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Oghams; Letters Inscribed in Stone

Oghams; Letters Inscribed in Stone

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Published by Mark Bailey

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Mark Bailey on May 31, 2011
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Oghams; Letters inscribed in Stone 1


New Age Druidic periodicals

Oghams; Letters inscribed in Stone 2 Abstract I set out to put down on paper the knowledge and methodology of the Oghams (Oh- Uhms) and their original usage. It is my intent to see them from my Ancestors eyes in the way they saw and used them from day to day. Since the Oghams are described only briefly at best in just a few poems, songs, and on some 500 stones across the United Kingdom, the information is not much. This treatise will start with background history and move onto just the usage for divination sake. The following pages will show what is known and highlight both what has remained constant and what has been changed over the ages. There has been much printed and conjectured over the past 100 years, and some has meaning in the modern age that it did not in the age where these sticks were first used. It is my intent to go back to when they were first used and see how and why so we can use them in a similar way today.

Oghams; Letters inscribed in Stone 3 Oghams: LETTERS INSCRIBED IN STONE Introduction How old are the Oghams? The story in the Book of Ballymote says that Ogma son of Elathon (600 BCE) devised the Ogham script for “noble eyes and not for use by animal herders and low people”. This is probably a translational error by the later Christian Monks in that it was invented by people of learning (called the “Aes Dana” or the Gifted Ones). It also refers to Ogmios the Deity as having been the inventor of the Ogham scipt. The problem here is the word “Ogmios” is a Gallic spelling rather than an Irish and so probably another translational error. The Oghams can be dated from over 500 stones ranging between 350 AD to 700 AD and are scattered across the British Isles all signifying either burial locations or village boundaries. Since the inscriptions on many also included Latin translations, they provide both a date and a way of translating what was said. This was extremely helpful since no other translations exist in anything from that period. The Auraicept Na n‟Eces (Scholar‟s Primer) provides translations as well as a list of many other “Ogham tracts” and can be found on its own and also transcribed into the Book of Ballymote. Unfortunately both of these documents bear the burden of having been transcribed in the 11th century.

Oghams; Letters inscribed in Stone 4 Where are they found and what were they being used for? The Oghams were found primarily on boundary stones and burial markers all across Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England. The use was simple; “Here lies Alan, son of Aengus” (Allain macOengais) or “Here is the border between Cardiff and Avebury, cross with good intentions or bear the consequences”. Burial markers were not many since it took a great deal of effort to dig a huge hole, find an appropriate boulder, move and place it next to the deceased person and then have a stone cutter properly mark it. Because of the effort, it can be assumed that any Ogham burial marker is for a person of some fame or money (or both). The Boundary Stones are much more frequent and are not something from just the United Kingdom. Boundary Stones existed as far back as the Tribes of Israel and served a similar purpose; to warn intruders that they were crossing into “protected lands”. Boundary stones were the resting site of powerful magicks summoned and placed to protect the perimeter of villages. They did not need to be marked as such since everyone knew what the stones were for and so the markings were simply to tell you what village you were entering, the protecting Deity was assumed to be in residence of the stone itself. The Greeks called these boundary markers „Omphallos”, the Romans called them “Mundis”, and the Tribes of central Europe referred to them as “Stopja Stones” and many of these stones can still be found today. These Boundary stones were seen by everyone as „Magical Inscriptions‟ to protect the village beyond, and would curse upon any who stepped past them intending any harm upon the villagers. The Oghams themselves were inscribed by the people who knew how to read them, and this was limited to the more educated for many reasons. Most Celtic tribes people were not literate since not everything needed to be written down. The Celtic belief (also a Druidic belief) was that “writing something down diminished it”. People were expected to memorize vast amounts of knowledge that pertained to their craft or specialty. Many of the tribe‟s people were fluent in more than one language since the tribes were migratory and traded heavily with other nearby tribes and nations. Latin and Greek were both common among the Celts as a trade language since both Greece and Rome traded for Celtic weapons and tools made of iron and steel (the Celts discovered it first). Although many say that the Oghams are older than 300 CE, no proof has been found that dates the Oghams any earlier and so the Oghams are from the same approximate age as the first Runes begin to appear. Some say they are connected, but this is also without proof as no Runes have been discovered next to Oghams.

Oghams; Letters inscribed in Stone 5

Why did they change over time, and what changed? The Oghams were used as a written language as well as a divination method from the start and corresponded to letters and sounds in the Gaelic language of the time. These twenty letters (Feda) were grouped into four sets (Aicme) with three being consonants and one being vowels. Certain sounds that were commonly made as well as pronunciations had letters. The Gaelic language has always been a living language in that it changed over time with the influx of new people and the domination of other people. Many of the words and ways of pronunciation changed with the massive influx of the Angles, Saxons, Danes, Jutes, and Kents in the early 6th century. To accommodate the new words and consonants five new letters were added (the “Forfeda” or the “Extra letters”). Since the Oghams had already been used for several hundred years as a divination system, these letters were only to be used for writing and were never intended for augury. The Celtic methods and thinking was that people should be able to remember what was necessary in their life. As with any other way, methods of remembering things were invented so that simple sayings or repeating sounds could be used to attach other more intricate meanings to. The Oghams were used for just that method in the Auriacept na eCes (Scholars Primer). Since the Ogham was an alphabet, and everyone was aware of it, and each Aicme had five letters just like a person‟s hand; five „things‟ could be assigned to it for memorization. Thus the “King Ogham”, “Fish Ogham”, Castle Ogham”, “Color Ogham”, “River Ogham” came into being. These were not divination methods but rather a system to help student remember important things in their education (Hence the name “the Scholars Primer” or Auraicept Na n‟Eces). Some modern people have taken these to be divination markers and so the Ogham Augury meanings have taken a turn.

