Exploring the Ogham

Ogham Wheel
Ogham Wheel

For years I’ve played with, and been played with by, this amazing system of communication. I won’t say writing, it is writing … sort of … but it’s much more about communication – with Otherworld, with yourself, with nature, with other people even.

For many years, academics have tried to form it into a type of writing, alphabet, with varying amounts of success. I’ve read lots of books by those who’ve studied it, and got insights from them, but my main sources of inspiration are …

This year, I’ve been very drawn to going deeper into the language of the trees, of the wood, and the pondering, sitting-with all of it, has just come to fruition. In fact, I got so excited about the whole thing that I’ve set up a year-long internet course for anyone who’d like to walk the path along with me.

So, what happened to get me so inspired? The trees themselves working and sitting with them, asking them to teach me. I have most of them in my garden here at Archenland. The trees for the 13 moon-months … Birch, Rowan, Ash, Alder, Willow, Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Oak, Holly, Hazel, Apple, Blackberry, Ivy, Guelder Rose & Reed, and Elder. And the trees for the seasons … Silver Fir, Furze, Heather, Poplar and Yew.

With the five season goes an ancient verse which gives light darkly on the meanings of the seasons. This gives you an idea of how it works with the goddess and the seasons …

Ailm – Silver Fir – Birth – Sun Return – I am the womb of every holt
Onn – Furze – Initiation – Spring Equinox – I am the blaze on every hill
Ura – Heather – Consummation – Midsummer – I am the queen of every hive
Eadha – Poplar – Repose – Autumn Equinox – I am the shield to every head
Iolo – Yew – Death – Winter Solstice – I am the tomb to every hope

I’m still missing Bran’s tree, the alder, although there’s lots of it about in the hedges so I might get a whip this coming spring and plant it in the hedge here. Heather we don’t have as we’re very alkaline here but I must get some in a pot, and the same for furze, that’ll have to be in a pot too. I swap Scots Pine for Silver Fir as I’ve a very deep relationship with the Scots Pine.

I find Graves THE WHITE GODDESS both deep and broad at the same time. He’s very inclusive, able to think of, accept and suggest lots of correlations that others don’t seem to do. His wide knowledge of many ancient cultures enables him to see similarities across them – essential truths, probably, that underlie all traditions on this Earth. I like that. I like the feel of universality and, to me, this is part of being pagan. Like I said in a recent blog, being pagan is being of the Land to me, of this Earth – at least while I’m incarnate on her. Sensing into the depths of her wisdom, with the trees through the Ogham, is just so good for me, inspires me, gets me excited.

So I set off on a journey this Imbolc that has brought me here, soon after Lammas, to a place where I want to share what I’ve found.

The journey began with one of the loves of my life, Gwydion, the master magician of Britain. I know a lot of folk find him tricksy and devious and so he is, but he’s such an excellent teacher because of it. I also have a strong sympathy for him, he explores, goes outside the box, gets into trouble but manages to help people in spite of this. He helps his brother, Amatheon, bring the three secrets of agriculture to humans, stealing them from the Elder gods and so starting the Battle of the Trees … the beginning of the Ogham. The three secrets of agriculture are close to my heart because of biodynamics. In biodynamics, the three underlying principles are silica, clay and calcium. In Amatheon’s story they are represented by the Lapwing, the Bitch-hound and the Roebuck. In the Rainbow Warrior shamanic training I run we do this in depth during the second year but here, through the Ogham I found myself exploring it again, but differently, adding new insights.

The story of Amatheon bringing the secrets of agriculture to human beings reminds me of Hephaestos stealing fire from the gods and bringing that to humanity too. Both get into trouble for changing the status quo, trying to include people, for moving some of the control away from the Elder gods. As a closet-anarchist this pleases me *g*. I like change, growth, movement, growing up. I don’t like having Nanny changing my nappies all my life, I want to think for myself … make mistakes, fall over, get up and have learned something. My Dad always said, “the person who’s never made a mistake has never made anything” … he was quite right! Failure, getting it wrong, screwing up, are the best and most effective ways of learning. Getting it right just gives you a big head *g*. But don’t get me started on that old Obby Oss of mine!

