart to the feminine birch. They grow in harmony, and due to the doctrine of signatures, whereby a wild edible resembles whatever it treats, Chaga’s tumor-like appearance suggests its traditional use as a folk remedy for cancer. Recent scientific studies recognize Chaga’s extremely high antioxidant levels, supporting its use as an immune tonic in Asia and Siberia.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve had Chaga on the brain for awhile. I had only had Chaga tea once before, when I still lived in California, but I never forgot its simultaneously grounded and expansive energy. I know some Chaga foragers in Wisconsin, and last week I sent a request to the Universe: “I’d like some fresh Chaga, and I’d like it now. Sorry, faeries, as much as I love the woods, climbing trees to harvest my own Chaga is still out of the question with my back. How ’bout a little help, though, eh? What say you bring some Chaga to me in a magical way?”
The very next day, I saw my friend and Reiki Master Teacher student Nalla’s post. She and her lovely husband Taylor had been harvesting fresh Chaga in a pristine forest in Vermont:
We made our arrangements and three days later, I had two pounds of fresh Chaga to play with. Aside from the synchronous answering of my request, I find it utterly magical that the very, very pregnant Nalla and her tree climbing hubby are foraging for Chaga together in a birch grove. Berkano in action! They are all beautiful souls, and this experience has more magic than I can relay in a blog post. Suffice to say, they’ve got a lot of Chaga, and just look at that love:
Meanwhile, back at the ranch … er, back in Madison, David and I have been enjoying some tasty brews. I’m experimenting with the best ways to use the Chaga. This morning, I took a fresh hunk and powdered it dry in the Vitamix:
I then boiled 2 TBSP to 2 quarts clean water for about 1.5 hours. The fresher the Chaga, supposedly the less boil time you need:
I boiled it with the cover on so as to retain more of the moisture. Once cooled, I transferred the Chaga tea to a Mason jar, ready for use. It tastes slightly vanilla and earthy. First treat? As a base for our green smoothies. Second treat? Oh so decadent:
I don’t measure, and I don’t usually drink coffee, but this Mocha Chaga drink rocked!
1 Reishi Coffee packet (Reishi mushroom powder cut with coffee)
Fresh Chaga tea
Raw cacao nibs and powder
Vanilla Stevia (if I’d been thinking I would have used birch sweetener)
I have one word for this one: yummmmmmmmmy! I’m sure I’ll go back to more traditional Chage recipes and uses, but for some reason I just really wanted the Reishi-Chaga-Maca-Hemp-Cacao-Mocha flavored combo. It definitely hit the spot. How you use Chaga depends on whether you’re wanting to get more in tune with wild foods, boost your immune system, shrink tumors or simply add more energy to your life. Any or all intentions are fine. As always, I share things here for information purposes only, not to diagnose, prescribe or make medical claims. I simply love birch, Chaga, Nalla, Taylor, the unborn one, and Life. I wish you much love and enjoyment if you decide to research and embrace Berkano magic and the King of Mushrooms.