What makes them different than any other divination method? The Ogham sticks are different in both their meanings and usage, but bear striking resemblances to both Runes and Tarot. Since Augury (Cleomancy in this case) is a very personal thing, the Oghams simply give the reader another option for a tool to be used. The symbols are easier to remember since they are 1-5 notches in one of only four patterns; up, down, diagonal, and straight through. Other than this, the thought process behind the Oghams are exactly the same as any other method; “Beith” (Birch) is read the same as the Rune “Beorc” or the Tarot “The Fool”. It is a card of new beginnings and all the difficulties and excitement involved in that event. How do we use and interpret the Oghams? Very little is known with certainty about the Ogham sticks since the Celtic thought was that “anything important should be memorized rather than written down”. We know that there were twenty „Feda‟ and that they were inscribed upon wood (Birch is mentioned but other woods could be used). We know that the stick

Oghams; Letters inscribed in Stone 6 were “thrown onto a cloth and read for their meanings”. Other than that, the rest is left to our imaginations. We know that the sticks were used and that the phrase “casting of lots” was what the monks wrote about. This is known as „Cleomancy‟ and referred to a great number of things that could be „cast‟ and also in the manner of that casting.

To attempt to make sense of this I went back to the same time period and looked at other versions of this method of divination. Too many people immediately point to the Runes and that method and so I chose to look at that method last only because it is so well explored already. Since the Insular Celts and Mainland Celts were almost completely assimilated by the Roman Empire and then over printed with Christianity it was hard to see a purely “Celtic way of looking at things”. What I did notice however was a general feeling among the Romans and Greeks to use what they found around them to their advantage, especially if it “worked”. That brings me to the Roman practice of Sortes and the eventual Sortes Sanctorum and Sortes Conviviales. “Sortes” or the casting of lots in Roman times was to throw stones, small tablets, or pieces of wood into either a deep narrow urn or a small shallow bowl of water. If tossed into an urn it was immediately followed by someone reaching into the urn to pull out a few lots and then toss them lightly onto a piece of cloth or wooden tray. The “tossing‟ was seen as the users will being imbued into the items, the tossing was seen as the release so the Deities could put their influence upon them and the landing was of course the result. The Sortes Conviviales is best seen now as the “Fortune Cookie” you receive after the meal at a Chinese restaurant. Whatever is used, these same three components must be present; Owners willpower, Deities influences, and Final outcome. The Final outcome is usually the hardest to determine so often times there were markings on that final cloth to help determine things. Any markings or patterns have to be announced out loud first and repeated until an understanding is clear to all. Simple things such as “Yes”, “No‟, and “Ask again later”…. “Before”, “After” and “Now”…. “Left”, “Right”, “Center”. The Celts mostly did things in three‟s and so the Ogham sticks would have likely followed that pattern as well. If there is anything with a seeming “Duality” look harder and you will discover a “Third” lurking directly in between the two. The Celts felt that the “Tweens had power” and so a threshold was usually at least a powerful as what was inside and what was outside… after all the doorway was preventing the two from mixing. The Ogham were written about beginning in the 4th century and referenced places and things that may have existed back as far as maybe the 5th century B.C.E. Since the Irish Language (Gaelic or the language of the Gaels) dates back in Ireland to roughly the time when the Celts invaded the island the Oghams cannot be any older than this time. The etchings are said to be because it is easier to make such cuts in stone and wood which is where we find all of the inscriptions publicly today. The few books we have (Book of Ballymote and Book of the Dun cow for example) illustrate them in some sections and refer to them in others. As a divinatory system the Books refer to practices as if the reader should recognize the missing pieces of the tale. They speak of "casting the sticks" but do not detail anything beyond that. What is known

Oghams; Letters inscribed in Stone 7 mostly is that only the first four Aicme were used for Divination (according the Auraicept Na n‟Eces or the Scholars Primer). What we also know is that the Ogham were used for a certain time as a memorization tool. Evidently enough of the people understood the sequence of the letters so that other important things could be attached to them in that same sequence.

Methods of Divination; I keep them in my crane bag until I need them. I pull all of the first four Aicme out and toss them into some kind of container. The person with the question then reachs in and pulls three sticks out tossing them lightly onto a black cloth with a Triquetra printed on it for example. The sticks are then read by which "arm" the sticks are closest to. Each arm of the Triquetra stands for something; “Left, Right, and Center”. Land- What is beneath and grounding me Sea- What is around me and centering me Sky- What is above me and I strive for Negative- influences that hinder the situation Positive- influences that help the situation Neutral- influences that can be modified AbredHow do the Shining Ones feel? Ceugant- How do my Ancestors feel? Gwynedd- How do the Spirits of the Land feel? Past- Something recent influencing the question Present-The situation at hand Future-Where the current situation is likely to go ConfusionWhat stops me BalanceWhat is around me and centering me Creative Force- What do I need to do overall Masculine- What actions should I take? Feminine- How can I nurture this situation? Crowning- Is this Goal attainable?

