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The Trees

birch
Beith ~ Birch
Beginnings, Purity, Renewal, Birth, Changes
60px-Ogham_vertical_letter_beith.svgOne of the first trees to colonise the land after the last ice age, the Birch tree embodied the the life giving spirit of the ‘Earth Goddess’; she was also known as the ‘Lady of the Woods’. The Silver Birch was believed to have been a portal to the ‘Otherworld’ and was associated with the ancient Welsh Celtic Goddess Arianrhod.

 

rowan
Luis ~ Rowan
Protection, Inspiration, Magic
60px-Ogham_vertical_letter_luis.svgAlso known as ‘Mountain Ash’, this beautiful tree can thrive at much higher altitudes than many others so was seen to be ‘closer to the Divine’ by the Ancient Celts. A member of the Rosaceae family with tiny pentagrams on its berries, it was believed to provide magical protection. Associated ancient Celtic deities were Rhiannon and Brighid – ‘Goddess as Protector’, ‘The Lady of the Mountains’

 

alder
Fearn ~ Alder
Guidance, Confidence, A Shield, The Sage
60px-Ogham_vertical_letter_fearn.svgOnce used to make the shields of Celtic Warriors the Alder represented ‘strength and courage’ as well as ‘guidance and wisdom’. The wood of this tree is also very water resistant and was used in the building of crannogs, the ancient lake dwellings of Ireland and Scotland. The ancient deity associated with Fearn was Bran, the ‘Guardian of Britain’ whose head is said to be buried at the White Mount in London, upon which the Tower of London is now located.

 

willow
Saille ~ Willow
Intuition, Divination, Dreams, Emotions
60px-Ogham_vertical_letter_sail.svgOften to be found growing in or near watery places, Saille was associated with the emotions, the power of the moon, enchantment and witchcraft. Using psychic power to commune with those in the Otherworld was, for the ancient Celts, a very normal part of life; those with the gift of ‘the sight’ were highly respected in their communities. The ancient Celtic moon Goddess Cerridwen represented the divinity of Saille.

 

ash
Nuinn ~ Ash
Change, Order, Harmony, Balance.
 60px-Ogham_vertical_letter_nion.svgKnown as a ‘World Tree’ due to it’s great height – ‘Yggdrasil’ in Norse mythology. Nuinn was also associated with the ancient Celtic magician and ‘shapeshifter’, Gwyddion, and the Celtic sea God Manannan. Druids’ wands were often made of Ash and it is said that St. Patrick used a stick of Ash to drive the snakes out of Eire.

 

hawthorn
Huathe ~ Hawthorn
Obstructions, Obstacles, being held back..
60px-Ogham_vertical_letter_uath.svgHuathe was believed to be a tree of enchantment, a ‘fairy tree’ associated with the Celtic virgin Goddess Olwen. Solitary Hawthorn trees or bushes are often to be found near wells and springs and the Celts saw them as entrances or ‘portals’ to the ‘Otherworld’. The famous ‘Glastonbury Thorn’ is a Hawthorn.

 

oak
Duir ~ Oak
Protection, Strength, Nobility
 60px-Ogham_vertical_letter_dair.svgDuir was ‘King of the Woods’, sacred to the Druids and the ancient Celtic ‘God of perfect knowledge’, Dagda. The roots of the Oak tree were said to run as deep into the ground as its branches can grow up into the air, therefore Duir was thought to ’exist in the Otherworld’ as well as this world. It is said that Merlin practised his magic in a grove of Oak trees with an Oak wand. The Oak as well as being a noble tree also represented ‘hospitality’ which is why so many pubs and inns in Britain are named  ‘The Royal Oak’.