This Ogham journey I’ve been doing this year has brought so much into focus for me. The seasons themselves, represented by the vowels. There are five, yes five not the usual four we know from gardening! What for? What difference to my thinking does the five make? As I pondered and worked with the trees I found it quite mind-expanding, particularly by bringing in the five lines of the old poem that describes the goddess in her own ways. Susan Cooper uses that poem as the basis for her “Dark is Rising” quintet – and that says a lot too! I found I was re-reading Cooper’s books again on the Ogham journey.

Then there are the thirteen moon-months. To start with, Celtic culture so often uses the concept of “a year and a day”. Ceridwen does it with Gwion Bach and her Cauldron of Inspiration … so I found myself back here too! And it comes up in lots of other stories too.

The thirteen moon-months give you 364 days plus one left over … a year and a day. So what happens in the brewing of the cauldron for that year and a day? What do each of the thirteen moon-months give. Aha! The weak 40w bulb flashes briefly on the top of my head as I got to this … there were thirteen fairies at Briar Rose’s naming. Well, twelve were asked but the daft parents decided not to invite the thirteenth fairy and came a cropper because of it! Or did they? Would there have been any change if they hadn’t made that mistake? What connections here? Oh, be sure, there are lots!

That whole piece took me into working with the fairy stories, yet again. I love them, work with them all the time, so much of the Grammarye of our land is held within them.

The trees themselves are wonderful to work with. To sit-with the tree, ask it to show me itself, its qualities, what it does. To listen to it without interrupting and then be able to ask for clarification of the things I didn’t understand, is so good, so insightful. Then, when Tree and I are agreed, I ask if I may have some of its wood for a stave. I never take wood without asking, even a dead branch on the forest path I ask before I take it. Always check! Making assumptions is the way to make lazy mistakes!

So here I am, with the Ogham journey under my belt and a year-long course written and blossoming. It’s very exciting. I hope there are folk out there who would like to work and play with me on this. If you think you would check out …

Ogham  and on Facebook or contact me at directly

Why ebooks rule.


The ebook industry has come a long way, and I have to admit, I am only a new player. For quite some time I have been buying ebooks and reading them on either my computer or my PDA, which is equipped with fantastic ebook qualities.

Technology is a wonderful thing, and in the case of ebooks, I think it has been a revolution. In a purely physical sense, the rise of the ebook has brought about a great opportunity to reduce the extent the writing industry has on the environment. I don’t believe that the ebook will totally replace the physical paper-back book, but it is a great start. Financially, the ebook industry has allowed excellent quality literature to be purchased at a fraction of the price of a shop bought paper-back book. Some argue that the prices of some ebooks may be too low and the fact that you can download multiple copies is still a contentious issue.

Socially, the rise of the ebook has allowed some interesting aspects, such as the broader market of writing genres to be read by a wider variety of people who may never have contemplated the genre before. Ebook publishers seem to embrace differing genres, such as GBLT, erotica, pagan, ect, while the paperback publishers sticks to narrower traditional genres. Hopefully, with more people reading a wider variety of genres, perhaps more understanding of certain social issues can be understood and open the doors to communication.

Another reason why ebooks rule, is because it allows a lot more people a different avenue to write their story and have it accessed by such an expansive audience. That is not to say that writing ebooks is easier than writing paperback, it’s not. Ebooks still need to be written well and in guidance to good literary practice and rules. What I mean to say is that it can give writers a foot in the door that was not previously available and it is a great way to build up a faithful readership.

The last reason why ebooks rule, is because it also gave way to a telecomunication community of readers and authors to express ideas, cultivate friendships and careers and allows for a myriad of cultures and personalities to meld and hopefully make the world that little bit easier for everyone.