Ogham sticks were “cast as lots” which means they were drawn blindly and tossed lightly no more than a few feet away. In order to do this the ground has to have something to offer friction such as a cloth or an area with edges such as a bowl, a dish, a platter, or a tray. The choosing of the sticks had to be easy and yet hidden so using a small bag for carrying purposes does not fulfill the role of choosing them. A larger bag or a box or simply fanning them out and closing your eyes before choosing them should work well. It is a personal choice whether you use the fifth Aicme or not but remember they were not originally intended for divination. The fifth Aicme was introduced as the Gaelic language began to change with the influx of Anglo-Saxon and Germanic as well as Norse words and usage. I personally do not use them as my connection to the Ancestors is set prior to these people interacting with the Irish. Sacred Woods, Chieftain Trees and Otherworld Trees all indicate something in the readings just as Major Arcana and „Face cards” in the Tarot do. Sacred Woods were gathered twice a year by the villages in

Oghams; Letters inscribed in Stone 8 preparation for the Fires of Beltane. Having more of the Sacred Woods can mean that you are seeing either a buildup in the interaction with your „tribe‟ (your community or the people you „hang around with‟). Having more Chieftain Trees would possibly mean that you have some „Big Influences‟ in your life possibly indicating the „Mortal Powers you are familiar with are influencing your situation” (Your Boss or someone that has an influence over your work or school perhaps). Having more Otherworld Trees can mean that „Power beyond your Control are influencing your situation” (Weather, everything happening at once so you have to choose one thing over another, or just pure Luck; Good or Bad). The Ogham sticks have a „direction‟ and the direction that they point can mean something as well. If a question is asked about a person in the room and the sticks point to them it can mean that that stick is meant to be as aspect of the person it is pointing to. Finally, the use of a cloth can organize your casting of lots in that the sticks are not drawn in order but rather land closest to the outcome. For example you can use a triquetra where each arm signifies something; Left would be “Past”, Right would be “Future”, and the Top would be “Present”. Three sticks are drawn and tossed onto the cloth with the closest stick to each arm being that answer. Direction of the stick could indicate a connection to the other two sticks so that what is happening in the Past (if that stick did not point to the other two) would be taken to mean that the Past is just a past even and is not still affecting the present or future. The best thing to do is to simply start “tossing sticks” and to get a feel for what you want them to do. Since absolutely nothing was ever written down about how to do this, there is no “Right” and “Wrong” beyond the use of the Fifth Aicme. There was absolutely nothing written down about the Trees figuring into a Calendar or a time measurement system other than a few holidays and what woods were to be utilized on those holidays. One Last Suggestion; HAVE FUN…!!! Here's a definition of Ogham in Irish (Irish Gaelic): Ogham a thugtar ar an aibítir a bhí ag na Ceiltigh in Éirinn fadó. Faightear inscríbheanna Ogham ar chlocha seasta nó galláin. (The ancient Irish Celts had a form of writing called Ogham. The surviving examples of Ogham are on large standing stones.) Cuireadh grúpaí stríocanna nó poinc ar imeall ingearach na clocha. (Letters were formed by inscribing groups of dashes or dots on a vertical edge of the stone or gallán.) Ainmneacha a bhíodh ann de ghnáth. Tá feiche litir san aibítir agus léightear ó bhun go barr í. (They usually held the name of a person. The ogham alphabet contains twenty letters and is read from the bottom up.)

Oghams; Letters inscribed in Stone 9 The Ancient Celts said that the Druids had what were referred to as “The Three Illuminations” and that these methods for augury and divination throughout the Druidic training. The Imbas Forosna (Imoss Four ohs na) or „Manifestations that enlighten‟. Some say that the Druids would place their palms upon their foreheads to discern the secrets of the world around them. This is also known as „Palm Wisdom‟ and could have been the position that Druids would put themselves into as they cast lots to determine the future. Some assumptions of this method is that something would „manifest‟ so it could be said that the Druid would have a „sudden inspiration‟. Some form of sacrificial offering was performed prior to this method and so St. Patrick forbade its use. The Teinm Laida (Tenem Loyda), or „Understanding through Poems‟. Some say this was the reading aloud of prose in order to get into a trance-like state while others simply say the wisdom was either in the poetry itself or alluded to by reading through it. Some few have even suggested that it is the reading of poetry and using the words themselves as a sort of cypher (pointing blindly as you ask a question and opening your eyes to the word or phrase you pointed to). This was also known as „chewing the hazel nuts of wisdom‟ and „cracking the marrow of wisdom‟. One technique has been said to be the repetition of poetic prose over and over again thus creating a heightened mental state. Some form of sacrificial offering was performed prior to this method and so St. Patrick forbade its use. The Dichetal do Chennaib (Dikitul doe Kennay) or „Illumination through Song‟. This was something that appeared to “just happen” as no preparatory methods were discussed. The assumption here is that the Druid would burst into “automatic writing” or “automatic speaking” as a topic would open up. It is suggested that they might do this while in song, but could also have meant ritual chanting or a poem set to music. Perhaps it was simply the loss of concentration while singing so that your subconscious mind free associates and inspiration strikes. After the other two “illuminations” were banned, it is also possible that the Teinm Laida was combined with this method. Since no form of sacrificial offering was performed, St. Patrick approved its use.

Oghams; Letters inscribed in Stone 10 Anything will do in order to set the mood, and I have tried many things. Included below is my poem for your use so you can concentrate upon these phrases and let slip the bounds of the world around you. I consider this to be a form of Imbas Forosna myself; chant the song and lose yourself in the rythyms.

Three sticks are drawn into the light …drawn one at a time with your second sight One for the Past that’s not quite gone …still in the shadows yet lingering on One for the Here and Now between …part of the past only partly not seen One for the thing that longs to be …partially hidden from all that we see Three sticks are drawn into the light …returned to the darkness and hidden from sight Mark Bailey, February 2011

I hope this helps you in your travels and your adventures.

