When Trees Were Revered: The Celtic Tree Calendar & Alphabet
The origins of this script is unknown, considering much of Druidic/Celtic tradition and wisdom was not physically preserved in texts or documents, and was essentially lost over time. What scholars do know comes from manuscripts and documents produced by outside sources who visited the Celts/Druids and recorded their own observations of the traditions and practices. Most of the recorded information came for secondary sources and modern recording of the oral traditions. Scholars do know the basic technical aspects and symbolism of the ancient script.
The Ogham script is made up of symbols of straight lines, known as flesc (flayshk), spaced along a central stemline.
Each symbol represents a particular letter, and each letter is named after a tree or plant, or after a natural element such as lightning or the sea.
The script seems to not have developed out of any earlier form of writing, but is individual in its own right. Most of the original Ogham inscriptions remaining today can be found on standing stone pillars throughout the United Kingdom. These ancient examples mainly describe names of past-loved ones or directions to a nearby town, but many historians believe the “Ogham was some sort of magical or secret script meant to be seen and used by the Druidic order” (Balmires). Whatever the origins and purpose of the Ogham, it remains as a tool of healing and divination for those who continue to practice traditional Druidic and Celtic traditions in modern times.
The trees included in the Ogham Calendar are: Birch, Rowan, Alder, Willow, Ash, Hawthorn, Oak, Holly, Hazel, Apple, Vine, Ivy, Reed, Blackthorn, and Elder.
It is important to mention that all trees were revered as sacred wisdom keepers. The Druids are known for worshiping in sacred groves of trees, called the nemeton, and perhaps the Ogham script is representative of their divine connection with these tree spirits.
In Celtic tradition it was believed there were originally two powerful source energies that came to our planet, and these two energies spread their knowledge and essence in the form of spirits called dryads. Upon being spread throughout the Earth, the dryads made their homes in the trees and remained there, representing “a cosmic expression of the primeval archetypal essence” from which they came (Mountfort).
Each tree served as a portal into the “unseen realm” in which “totems, guides, and deities could be reached for instruction and healing” (Mountfort).
Sacred knowledge and guidance is transferred to individuals who seek guidance from the dryads residing in the different trees. In essence, trees serve as wisdom keepers and the entities which one turned to for direction, assistance, and answers to some of life’s mysteries.
One must then begin to personally connect with each piece of wood. It is important and necessary to grasp and fully understand how one piece of wood represents of all the trees of the species and is a key to the wisdom of the tree itself.
The Ogham letter representing that tree is then painted or carved on the piece of wood. A full set of Ogham sticks is created once a specimen of each tree is collected and the letter is painted/carved onto the wood.
Once the sticks are made, a ritual is performed with each tree so as to activate connection and initiate a relationship and energetic connection with the dryad for guidance and communication.
After the ceremonies occur, these sticks can then be used as talismen that you hold as you make “Otherworld journeys”, or they can be used as a divinatory tool, “whose meanings are displayed in the way they fall when tossed in the air, or in the order you pick them at random from beneath a piece of cloth” (Balmires). There is no one correct way to use Ogham sticks. It is important to allow intuition to guide the interaction because they are powerful tools used to help communicate with the Green World.
The sense of loneliness and lack of connection I once felt has disappeared now that I have found the Ogham and reconnected with my ancestral roots.
When I first was introduced to the Ogham, I met with a Doctor of Indigenous Medicine and upon hearing about my new-found connection, she exclaimed to me that she could ‘see’ the Tree spirits and Greenworld literally waiting and knocking on my unconscious doorway of awareness to invite them into my life. Now that I have begun the process of uniting with my Celtic ancestors via the Ogham, my life will never be the same. I am grateful for this reconnection and look forward to it growing and continuing to deepen.
- Blamires, Steve. Celtic Tree Mysteries: Secrets of The Ogham. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1998
- Hidalgo, Sharlyn. The Healing Power Of Trees: Spiritual Journeys Through The Celtic Tree Calendar. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2010.
- Mountfort, Paul Rhys. Ogam: The Celtic Oracle of the Trees. Rochester, VT: Destiny Books, 2001.
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