Thanks for reading my ideas on why ebooks rule. I currently have two ebooks out, one is a romantic fantasy about fallen angels called “The Fallen Fae” and can be found Freya’s Bower : http://www.freyasbower.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=4&products_id=169

And a contemporary romantic suspense which can be found at Pink Petal Books as of September 3rd: http://www.pinkpetalbooks.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=6&products_id=36&zenid=cd6a0495be81a5c4d67887a9d3a1acd5

Thanks for reading.



I just made a cup of tea before I sat down to write this article. I stirred the tea clock-wise (deosil) and tapped the spoon three times on the side of the cup. This is a just a small way that superstition weaves its way into my everyday life. I toss salt over my left shoulder to ward off the devil and bad luck. I wont walk under a ladder and I “knock on wood” every time I walk past a weeping willow tree that is near my house to appease the tree spirits.

Superstition seems to be woven so intricately into our lives that we don’t even notice it until our attention is drawn to it. I wonder how many generations of my family have made their tea the same way, as I was taught by my parents who were taught by theirs and those before them.

There are so many superstitions from all parts of the world which allows them to blend into multicultural array to be taken up by our society. Both ancient and modern takes on superstitions makes them an intriguing part of our lives. In ancient times, it is easy to see where superstitions come from. The black cat, who could have very well been a witches familiar was to be feared as a dark omen. Saying bless you when someone sneezes could be derived from two different versions of a superstition. One that arose during the great plague was that to sneeze was usually the first sign of the plague, so “bless you” because you were more than likely to die from the plague. The other, more ancient superstition is from a  belief that you sneezed out a part of your soul and saying “bless you” restored it to it’s former glory.

In today’s technologically and scientifically advanced world, do superstitions still prevail through society? I think they do, mainly because as you read this post, you are probably thinking about all the superstitions you know or do without thinking. Superstitions about nature may still hold true, such as “red at night, Shepard’s delight, red in the morning, Shepard’s warning.” Meaning that if the sunset is red at night, it will be a nice sunny day tomorrow and if it is red in the morn, then it is going to be a hot, miserable day.

These superstitions can still hold true, because nature is nature, whether we humans are advanced or not. Other superstitions hold true because we are creatures of habit and also because there is a mystical and magical quality to superstitions. They are almost like rituals handed down through the generations without us even acknowledging them.

There are superstitions regarding all facets of life, eating, marrying, good luck, bad luck, the state of your soul, nature, animals, rainbows. Everything.

When I was young, I broke a mirror and was told of the superstition of seven years bad luck would now befall me. I asked my father why and he told me that in times gone by the mirror was thought to hold your soul and breaking it would mean that it would take seven years for the soul to rejuvenate. I was mortified and my father told me it was only a superstition. So I asked my father how the mirror really worked and he told me.

But I will leave you with these words that have stayed with me, even until today. He held up a shard of the mirror and said, “Just because you know how it works, doesn’t mean it isn’t magic.”

Herding Kittens – a shaman’s job


I’ve been herding kittens (looking after RW students) for near 20 years now, I’m fairly au fait with the various turns they galumph through, especially as they come up to the starting post. I can also see Otherworld having the whale of a time putting embuggerance factors before their cute little ballet-shod tootsies LOL. It is funny, but it doesn’t make the job any easier! I also need to shout “yere be dragons” every now and again or I’m not doing my job.

The latest intake to Rainbow Warriors comes up to the starting post in about 5 weeks time. There may well be a couple more joining us too – I can hear them lurking about in the long grass wondering whether to come down to the water hole and drink. Like a good lioness, I’m crouching quietly and fairly invisibly on the sand coloured ground, melting my sand-coloured hide into it and panting softly.

Meanwhile I still have to keep an eye on the ones already signed on and raring to go. It’s a funny old time that, the waiting to begin. And yet, in some ways, you already have begun. You’ve read your pre-course notes, got your books, begun to learn the mechanics of the journeying process we use, gone hunting for your sacred space, etc, etc. So you feel as if you’re already doing it … but you’re not. Not yet.