Oghams; Letters inscribed in Stone 11 Aic Ogham Name Tree Simple Beginnings
Live your Life Enjoy your life ColorWhite AnimalCow

New Starts, Initiations, Projects; A Major step forward, Crossing a Threshold, Fires of Beltaine Clears away bad things in Life Punishment cane, teachers staff „A Being‟ –or- „To Be‟ (exist) “Charm–vs-Evil when burned” Your first step on the Journey of a lifetime


Birch “Tree between Worlds” Sacred Wood Chieftain Tree Rowan
Elm or Quicken


Beath Beth Beithe

Protection thru Knowledge, ColorRed, Grey AnimalUnicorn, Bear


First Aicme

“Tree of Life” Sacred Wood Otherworld Tree Alder “Tree of Shields” Sacred Wood


Inscribed Elm Wand wards against evil/ malevolence, use for powers of foretelling Berries when cut have a pentagram inside it “Fid Na n‟Druad” (Tree of the Druids), “Rowan tree and red thread”= Charm –vs- Evil What you know will protect you from the falsehoods of others forever

Physical and Moral Strength ColorCrimson AnimalRed Fox, Ram, Stallion

(F’ YARN) (FAIR-n)


Fern Fernd Fernn

Hearth, Home, Strong Foundations White wood & Blood Red sap “Cursing Wand”= Alder (fey wand) Hollow twigs tied together= Charm against flooding or for Calling the Wind Keeps things from falling down Stand steadfast and resolute in your convictions


Willow “Tree of Thirst” Sacred Wood

Intuition thru dreams
Accessing Deep Wisdom ColorSorcha (fiery) AnimalHare, Cat


Saille Suil

Drink deeply of the wisdom of the Earth, Link with the Earth & Moon Charm –vs- Disease “Smoke of the Willow”= Celtic burning sagebrush, Take a deep breath and let what is outside enter into your core Don‟t ignore the knowledge around you Stand still and soak in the wisdom of the Ages

Oghams; Letters inscribed in Stone 12

(N’ YIN) (NEE-uhn)

Ash “Tree of Magic” Sacred Wood Chieftain Tree

The Whole is greater than its parts ColorClear Green AnimalSnake


Nion Nin Nuin Nùin

Yggdrasil; the World Tree, Bringing everything together again; Spirit World-Physical World link- “Cosmic Ash” Charm against Magic, Power over Fire & Water, “Maw of the Spear, Shaft of the Broom” Connects Abred-GwyneddCeugant / Past-Present-Future You are more than just the sum total of all that you know and all that you owe.

(OO-ah) (OO-ah-huh)

Hawthorn “Tree of Faeries” Sacred Wood Otherworld Tree

Cleansing and Patience ColorPurple AnimalDragon, Goat


Huath Huathe Uath

“Festine Lente” (Make Haste Slowly) Cut Twigs are given to “live in Hope”; Charm –vsIllness Never cut this tree down, Nothing is ever free (“the Thorn”), Purple rags tied to branches Bards Tree of Satire the “May Tree” Go out and gather in the spring to bring back joy and light into your household


Second Aicme


The Doorway to Undertaking ColorBlack, Dark Brown AnimalWhite Horse, Lion, Salamander


Daur Dair Dur

“King of the Forest” Sacred Wood Chieftain Tree

Doors= Oak & Mistletoe (Drualas) entwined Thor‟s Tree, Strength, Boundaries, Winter Solstice; Tree of the Oak King; Ability to „see invisible things‟ Druids taught under the branches of the Oak Tree From a tiny Acorn grows the mightiest of trees



(T’ YIN-uh) (CHIN-yuh)


“Tree of Balance”

Right overcoming Wrong ColorDark Grey AnimalCow


Protection –vs- Lightning & Thunder, Self-Protection, Balance in Life, Leaves always green; Summer=soft, winter=hard Summer Solstice; Tree of the Holly King Fatherhood, Paternity, and the “Good Fight” A Very Potent Symbol of Life Justice will always prevail

Oghams; Letters inscribed in Stone 13 Intuition thru knowledge Wand of Knowledge
ColorBrown AnimalSalmon




“Tree of the Well of Knowledge” Sacred Wood

The number “9” (or “3 by 3” ) Creativity, Poetry, Divination, Knowledge, Wisdom, Insight, “Chewing Hazelnuts for wisdom and insight”; “Well of Segais ringed by 9 Hazels, Salmon of Knowledge eats falling Hazelnuts” Hazel Wands were used for divination and wisdom Meditation, Wisdom, and Mediation




Apple “Tree of Avalon”

Right choices over many options ColorGreen AnimalUnicorn

“Silver Branch with bells” (Apple branch) = big announcements Apple core= pentagram Emain Abhlach (Isle of Avalon or Isle of Apples or Glastonbury‟s Orchards) Natural Beauty enhanced and prolonged through blending with nature


Cert Ceirt Quiert


Relax and Speak plainly ColorMbnacht “Variegated” Animal- Lizard


Third Aicme


“Vine of the Orchards”

Candor, Joy, and Harvest Time; “The Vernal Equinox”; Openness Mead is made of this and is the fruit of Celebration; This governs the Festival of Lughnassadh Sometimes things are hard to cultivate but worth it overall”



Ivy “Strongest of all Trees”

Change in direction
ColorSkyblue AnimalBoar



Changes in Career, Drive, Ambition, Innate Persistence; Take care to avoid ruthlessness or of getting lost “The Second Harvest” Others may become jealous of your achievements “Enemy of Holly” “Growth requires change” In small quantities anything is good, but some things are bad in great numbers

Oghams; Letters inscribed in Stone 14 Unity
“Preservation of Knowledge” ColorGrass Green AnimalDog, Stag, Rat

(Ne Yay Tul) (NYEH-dl)

(Broom) “Tree of Scribes”


Getal nGeadal (n)Gétal nGedal

“The Broom” Cleaning, and Sweeping away “Harmony between You & the World” Spiritual Wisdom, writing, poetry, music, harmony Maintaining and Restoring order When the time is right it is time to change



Blackthorn “Tree of Punishment and Strife”

Life is both Good and Bad ColorBright Purple AnimalWolf, Toad, Black Cat



Straiff Straiph Straith

Life out of Control, Destiny, Fate “Wyrd” Web of Fate „Druids Staff Wood” A Sign of Bad Luck Witches „Black Rod‟ “Tree of Walking Sticks & Shillelaghs” Sloegin is flavored with this fruit. Anything that is bad can also be good, but you have to work at it.


