Friday, April 20, 2012
A Putative History of the Ogham
Sorry we’ve been gone so long. It’s been a combination of illness, computer issues, and Stephen either being off with Lizet, or vainly trying trying to cure his financial inconvenience. But we’re retooling and revamping all our teaching groups. Thank you for your patience. You know, we’re not the only ones who can post to this group. Anyone in the group can post. Tegwedd has been posting her “Omens in the Gloamin’” every day for the past few months on her Facebook page under the name Teresa Reitan, and one of them is an Ogham omen. Just thought you ought to know. Our friend Len has been supplying the integration of all three Omens, and very inspired have they been, too. Aigeann, and our new friend in Mexico, Ricardo Bravo have been extremely helpful too. Len McQueed is Tegwedd’s new paduwan, and he is a very eager and apt learner. He’s only been a Pagan for a little under 4 years, but what a lot he’s picked up in a short time. We’ve mentioned before that he does the Integration of all 3 Omens, the other two of which are the Rune for the Day, and the Tarot Card for the Day, neither of which do we discuss here, except to say that he studies all three Omens, and synthesizes an Integration out of elements of all three. “I just open my mind to the Goddess, and She does the rest,” he says. So this post will be a back to basics one. Ogham comes from either Ogma (Irish) or Ogmios (Gaulish), who was a God of great eloquence. Another name for the Ogham is the Celtic Tree Alphabet, which describes a year of thirteen months, each represented by a tree. The Wikipedia gives several theories for Ogham’s origins, ranging from the probable; origin in the 1st century CE as a cryptic way to communicate by way of hand signals kept hidden from the Romans, whom the Irish feared would invade Erin, to the ridiculous, that it originated approximately 600 BCE with the fall of the Tower of Babel, and the approach of the Goidelic people from Scythia. However it originated, it soon grew into a major way of engraving on stones to mark who was buried in which grave, or an event that happened here. We urge all of you to read the Wikipedia article, and ponder the other three theories of origin. Make up your own minds, or accept all five, we don’t care, just so you think about it. Len advanced an excellent question “How can the Ogham be used in our lives today?” One way is by using the letters as a means of divination. This use is of relatively recent origins, having only emerged in the 1970s. Tegwedd read that somewhere, but it wasn’t AD Ellison who wrote it. Perhaps it was in Edred Thorsson’s “The Book of Ogham.” There are both Ogham cards (Stephen and Tegwedd each have two sets) and Ogham fews or sticks. Five years ago Tegwedd made a couple sets of Ogham fews or sticks using felt tip markers on craft sticks, one set of which she gave to Stephen when she moved in here three and a half years ago. They also each have Caitlin Matthews’ “Wisdom Sticks”, and a set Caitlin ni Manannan made for each of us out of wood people brought her when they were trimming their trees and hedges. Tegwedd uses her set each day. Her set is one of her most cherished possessions. Tegwedd uses two books as authorities on the Ogham. One is the slender hard back book by Liz and Colin Murray that comes with “The Celtic Tree Oracle.” The other reference she uses is Edred Thorsson’s (Stephen Flowers) “The Book of Ogham. There is a third book, written by Skip Ellison, ArchDruid Emeritus of the ADF. Stephen wants you to know that the thirteen tree-months of the Celtic calendar also form the basis of Celtic astrology. Robert Graves, in his “The White Goddess,” wrote extensively about the tree calendar, and the “Battle of Trees.” Stephen uses all three systems together, Ogham cards (the aforementioned “Celtic Tree Oracle”), Rune cards, and Tarot cards, and has come up with very cogent and revealing readings using them together. Besides “stem” what is the staff called that the oghams branch out from? Confused inquiring minds want to know, and we thought one or some of you might know. We have a question for all of you out there. Do your research. Was Ogham used primarily in Britain or in Ireland? Tegwedd believes it was used primarily in Ireland, but is open to being corrected if she is wrong. AbbottsInn believes that both Britain and Ireland used Ogham, as well as Gaul. “Everywhere the Celts went, the Ogham was sure to follow.” What do you, dear readers, think? However, Hallstadt and La Tene were probably too early to have had the benefits of Ogham. As was mentioned before, Tegwedd likes the theory that Ogham dates from the 1st century CE, but is open to the discovery of archaeological evidence that indicates that it developed either earlier or later. She has read dates as late as the 2nd or even the 3rd century CE. Ogham is older than the Tarot, since the Tarot dates from only about one thousand years ago, although Ogham’s use as a divinatory system, as was said before, only dates from the 1970s. This is Skip Ellison’s opinion, based upon some very compelling evidence. Skip Ellison is ArchDruid Emeritus of the ADF and wrote a book on the Ogham titled “The Druids’ Alphabet” “What Do We Know About the Oghams?” Sticks of iron or bronze that have Oghamic markings on them have been found in Druids’ graves. The sticks are the length of a man’s hands, from the tip of his middle finger, to his wrist, and thinner than his fingers. It is not known what they were used for, although theories and speculations abound. They were in sets from four to half a dozen in each grave mound. Some guess that they might have been used for some sort of sortilege-type of divination (casting lots).