And one of the things that will happen to you as a brand new apprentice warrior is that all the skills and abilities you had will fall away from you. You’ll be naked and skill-less, unarmed, vulnerable and … to make it worse … your head is likely to feel like wet cotton-wool! What happens to folk who sign on to become awake and aware and useful to Otherworld is that they have to go through the Butterfly Soup process.

Butterfly soup … ??? You don’t know that one? Yes you do, I’ll bet. It’s what happens to the caterpillar at the end of the summer, like about now-ish. The little wriggly beastie finds himself a corner, or a branch, or a leaf and makes himself a cocoon. Inside the cocoon, once it’s hardened and dry, the caterpillar completely dissolves – he becomes soup, a soup that will gradually rebuild itself into a butterfly.

This happens to apprentice Rainbow Warriors too – except they gotta do it without the cocoon! Oh they don’t dissolve physically – at least I’ve not had one do that yet! But emotionally, mentally and spiritually they do. In fact, they become a complete mess *g*. Quite often, students come to Rainbow Warriors with a good set of skills, lots of abilities and a reasonable confidence. They often manage to keep all of this until they arrive at the first journey … then wallop! They find themselves naked and exposed, and all the skills they had gone. It can be very scary. I do try to warn them about this beforehand but, like teenagers, they don’t believe what the Old Fogey (me!) says, not really. Oh, it may happen to others but they will be different, shining, exemplars, able to swan though with no problems at all.

Well, I do get some like that, some who’ve slipped through the lioness’ net. Unfortunately, they’re ones it doesn’t work for, they learn nothing, go nowhere, and leave early. I do try to make this happen before they sign on … but there’s always one, isn’t there *g*. If it all goes easy for you it’s an absolute sure sign you’re failing! If all hell breaks loose then you’re on a winner, if not a roll LOL.

Like all alchemical processes, you have to break down to build up. Otherworld are very keen that you do this and do their best to send you down the shop for a tin of striped paint and box of tappet clearances. And they lure you into the woods where large hairy beasties will growl and chase you … until you stop running away, turn round and ask them their name. And they leave you outside the castle gate in the snow for weeks on end until you learn to ask the Gatekeeper’s name rather than be a clever clogs and find out all by your little self. Le Guin’s “Wizard of Earthsea” (one of the books we use) has a very good story on this. All the nasty tricks of the faery story … that are really the tests to see if you can measure up to the hard training that will come.

And that’s really the first trick all apprentice warriors have to learn … to sit still and ask. However, although Life (& shamanism) is simple nobody ever said it was easy *g*.

My usual advice to the “kittens” at this stage in the game is, “For goodness sake take a cold shower! Clean the kitchen with a toothbrush! Generally learn to slow down. I am serious about that. You miss things at the ecstatic rate you’re currently running. Try to sit physically very still and allow the ecstasy to flow through you without any attempt to steer it. You might try giving your brain sixpence and telling it to go play with the traffic !!!”

In fact, I took my own advice last w/end. Me and two friends, the 3 witches of Endor who look after Rainbow Warriors, went to go sit in our wood under Dunkery Beacon, by a 4000+ year old sacred stone.  There are always ravens there, and owls, as well as many other creatures, denizens of the nightwood.. If we are still enough they come to visit us, speak with us, show us things. But only if we are still. Only if we are focused on them and not ourselves, not off in our heads planning and scheming and generally making a ghastly spiritual noise!

UPDATE on return from Exmoor … It didn’t work out like we thought at all (how surprising *g*) … will write the blog and put it up on Sunday. It was fascinating and just goes to show how Otherworld are also Herding Kittens too, even when it’s us old fogeys what been doin’ it all our lives like LOL. We can still need to be chivvied into going the appropriate way *g*. Watch this space …

If you are interested in shamanic training look at http://www.elensentier.co.uk/rainbow_warriors.htm 


BTW – the picture is of the Culbone Stone, with his Earth-Eye-Cross. The beautiful dancer, Lucy Bethune, is superimposed.