Change and Transition ColorBlood Red AnimalBadger




“Tree of Regeneration” Otherworld Tree

“Tree of Healing and Transformation” Timelessness White blossoms and Red Berries Cut branches always grow back Sudden Anger, Righteous Retribution, and the Healing of a friendship afterwards Do not burn this Tree Look for the Good in Life

Silver Fir
Fourth Aicme

Taking the High Road ColorPale Blue AnimalRed Cow

(AL Yem) (AHL-m)

(White Fir)


Ailim Falm

“Tallest & Straightest of Trees”

Elevated Consciousness, Loftiness of Vision Higher Perspective Sometimes it is easier to look down upon the situation and navigate the best path to your destination

Oghams; Letters inscribed in Stone 15 Wisdom


Furze, or Gorse “Luxurious Carpet Shrubbery”

The gathering and use of knowledge
ColorYellow Gold AnimalRabbit

Abundance, Fertility, and luxurious Growth There is always plenty to go around What you have a lot of that seems to be never-ending Tripping over things hidden in the underbrush Do not become lost in the gathering of knowledge




Magnificent Obsession Emotional healing
ColorPurple AnimalBee, Lion

Love, Relationships, Intimacy Act on your Dreams An emotional shroud hanging over one that does not listen to their dreams and visions Red Heather= Passion White Heather= Composure (A Protection from Passion) From Dreams comes Passion, from Passion comes Strength.



Ura ùr

“Fragrant Carpet Shrubbery”


(AY Duh) (EH-yah)

Poplar “Faerie Tree”

The Mastery of Fear
ColorSilver, Red AnimalWhite Mare

Never give up on yourself The Path of Courage “Tree of Shields and Courage” You will endure and succeed Courage never stands alone for very long, you will always find others that will stand by your side even if they are new friends Feel the Fear but do it anyway


Eabhadh Eadad Eadhadh] Edad

(EE-duh) (EE-yoh)

Yew “Tree of Life” Sacred Wood

Immortality Ancestral Inheritances
ColorDark Green AnimalSpider

Death & Rebirth “Transformation & Rebirth” Yew Wands used for divinations “Trees of Longbows, Cemeteries and Holy Grounds” We gather „round the Ancestors to listen, learn, and watch over them


Idad Idho Íodhadh

Oghams; Letters inscribed in Stone 16 Ancient Knowledge
ColorGreen AnimalSquirrel


Sacred Grove “Grove of many Trees”

South Where the students go to find their teachers

ea, (ch / k)

Éabhadh Ebad Eubh

(Oh Ear)

Spindle “Small very hard Tree”

Inner Peace
ColorWhite AnimalOwl

East What is always sought after and rarely kept long

oi (th)
Added (Fifth) Aicme


(Yew Lynn)

Honey Suckle “Visions and Dreams”

Ancient Wisdom
ColorPale Yellow AnimalMouse

North Wisdom spreads like the scent of a fragrant tree, once smelled everyone wants more

ui (io, ph)


(Ee Feen)

Pine Gooseberry “Trees of Heroes”

ColorBlue Green AnimalCat

Center Nothing tastes better than the knowing of a thing Pine Cones= “Tree Eggs”

ia (p / pe)

Iphín Pine Peine

(Ay Man Cole)

Witch Hazel “Tree of Learning”

Guidance from the Past
ColorOrange AnimalDeer

West The groan of those in need draws those with the skill to alleviate the problem

ae (x / xi)

Eamhancholl Phagos

Oghams; Letters inscribed in Stone 17

☼“Chieftain Trees”
These Trees were rarely allowed to be cut down due to their majesty and significance. Villages often sought out big strong examples of these trees in order to fashion their new village around. These often became the “Tree of the Center” in the middle of the village.

∆“Otherworld Trees”
These Trees were considered to be „thresholds between worlds” and were not to be harmed for fear of angering those who dwell within. As with anything in the „Otherworld‟, these trees are the thin part of the Veil separating us from essentially an anti-matter reaction. Harm these trees and you will invoke the return of this harm from beyond the Veil upon you.

☻“Sacred Trees”

These Trees were the nine trees that lit the Fires of Beltane (BaelTinne) on the 1st of May. The King of Tara would have these gathered and two large bonfires erected. Just prior to nightfall on the 30th of April (and again on 31 October) all fires and lights would be extinguished all across Ireland. The King would light his two fires and then as other people saw them lit, they would light theirs as well.
First Aicme; First Fifth- (Bríatharogam) Letter Meaning Morainn mac Moín féochos foltchain "withered foot/hair" Maic ind Óc glaisem cnis "greyest of skin" Con Culainn maise malach "beauteous eyebrow"




The silver birch (Betula pendula Roth) is the most common tree in much of Europe. It grows up to 100 feet high, and is often found in sandy soils. It is one of the first trees to grow back in an area after a mature forest is cut; this is its symbolic connection with new beginnings and opportunities. Formerly covering the whole of the United Kingdom, it is a graceful and slender tree with a characteristic white bole. Beithe, has two meanings in Irish; "Being," (as in “to be”), and "A Being." (as in an entity) Children's cradles were made of Birch, and the inner bark provides a pain reliever while the leaves can be used to treat arthritis. Axe handles were also made from Birch. On the Isle of Man, off the west coast of Scotland, criminals were 'birched' to purify them and to drive out evil influences. Teachers staffs were made of these.



