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 …
- The Trees & the Ogham itself
- Robert Graves’ THE WHITE GODDESS
- Glennie Kindred’s books on the Ogham and British tree lore
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 …