Super Short Ogham Intro - Lora O'Brien - Irish Author & Guide

Super Short Ogham Intro

170r of the Book of Ballymote (1390)

Ogham (Ogam) – the Ancient Irish Art of Writing

Ogham (Pronounced: OH-mm, spelled ‘Ogam’ in Old Irish) is an ancient Irish language, written in a series of simple line markings along a straight edge.  The original alphabet is a set of 20 characters or feda, arranged in 4 groups of 5, called aicmí.  In later manuscripts, 5 additional letters appear, called the forfeda.

The characters themselves are known collectively as Beth-luis-nin, after the first letters of the groups, similar to the way Greek Alpha and Beta gave us the ‘alphabet’.  Each Ogham letter is associated with a plant or tree, and a particular sound, and represents a collection of ‘kennings’; keys to knowledge, called the Briatharogaim.

While the texts and tales frequently mention Ogham being carved on wood and bark – used for spells and to record genealogies – it is the 358 inscribed stones known to remain in Ireland which provide a more permanent record.  These seem to have served as burial or commemoration stones, boundary markers, and even a legal record for who might hold title to the land on which they stand.

It is impossible to definitively date the language, as we have no certain fixed points in history, archaeology, or linguistics.  Most will agree that the Ogham carved stone tradition dates at least back to the 300’s CE, coinciding with the coming of the Latin language to Ireland, through trade with Roman Britain and the scholarship of Christian monks.  Whether this was the start of the script, or it has deeper Pagan roots, is a question that waits to be answered.

Ogham’s importance in a hero’s burial is immortalised in the Táin:

“Then Etarcomol’s grave was dug
And his headstone planted in the ground
His name was written in Ogam
And he was mourned.”

 

Further Ogham Resources

Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom, by Erynn Rowan Laurie

Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom is a breakthrough in ogam divination and magical studies. Rather than working from the commonly known tree alphabet paradigm, Erynn Rowan Laurie takes us back to the roots of each letter’s name, exploring its meanings in the context of Gaelic language and culture. Like the Norse runes, each letter is associated with an object or a concept — “sulfur”, “a bar of metal”, “terror”. These letters are deeply enmeshed in a web of meaning both cultural and spiritual, lending power and weight to their symbolism. With two decades of experience with the ogam and over thirty years of working with divination, Erynn offers insights into the many profound meanings hidden in the ogam letters and their lore. She explains each letter in context and shows how to expand the system in new and innovative ways while acknowledging and maintaining respect for ogam’s traditional language and culture. In this book, you will find ways to use the ogam for divination, ideas on incorporating ogam into ritual, discussions of how ogam relates to Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism, and instructions for creating your own set of ogam feda or letters for your personal use.

Get Your Copy Here (it’s an affiliate link; I’ll get a few cents if you buy here, but it costs you nothing!)

 

The Poet’s Ogam: A Living Magical Tradition, by John-Paul Patton

This book is a creative exploration of the Ogam, based on a 17-year study by Irish author John-Paul Patton. The text explores the historical context of Ogam and the relationship between Ogam, poetry and the Gaelic harp. It contains a range of comparative studies between Ogam and the Kabbalah, Runes, I Ching and other systems. The text also presents original creations of an Ogam calendar, a divination system, and a reconstruction of Fidchell (the ancient Irish chess game) based on Ogam. The text further includes a system of Gaelic martial arts based on an elemental Ogam framework, magical Ogam squares, Ogam pentacles and much more, that fill this Tour de Force of contemporary Ogam study and use. The Poet’s Ogam carries on the Art and Science of the Filid-the Philosopher Poets who created and developed the Ogam and is a must for anyone with an interest in Celtic spirituality and magick. John-Paul Patton is generally recognised as a leading authority in Ireland of esoteric Ogam studies.

Get Your Copy Here (it’s an affiliate link; I’ll get a few cents if you buy here, but it costs you nothing!)

 

Lora O'Brien

Irish Author and Guide to Ireland

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
sallyerobinson Reply

This is fascinating to me. I look forward to hearing more about your method of connecting with the Ogham. Please ad me to the information email list.

Anthony Reply

I was taught how to toss the Ogham sticks and read them by my great grandmother. I cherish the ability to be able to pass this wonderful tradition to my children and relatives. Thank you for sharing more information about this subject.

Kathleen Ronan Foley Reply

Very interesting.

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