'Flame' or 'Rowan'

lí súla "lustre of the eye"

carae cethrae "friend of cattle"

lúth cethrae "sustenance of cattle"

The rowan, or mountain ash (Sorbus aucuparia L.) thrives in poor soils and disturbed areas. In some parts of Europe, rowans are most commonly found around ancient settlements. Rowans flower in May. They grow to 50 feet and are members of the rose family (Rosaceae). The rowan has a reputation as a protector against enchantment. Rune staves, (sticks upon which runes were inscribed,) were cut from this tree. Rowan wood was also used to divine for metal, as hazel twigs are used for water. Along with several other trees, the rowan played a central role in Druid ceremonies. Sprigs of rowan were hung over the main door of the house, and often worn to ward off enchantment or "the evil eye." In Wales, rowans were planted in churchyards to watch over the spirits of the dead.

Oghams; Letters inscribed in Stone 18




airenach fían "vanguard of warriors"

comét lachta "milk container"

dín cridi "protection of the heart"

The alder (Alnus glutinosa (L.) is a very ancient tree that has grown in the British Isles for thousands of years. This tree is easily recognized by its regularly spaced branches and its conical shape. Like the willow, it is a water-loving tree. The timber is oily and water-resistant, and is often used for under-water foundations. Parts of Venice and many medieval cathedrals were built on alder foundations. The common alder is found along lowland rivers, where it grows with aspens, poplars, and willows. Like willows, alders sprout from stumps. This allows them to regenerate after heavy flooding. In protected areas they may grow to 65 feet tall. Alders are members of the birch family (Betulaceae). Legend says that Bran the Blessed used his body to span the river Linon, forming a bridge to protect his followers from the flooding waters, as alder wood does when used as a building foundation. ᚄ S Sail 'Willow' lí ambi "lifeless pallor" lúth bech "sustenance of bees" tosach mela "beginning of honey"

The willow in the Ogham stands for the female and lunar rhythms of life. It is water-seeking, with a preference for damp, boggy areas, river banks, or low-lying meadows. It is an imposing tree, with a thick trunk covered by dark gray, heavily ridged bark. Its spreading branches create a very full shape, and its leaves are long and slender and covered with silver hairs that give the whole tree a shimmering appearance. The willow is sacred to the moon goddess. The willow was also used as a protection against damp diseases. ᚅ N Nin 'Branch-fork' costud síde "establishing peace" bág ban "boast of women" bág maise "boast of beauty"

The world tree is an ash, or is known as "The Cosmic Ash." It appears in Norse mythology as Yggdrasil (or the tree of Odin.) The ash tree has deeply penetrating roots and tends to sour the soil, which makes it hard for any other plants to grow around it. Its branches are thick and strong - in Norse mythology, it spans the universe, with its roots in the lower world and its branches supporting the heavens. In Celtic cosmology it connects the three circles of existence Abred, Gwynedd, and Ceugant - which are sometimes interpreted as the past, present and future (or as confusion, balance and creative force.) The ash can grow to one hundred and thirty feet high. This tree has distinctive black buds and its seeds grow in bunches, each with a long, thin wing. It grows in all climates, but tends to do best in soil that is rich with lime. Its white wood is excellent for burning, and was often used for oars, ax handles, and was a favorite of the Celts when making spears. Second Aicme; Second Fifth- (Bríatharogam) Letter Meaning 'Horror' or „Hawthorn‟ Morainn mac Moín condál cúan "packs of hounds" Maic ind Óc bánad gnúise "blanching of faces" Con Culainn ansam aidche "difficult at night"



The Hawthorn is the female tree often known as May, as it is closely associated with the tradition of 'maying,' or riding out on a spring morning and gathering hawthorne boughs laden with white flowers. These fragrant white blossoms were used to decorate the halls, and worn as crowns by maidens in wedding ceremonies. Young girls rose at dawn to bathe in dew gathered from hawthorn flowers to ensure their beauty in the coming year. "The fair maid who, the first of May, Goes to the fields at break of day And washes in dew from the hawthorn tree, Will ever after handsome be." The Hawthorn is a rather small tree that grows with a dense, many branched and twisted tangle. Due to its impenetrable growth, it is mainly used for hedgerows, and the origin of its name comes from the Anglo-Saxon 'haegthorn,' meaning hedge-thorn. It is also known as whitethorn. Its bark is smooth and gray and its wood is used to make maypoles for Beltane. Its leaves can be used to make tea, and it is said to be good for people with cardiac or circulatory problems. It is also a remedy for emotional distress or long term nervous conditions. Its juice can be used in the treatment of asthma, rheumatism, arthritis, and laryngitis.

Oghams; Letters inscribed in Stone 19




ardam dosae "highest tree"

grés soír "handicraft of a craftsman"

slechtam soíre "most carved of craftsmanship"

The oak was a central tree to the Druids, and is the king of the forest. Our modern English word "door," comes from the Gaelic word 'duir' - the word for solidity, protection... and the mighty oak tree. Oak groves were sacred to the druids. The oak tree has always protected Britain, by providing wood for the building of ships, and as boundaries between one area and another. Ovates, Bards, and Druids preached under their branches, gaining strength from their strength. The oak is associated with the celebration of Beltane, the spring Fire Festival of fertility and renewed growth. . The month of May is one of celebration, and the rebirth of life and living things. Besides providing strong timber for building, the oak's bark produces tannin, which was used extensively in the leather industry for tanning raw hides. The oak is one of the longest living trees in the forest, often living for seventy to eighty years, even after being struck by lightning. Acorns can be used to make a powerful antiseptic, and the juice from crushed oak leaves can be applied directly to wounds for the same purpose. A gargle made from the inner bark is useful to relieve sore throats and a decoction of the outer bark can help relieve severe fever symptoms.



