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The Ogham


The Celtic alphabet is known as Ogham (pronounced "Oh-m" or "Oh-wam") and was created by the Celtic god of literature and eloquence, Ogma. He was known as "honey mouthed" and "eloquent" and has been linked with the Gaulish God Ogmios. In the Book of Ballymote, the invention of Ogham was achieved when "Ogma Sun-Face raised four pillars of equal length", and it was upon these pillars that the characters of the letters were etched. The primary manuscript sources for information on Ogham are The Scholars Primer (Auraicept Na nEces), Values of the Forfeda (De Duilib Feda na Forfid), and the Book of Ogham (Leber Ogam).

There are 369 verified examples of Ogham writing surviving today. These exist in the form of gallán (standing stones) concentrated in Ireland but scattered across Scotland, the Isle of Man, South Wales, Devonshire, and as far afield as Silchester in Italy. Similar markings, dating to 500 BC, have been found on standing stones in Spain and Portugal. The discovery of similar carvings in the state of West Virginia in the United States, has caused some speculation that the Celts may have come to the New World as early as 100 BC.

There are numerous accounts in the ancient literature which suggests that Ogham was a type of writing and signalling that was used only by the bards , druids and warriors. The druid could use the ridge of his nose or arm and stroke across it in different ways with his fingers to denote the different symbols. One Ogham symbol could mean many different whole words for example 'B' meant Birch, Beginning, White, Pheasant(Besan), Birth, Fertility as well as others. The type of object it was carved into had symbolism also. Such as if it was carved into Alder, it was a "bad" omen, thus it was used for funerary measuring and was much feared.

The most famous Ogham system today is the Tree Ogham, which was split up into: Eight Chieftain trees, eight peasant trees and eight shrub trees. The letters are constructed using a combination of lines placed adjacent to or crossing a midline. Vowels were sometimes described as a combination of dots. The midline was, most often, the edge of the object on which the inscription was carved, this is called a 'Druim' which means ridge or spine. An alphabet of twenty-five characters used for stone and wood inscriptions in Celtic Britain and Ireland. An alphabet of twenty characters reportedly used for divination and hand-signing in paganism. Each of the Ogham's twenty letters bears the name of a tree-- A: 'Ailim' (Elm), B: 'Bithe' (Birch), C: 'Coll' (Hazel), for example.

The Ogham alphabet is read up and down on megaliths and boundary markers or horizontally left to right in manuscripts.


Using The Ogham  for divination

The Ogham (pronounced owam) alphabet, like the Futhark alphabet, contains a great amount of hidden significance. Each letter is a month in the lunar year, and has a color and a meaning associated with it. Each letter, represented by a tree, also has a classification to show the importance of that tree. This classification, of chieftan, peasant, or shrub, has little or nothng to do with he meaning. Two symbols, the Grove and the Sea, have no classification, because the Druids knew these things to be powerful in their own right.

To divine the future with the alphabet, mark one symbols each on one side of a number of flat sticks. You can also mark cards, and divine in a method similar to the Tarot. Chose seven of these sticks without looking. Think of your question, holding the sticks in both hands, then toss them softly to the ground in front of you. The sticks closest to you mark the present, and those farther away the future. If two sticks touch, they effect each other directly.

As a side note, this alphabet can be used as a sort of "sign-language", since most symbols are made by the crossing of a line by a number of others, rapid hand gestures can be used to spell out words, or the meanings can be used to provide faster communication.

Here are the letters and meaning of the Ogham alphabet. They are all written along a single vertical line. Most of the letters are simple, being a few lies crossing the center, in the same way (i.e., all straight across), but the Crane Bag, the last five letters, are more complex.

B - Beth - Birch
Color: White
Class: Peasant
Meaning: New beginnings; changes; purification.
Written: A single bar straight to the right of the line.

L - Luis - Rowan
Color: Grey & Red

Class: Peasant
Meaning: Controlling your life, protection against such by others.
Written: Two bars straight to the right.

F,V - Fearn - Alder
Color: Crimson
Class: Chieftan
Meaning: Help in making choices; spiritual guidance and protection.
Written: Three bars straight to the right.

S - Saille - Willow
Color: "Bright"
Class: Peasant
Meaning: Gaining balance in your life.
Written: Four bars straight to the right.

N - Nuin - Ash
Color: Grass Green
Class: Chieftan
Meaning: Locked into a chain of events, feeling bound.
Written: Five bars straight to the right.

H - Huathe - Hawthorn
Color: Purple
Class: Peasant
Meaning: Being held back for a period of time.
Written: One bar straight to the left of the line.

D - Duir - Oak
Color: Black
Class: Chieftan
Meaning: Security; strength.
Written: Two bars straight to the left.

T - Tinne - Holly
Color: Dark Grey
Class: Peasant
Meaning: Energy and guidance for problems to come.
Written: Three bars straight to the left.

C,K - Coll - Hazel
Color: Brown
Class: Chieftan
Meaning: Creative energies for work or projects.
Written: Four bars straight to the left.

Q - Quert - Apple
Color: Green
Class: Shrub
Meaning: A choice must be made.
Written: Five bars straight to the left.

M - Muin - Vine
Color: Variated
Class: Chieftan
Meaning: Inner development occuring, but take time to relax.
Written: One bar diagonally across the line.

G - Gort - Ivy
Color: Sky Blue
Class: Chieftan
Meaning: Take time to soul search or you will make a wrong decision.
Written: Two diagonal bars.

NG - Ngetal - Reed
Color: Grass Green
Class: Shrub
Meaning: Upsets or surprises.
Written: Three diagonal bars.

SS,Z,ST - Straif - Blackthorn
Color: Purple
Class: Shrub
Meaning: Resentment; confusion; refusing to see the truth.
Written: Four diagonal bars.

R - Ruis - Elder
Color: Red
Class: Shrub
Meaning: Learning from past mistakes; take care in choices.
Written: Five diagonal bars.

A - Ailim - Silver Fir
Color: Light Blue
Class: Shrub
Meaning: Learning from past mistakes; take care in choices.
Written: One bar horizontally across the line.

O - Ohn - Furze
Color: Yellow Gold
Class: Chieftan
Meaning: Information that could change your life.
Written: Two horizontal bars.

U,W - Ur - Heather & Mistletoe
Color: Purple
Class: Heather=Peasant, Mistletoe=Chieftan
Meaning: Healing and development on the spiritual level.
Written: Three horizontal bars.

E - Eadha - Aspen
Color: Silver White
Class: Shrub
Meaning: Problems; doubts; fears.
Written: Four horizontal bars.

I,J,Y - Ioho - Yew
Color: Dark Green
Class: Chieftan
Meaning: Complete change in life-direction or attitude.
Written: Five horizontal bars.

CH,KH,EA - Koad - Grove
Color: Many Greens
Meaning: Wisdom gained by seeing past illusions.
Written: X across the line, crossing at the line.

TH,OI - Oir - Spindle
Color: White
Class: Peasant
Meaning: Finish obligations and tasks or you cannot move forward.
Written: < and > on opposite sides of the line, forming a diamond.

P,PE,UI - Uilleand - Honeysuckle
Color: Yellow-white
Class: Peasant
Meaning: Proceed with caution.
Written: X made of doubled lines (i.e. =) on the right of the line.

PH,IO - Phagos - Beech
Color: Orange-Brown
Class: Chieftan
Meaning: New experiences and information coming.
Written: A line up from the right side of the line, spiraling clockwise towards the center.

AE,X,XI - Mor - the Sea
Color: Blue-Green
Meaning: Travel
Written: see chart below