Photo courtesy of:

www.free-images.org.uk

 

holly
Tinne ~ Holly
Challenge, Spiritual Testing, Defence
60px-Ogham_vertical_letter_tinne.svgAssociated with the tools of the ancient Celtic warrior, weapons were forged in a fire of holly and the wood was also often used for making chariot shafts. Tinne also represented the ‘Holly King’ who was said to rule over the ‘dark half’ of the year, from Midsummer to Midwinter, with Duir representing the ‘Oak King’, who ruled the first ‘light’ half of the year. The Celts regarded the Oak and the Holly as ‘opposites of the same’, the dual aspects of the ‘Sun God’. The ancient Irish deity Lugh was one of the several solar hero-figures identified with the ‘Holly King’.

Photo courtesy of:

www.FindMePlants.co.uk

 

hazel
Coll ~ Hazel
Wisdom, Divination, Inspiration
60px-Ogham_vertical_letter_coll.svgHazel was the Celtic tree of ‘inspired knowledge’. It was believed that the mythical ’Salmon of Wisdom’ acquired its knowledge by eating nine hazelnuts which fell from nine hazel trees surrounding the ‘Well of Wisdom’. Hazel Trees often grow by water which has long been associated with intuition – dowsing rods are often made of hazel wood. Celtic Deities which represented the qualities of Coll were Mannanan Mac Lir and Brighid, ‘Goddess of Inspiration’.

Photo courtesy of:

www.FindMePlants.co.uk

 

apple
Quert ~ Apple
Health, Healing, Love..
60px-Ogham_vertical_letter_ceirt.svgAvalon, translates as the ‘Island of Apples’ and is in Celtic myth ’the land of youth and immortality’. Therefore apples were considered to be ‘the food of the Gods’. When an apple is cut crosswise a ‘pentagram’ is revealed which was said to signify that the apple was also a fruit of the ‘Goddess’ and a tree of protection with links to the ‘Otherworld’. Quert was also said to be representative of ‘the heart and our emotions’, of love and ‘generosity of spirit’. The associated Celtic Goddess is Cerridwen.

 

vine
Muinn ~ Vine
Unity, Work Completion, Festivity
60px-Ogham_vertical_letter_muin.svgMuinn can refer to all vine like bushes or brambles, the connection to a grapevine was probably a late one for the Celts with vines not being introduced to Britain until the Roman era. The spiralling vine, which features often in Celtic art, was symbolic of the ‘intertwining of the conscious and unconscious mind’. The drinking of alcohol was thought to provide ‘Divine Inspiration’ and wine especially so with the grapevine’s ability to grow so high above the trees that support it. Grapevines need to be meticulously cared for if we want them to bear fruit and/or produce wine; great patience is needed to receive good harvest. Muinn spoke of the ‘realisation of personal projects’ as well as ‘inner development’. The ancient Welsh moon Goddess Cerridwen was linked with ‘Divine Inspiration’ and so connected with Muinn.

Photo courtesy of:

www.public-domain-image.com

How to Grow Grapes!

 

ivy
Gort ~ Ivy
Restriction, Binding, Tenacity
 60px-Ogham_vertical_letter_gort.svgAssociated with the ‘Goddess’ as well as the planets and stars, Gort represented ‘the knowledge of the Universe’. Evergreen Ivy is an incredibly powerful plant, ruthless in its tenacity, using other plants and trees to support its growth until it constricts them to death, it can even kill the mighty Oak! The Welsh Celtic Goddess Arianrhod was the deity for Gort, her heavenly abode was said to be the constellation Corona Borealis.

 

broom
Ngetal ~ Broom
Healing, Cleansing, Strength
 60px-Ogham_vertical_letter_ngeadal.svgAs the name of this tree tells us, its long flexible branches have long been used in the making of besoms and brooms. The association with Witches or ‘Wise Women’ linked with ‘clearing, cleansing, healing and protective’ properties. Broom represented the ‘clearing out of inner negative energies’ and was known as ‘The Physician’s Strength’; ‘shedding the emotional baggage, bad habits and fears that hold us back physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually so we can bring harmony into our lives’. An associated ancient deity is the Celtic God Cernunnos or ‘The Horned One’.