'Iron Bar' or “Holly”

trian roith "1/3 parts of a wheel"

smiur gúaile "marrow of charcoal"

trian n-airm "1/3 parts of a weapon"

Holly is male, and symbolizes paternity and fatherhood, and the fight. With the Ivy and the Mistletoe, the Holly has always been regarded as a potent life symbol, both for his year-long foliage and for his winter fruits. Concealed within the verses of the "song of Amergin," chanted by a chief Bard as he landed on the shores of Ireland, is the line "I am a battle-Waging spear" Holly wood was generally used for spear shafts. The old name for Holly is Holm, preserved in such names as Holmsdale, Surrey. With the coming of Christianity, the Holly became the Holy tree (“crown of thorns”).




caíniu fedaib "fairest tree"

carae blóesc "friend of nutshells"

milsem fedo "sweetest tree"

The hazelnut, in Irish legend, was the fruit of wisdom, and was eaten by the salmon swimming in the pool of life. Thus the hazel is associated with meditation, wisdom and mediation. Hazel branches were also used for divination because of their pliancy and affinity for water. The hazel tree reaches 30 feet in height, but is often cut back. The nuts can be ground up and used to sooth sore throat and head cold symptoms. The dry skin covering the nut can also be ground up into a powder and used for the relief of heavy menstrual flows.



'Bush' or 'Apple'

clithar baiscill "shelter of a lunatic"

bríg anduini "insignificant person"

dígu fethail "dregs of clothing"

All apple trees are descended from the crab apple, which was likely the tree mentioned in the tree Ogham, as it grew wild in the British Isles and across much of Europe during the time of the Druids. The apple represents choice. The wood of the apple tree is good for both burning and carving, and poultice made from roasted for boiled apples removes burn marks from the skin, and eases inflamed eyes. It is also known to be good for the bowels and for sufferers of asthma and other lung ailments. The Apple when cut reveals a pentagram if cut laterally across the seeds.

Oghams; Letters inscribed in Stone 20

Third Aicme; Third Fifth- (Bríatharogam) Letter Meaning 'Vine', or 'Ruse/Trick' or 'Love;' Morainn mac Moín Maic ind Óc Con Culainn



tressam fedmae "strongest in exertion"

árusc n-airlig "slaughter"

conar gotha "path of the voice"

The grape vine governs the festival Lughnassadh. The fruit of the vine, the grape, can be used for many purposes: to make wine, calm coughs and distraught nerves, and aid in digestion. The leaves can be used (if boiled,) as a lotion for sore mouths, and as a poultice for inflammations. They are good for skin conditions, and a decoction of the leaves is often used as a treatment of kidney or bladder stones. This was very hard to cultivate in Briton and that connotation can be said of the vines as well. ᚌ G Gort 'Field' or “Ivy” milsiu féraib| "sweetest grass" ined erc "a place for cows" sásad ile "sating of multitudes"

The ivy is not considered a tree and belongs to the evergreen family, but depends on a host tree for support. It's leaves are deep green and rather waxy, and it has thin tendrils that attach themselves to surfaces, and are strong enough to force their way into bricks, cracks, and plaster. Ivy can grow in such abundance on a host tree that it smothers the tree and actually kills it. Ivy berries can be used for medicinal purposes, but can be poisonous if taken in large quantities. A broth of fresh leaves can be used to cleanse sores or wounds. A powder made from dried leaves and berries can be used to clear stuffy heads, and is also believed to be a cure for hangovers. The Ivy was considered to be a very powerful tree to the Celts because of its ability to kill even the mightiest Oak tree. Because of its tendency to create dense, impenetrable thickets in the forest, it is seen as more powerful than the vine, and rather sinister in nature. ᚍ GG Gétal 'Slaying' or “Broom” lúth lego "sustenance of a leech" étiud midach "physicians cloak" tosach n-échto "beginning of slaying"

The broom is a wide, bushy shrub that grows in abundance in the British Isles, and blooms in yellow pod-shaped flowers. It can grow to seven feet in height, and its stem can grow very thick and strong. Its branches are often dried and used as brooms (as the name suggests,) and a decoction of young branches and seeds can be used to treat malaria, gout and painful joints. It is also a good diuretic. Oil drawn from the stems (by heating them over and open fire,) can be used to treat toothaches, and for the removal parasites such as lice. Traditionally the Celts were a nomadic people. They camped on one place throughout the cold winter months, and would break camp in the spring when the first yellow blooms appeared on the broom. Thus the Reed can be said to cause a change in location as well as a cleansing of an area. ᚎ 'Sulphur' or “Blackthorn” tressam rúamnai "strongest reddening (dye)" mórad rún "increase of secrets" saigid nél "seeking of clouds"



The blackthorn is more of a shrub than a tree, and grows in dense, impenetrable thickets, often a nesting site for birds. It is covered with sharp thorns, has white, red-tipped flowers, and small oval leaves. It is the traditional wood of the Irish shillelagh, and is also used to make walking sticks. The fruit of the blackthorn bush are deep purple berries known as sloeberries. These berries ripen only after the first frost, and are used to make jam, and to flavor the famous sloe-gin. It is a good astringent and can be used to stop bleeding, both internally and externally. The leaves can be boiled into a decoction and used as a treatment for laryngitis and tonsillitis.

