Collecting the Ogham

A growing ogham collection. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Slowly, slowly, my understanding of the ogham grows. As that flourishes, so does my collection of ogham wood.  Since the summer, I’ve started to locate trees named in the ogham system, seek their fallen branches, made offerings to the trees, and learned more about them.  Birch (beith) and ash (nion) came down during summer storms.  Willow (sail) was found bellow a beautiful tree on the St. Lawrence River.

Today we experienced a bit of a heat wave in Northern NY: 20 degrees F!  Oooh baby!  In all seriousness, it was truly a more comfortable day to get some fresh air.  Gone was the biting, icy breath of An Cailleach.  The softly falling snow insulated the land.  While Bee enthusiastically chopped the snowbanks, I spied a small branch dangling from a nearby apple tree, hanging by just a thread of bark.  I trudged through the high banks, asked the apple tree if I could have the branch, and it quickly separated.  I felt that was a resounding “yes!”  I didn’t have anything with me, so I promised future offerings and gave a song.  When we left, Bee and I said “bye bye” to the apple tree.  (I absolutely love how she talks to trees like her mama.)  The thickest portion of the branch is now with the rest of my growing ogham collection, waiting to be sanded a bit and labeled – apple – ceirt.

I’m undecided on whether or not I will utilize these tools for divination.  Author and friend Skip Ellison of ADF advises on using uniform disks so as to avoid the possibility of memorizing the shape of different twigs and drawing what is desired rather than what is needed, even unconsciously.  Others argue that the ogham symbols should truly be represented by the trees themselves, but that seems dismissive of their having been carved into stone, and their representing other things, such as animals and rivers, as well.  Still studying and making up my own mind.  One thing is for certain – I’m planning to work with these ogham sticks for magic.  Say I want to charge something for a specific purpose.  I could sprinkle an object with sacred water using a specific ogham stick, place them in a bag together, etc.  I could place an ogham stick under my pillow to help direct my dreams, or carry one in a pocket to help me with a situation.  So many possibilities!

My search for the ogham will continue.  I already know where I will obtain oak, elder, and rowan.  Others, such as mistletoe and blackthorn, will be a real challenge.

Published by M. A. Phillips

An author and Druid living in Northern NY.

7 thoughts on “Collecting the Ogham

    1. Oh my goodness… That would be wonderful! I would be happy to send money for shipping! My one worry about this is moving wood across regions, but I’m planning to dry it inside and eventually coat it with beeswax. It won’t be outside so I would hope that would minimize any risk of invasive species, right?

  1. The idea of the Ogham is really cool. That has to be a benefit to living in a part of the country more dominated by deciduous forest — that more of the associated trees are around. According to the wikipedia article that I’m glancing at, there’s only one letter for pine or fir trees. I suppose one could design a modified Ogham for the pantheon of organisms in one’s own region, though…

    1. It’s a very fascinating system of writing. You have to work through some of the fluff surrounding it (like the Celtic tree calendar…), but otherwise, there are many things to learn through it, and a lot of actual lore to back up the spiritual meanings of the symbols.

      I’ve thought some about making symbols for local trees. Many of the varieties that exist in Ireland also exist in Upstate NY, but a few are more elusive… I’m not sure about blackthorn, for example. I’ve been thinking about making a symbol to represent white pine that would look like five needles growing out of a straight branch.

  2. Could you possibly recommend a particular resource? I have an interest in studying the Ogham, and I would be eager to hear which books you would recommend studying from.

    1. Sure! Two books that have really helped me, and come recommended by other ADFers, are Skip Ellison’s “Ogham: The Secret Language of the Druids,” and “Celtic Tree Mysteries” by Steve Blamires. One that is on my to-read list is “Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom” by Erynn Rowan Laurie. A lot of CRs and Druids swear by it.

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