 

 

 blackthorn
Straif ~ Blackthorn
Negativity, Pain, Conflicts
60px-Ogham_vertical_letter_straif.svgSeen as the ‘sister tree’ of the Hawthorn or ‘Whitethorn’, Straif was said to rule the dark half of the year and Huathe the light half – similar to the Holly and Oak Kings. Straif literally translates as ‘strife’ and so was associated with misfortune and negative forces. The thorns of this shrub were once used as weapons known as ‘pins of sleep’, having been tipped with poison before piercing the victim. The Cailleach the ‘Divine Hag’ and the Morrigan the ‘Phantom Queen’  were the deities associated with Straif which was not all about evil but also signified ‘protection, transformation and awakening’ – the breakdown of old things to make way for the new.

Photo courtesy of:

elder
Ruis ~ Elder
Karma, Regret, The Inevitable..
60px-Ogham_vertical_letter_ruis.svgThe Elder represented ‘the Goddess’ in all her aspects as ‘Maiden, Mother and Crone’, especially the ‘Crone’ who was said to guard this tree and bring bad fortune to anyone who dared to cut it down! The ancient Celts therefore connected Ruis with death and the ‘dark mysteries’, as well as ‘regeneration’, as death for them simply meant a transition from one ‘realm of existence’ into the next. The Celts also believed that one should die with dignity and honour which connected with the ideas of Karma and evolutionary change.
pine
Ailm ~ Pine/Fir
Purification, Elation, Experiences..
60px-Ogham_vertical_letter_ailm.svgAilm was connected with the Sun and the Midwinter Solstice; the birth of the ‘Sun-Child’ – the winter born ‘God-King’. The fiery brands which our ancestors used to make torches were most often made of Pine, and the fragrant burning wood also used for purification rituals. Pine cones were also used in ancient fertility rites and the tree itself was also sacred to the Celtic Goddess Druantia – Queen of the Druids.
gorse
Onn ~ Gorse
Vitality and Optimism.
60px-Ogham_vertical_letter_onn.svgGorse with its vibrant yellow flowers linked to the Sun and the ancient Celtic solar deity Lugh, a  ‘God of light, knowledge, inspiration and many arts’. This evergreen shrub can be found in flower all year round so was also a symbol of continuous fertility to the Celts. Onn also provided them with a very useful fuel and helped make up the Beltane fires, through which their cattle were driven every year in order to purify and protect them.
heather
Ura ~ Heather
Love, Passion, Partnership
60px-Ogham_vertical_letter_ur.svgThe glorious sight of Heather in bloom raises the spirits and, to the ancient Celts, this flowering season was a time of rejoicing and indulgence – both beer and honey were made from Heather flowers. Ura was associated with the the Irish Goddess Aine who was representative of ‘love, summer, wealth,fertility and sovereignty’.
aspen
Edhadh ~ Aspen
Fear, Doubt, a Shield
60px-Ogham_vertical_letter_eadhadh.svgThe Aspen is a tree which the ancient Celts associated with the ‘Underworld’ but they also used its wood to make shields for their warriors, maybe also for ‘psychic protection’ from the fear of death/the unknown, as well as for the bodily protection it provided. The Celtic Deities which Edadh connected with were Arawn, ‘King of the Underworld’ and the ancient ‘Goddess’ Rhiannon. For a time, it is said, Arawn swapped places with Pwyll, a Lord of Dyfed who slept chastely with Arawn’s wife and went on to meet and marry Rhiannon. As Aspen can survive in the most inhospitable of conditions, so it represented a challenge to fear and the ‘unknown’, ‘our inner strength and courage’.