Oghams; Letters inscribed in Stone 21



'Red' or “Elder”

tindem rucci "most intense blushing"

rúamnae drech "reddening of faces"

bruth fergae "glow of anger"

In popular Celtic folklore, it was believed that it was unlucky to use Elder wood for a child's cradle, but that only Birch wood should be used to symbolize purity and new beginnings. The elder tree can grow to thirty feet in height, and is covered with a light brown bark with deep ridges and groves. Its leaves are broad and oval in shape, and it has a tiny white flower with five petals and a sweet scent. In autumn it is covered with bunches of black berries which are used to make wine and jam. Rich in vitamin C, a tea from the flowers is also used for the treatment of coughs and sore throat. Boiled leaves can be used in a mixture for the relief of pain in the ears. A distillation made from the flowers is used a skin cleanser, a cure for headaches and treatment for the common cold. The bark can be dried and used as a laxative. Fourth Aicme; Fourth Fifth- (Bríatharogam) Letter Meaning Morainn mac Moín ardam íachta "loudest groan" Maic ind Óc tosach frecrai "beginning of an answer" Con Culainn tosach garmae "beginning of calling"




The silver fir, from the family 'Abies,' is a variety of pine that grows in the mountainous regions on the upper slopes overlooking the lower forests. Firs are known to grow to tremendous heights. Two silver firs planted by the Duke Of Argyll in the early seventeenth century stood until recent times, and reached heights of 124 and 130 feet. The wood from fir trees is used in the making of furniture, and because of the straightness of the trunks, was used in the making of ship masts. It is a source of turpentine, resin and tar, and a tea made from the shoots can be used as a protection against urinary tract and kidney infections. At one time, much of Scotland was covered with these great trees, but now only small patches of them remain.



'Ash-tree' or “Furze”

congnaid ech "wounder of horses"

féthem soíre "smoothest of craftsmanship"

lúth fían "[equipment] of warrior bands"

The furze is a yellow-flowering shrub that grows profusely on the open moors and hillsides of Great Britain. It blooms year around, although it’s densest bloom is in the spring and early summer. Its flowers are rich in pollen and nectar, and give off a strong sweet honey/coconut scent. They are a favorite of honey bees. A decoction can be made of the flowers for the treatment of jaundice and to cleanse the kidneys of stones and obstructions.



'Earth' or “Heath”

úaraib adbaib "in cold dwellings"

sílad cland "propagation of plants"

forbbaid ambí "shroud of a lifeless one"

Heather is often connected with death and completion in the Celtic tree Ogham, but its name, Ur, means 'new.' Heather is the symbolic gateway linking the earth with the spirit world. Heather is a rather twisted gnarled plant that grows profusely on the moors and heaths of Scotland. It blooms in small purple, red and blue flowers, which are favored by bees for their pollen. As a medicinal, it is used chiefly as a treatment of nervous disorders and cardiac palpitations. It can also be used to treat menstrual pain and migraine headaches. Bees make a distinctive honey from its pollen, and the Picts used heather to brew a potent ale. Its roots and stems are used to make rope, thatch for roofs, and brooms.

Oghams; Letters inscribed in Stone 22




érgnaid fid "discerning tree"

commaín carat "exchange of friends"

bráthair bethi (?) "brother of birch" (?)

Of all the trees of the Celtic tree Ogham, the white poplar is most concerned with earthly and material aspects of life. Used by the ancients to make shields, it is believed to have the power to protect from death and injury. Poplars are often referred to as the 'whispering' or 'talking' trees, and in Irish Gaelic, as 'Crann Critheac', the quivering tree. The long flattened leaf stalks grow in such a way as to make a noise with every breeze that passes through the leaves. ᚔ sinem fedo "oldest tree" caínem sen "fairest of the ancients" lúth lobair (?) "energy of an infirm person" (?)




The yew tree lives the longest of all of the trees of the Celtic Tree Ogham. They are often found in cemeteries, but may be far older than the cemetery itself. The Crowhurst Yew in Surrey is believed to be at least 1,600 years old. Research work by dendrochronologists indicates that some yew trees in British churchyards may be as ancient as four thousand years old! This longevity is achieved through the style of growth. The yew's branches grow down into the ground to form new stems, which grow to become trunks of separate but linked growth. In time, the central trunk becomes old, but a new tree grows from within the decay, and is indistinguishable from the original growth. Thus the yew tree represents age, rebirth and reincarnation - the birth of a new soul which springs from ancient roots. The average yew tree grows to fifty feet in height. It is an evergreen with dark green needles (light underneath) and bears a bright red fruit containing a single seed. Female flowers are green and small, as contrasted to male flowers which appear on different trees and are slightly larger and yellow in color. The needles bark and sap are extremely poisonous and has no medicinal uses. Forfedha; Additional phonetics- (Bríatharogam) Letter Meaning Morainn mac Moín Maic ind Óc cosc lobair "[admonishing?] of an infirm person" Con Culainn




snámchaín feda "fair-swimming letter"

caínem éco "fairest fish"



'Gold' or „Spindle‟

sruithem aicde "most venerable substance" túthmar fid "fragnant tree" milsem fedo "sweetest tree"

lí crotha "splendour of form"



'Elbow' or „Honeysuckle‟

cubat oll "great elbow/cubit" amram mlais "most wonderful taste" mol galraig "groan of a sick person"



'Thorn' or „Gooseberry‟



'Twin-ofhazel' or „Witch hazel‟

lúad sáethaig "groan of a sick person"

Oghams; Letters inscribed in Stone 23

Calder, George. Auraicept Na N'Eces (The Scholar's Primer). London, England UK: Translated from and earlier script, 1917. Graves, Robert. "The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth." Faber and Faber, 1946. Matthews, Caitlin. Celtic Wisdom Sticks. St. Paul MN USA: Llewellyn Publications, 2001. McColman, Carl. 366 Celt. Upper Saddle River NJ USA: Prentice Hall, 2005. Miller, Liberty. Oghams; an Introduction. 2001. 2011 <http://ogham.lyberty.com/oghamintro.html>. Old, Spirit of. Spirits of Old. 2005. 2011 <http://www.spiritofold.co.uk/divination/ogham.htm>. Rowan, Laurie Erynn. Ogam; Weaving Word Wisdom. Stafford England UK: Megalithic books, 2009. Unknown, Author. Book of Ballymote. Dublin, Ireland UK, 1381. Webster, Richard. Omens, Oghams, & Oracles. St. Paul MN USA: Llewellyn Publications, 1995.

Oghams; Letters inscribed in Stone 24

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