Photo courtesy of:

http://www.nature-wallpaper.co.uk/

yew
Idho ~ Yew
Transition, Renewal, Rebirth, a Gateway
60px-Ogham_vertical_letter_iodhadh.svg

The Yew tree was a Celtic symbol of ‘eternal life’. Not only is it an evergreen but it can live for a very long time indeed – the Fortingall Yew in Perthshire is estimated to be anything between 3000 and 9000 years old! The Druid Dalan is said to have carved his Ogham on wands of Yew when searching for Etain (see my post titled ’Divination’). The ‘Land of the Dead’ in the old Irish tales of Finn and the Fianna, is referred to as ‘The Valley of the Yew’ telling us that Idho was believed to be a ‘gateway for the dying’   – as well as ‘rebirth’. Whether it was for a life phase, relationship, way of thinking or project coming to its natural end .. ‘on the other side of the gate are new beginnings’. Cerridwen is the Celtic ‘Goddess’ associated with Idho which is the end of the original Ogham but begins again with Beth (the Birch) – ‘rebirth and renewal’.

Photo courtesy of:

www.free-images.org.uk

033
The Forfeda
Five Additions to the Ogham
Later additions to the Ogham of which the five below are considered to be the most important .. they are believed to represent sounds missing from the original alphabet. There seems to be some disagreement or confusion over the symbols and trees, with some scholars choosing to ignore them completely, but below is what I was taught in my studies ..

Photo ~ Forfeda staves made for me by Donald Williamson of Caithness.

Kim's Photos 830
Koad ~ Grove
Peace, Mysteries
KoadKoad was the ‘Sacred Grove’ as venerated by the ancient Celts and a place of worship for their Druid priests. In these peaceful places, where conflicts could be addressed and justice served, everyone involved had a right to speak and state their case, which meant that matters were usually settled quickly and reasonably. Koad therefore represented the ‘revelation of hidden knowledge and new deeper understanding’. The Grove was sacred to all Deities.
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Oir ~ Spindle
Inner Peace, Commitment
OirSpindle is named for its hard wood which was used to make spindles, bobbins and pegs in times past. As spinning was a communal activity, Oir related to ‘showing honour and commitment to oneself and others’ – thought naturally to bring about inner peace and contentment – and of course to work both ways! The last Spindle thicket left in the UK is located at Norbury Park in Dorking, Surrey. Oir was sacred to the old Celtic God Dagda.

Photo by Derek Harper

Honeysuckle
Uilleand ~ Honeysuckle
Living Life to the Full, Search for Self
UilleandAlso known as ‘Woodbine’, this sweetly scented plant loves to coil around any woody stem it can reach! In Ogham Ulleand represented ‘seeking’ as in ‘finding your path in life’; getting to know who YOU really are and the need to be ‘true to yourself’. Just as the clinging Honeysuckle can damage the tree it climbs, so we should be careful in our search to avoid being ‘cut back’ and having to start all over again. Uilleand was sacred to all the Celtic Deities.

Photo courtesy of: en:User:sannse

beech
Phagos ~ Beech
Wisdom, Knowledge, Prosperity
PhagosThe first books were written on thin slices of Beech wood and so it is no surprise that Phagos was a tree of learning – indeed the Swedish word ‘bok’ means both ‘book’ and ‘Beech’. The ancient Celts made talismans out of Beech wood as they believed it would increase their creative powers and also bring them luck and prosperity. Groves of Beech trees have been found in, or near, important mystical sites like Cerne Abbas and Avebury. Phagos was sacred to Ogma, a Celtic ‘God of Wisdom’ who was believed to have created the Ogham alphabet.

 

the_sea
Mor ~ The Sea
Travel, Hidden Depths, Flow of Life
MorThe only non-botanical member of the (five most important) Forfeda, this few is sometimes carved on Driftwood. The Sea has long been associated with ‘hidden depths’, the subconscious, our moods and intuition, it can also remind us not only to ‘go with the flow’ in life but to ‘navigate to safe harbour’ if we find ourselves being overwhelmed by emotion. Mor was sacred to the ancient God Manannan, son of Lir, or ‘Lear’ meaning ‘Sea’.

All photos, unless otherwise tagged, were taken by myself in Caithness (Scotland) and Jersey (Channel Islands).  I am happy for others to use them but would appreciate it very much if they were credited with or linked back to Divine Ogham 
Thank you!

Ogham alphabet graphics courtesy of Julio Reis