The Sacred Ogham or Celtic Tree Alphabet has been in use since the 4th century, some say earlier and can be used both as an alphabet and as a divinatory tool or oracle. Trees were considered sacred to the Druids and Celtic people and each tree was given it's own symbol to express and tap into the trees energy. The symbols are made up of horizontal lines seated either left or right and across or diagonally from a central vertical line. They are a simple shape which would have been easy to carve with a knife or chip into rock and examples of standing stones with Ogham scripts can still be seen all over Ireland. They are most commonly written and read from the bottom up but are sometimes written across.
Their original use is thought to be for communication and as a code, but they have been adopted as a divination method in more recent times. There is also a common belief that each tree and its symbol also link with a month or time period within the pagan wheel of the year. They are formed into 4 groups of 5 trees called acimi the first 9 of these trees are the sacred Celtic woods used at Beltane for the Bael Fire ritual. A further more elaborate group of 5 symbols called the forfeda was added at a much later date.
All the woods used in the Celtic Ogham would have been growing at the time and whilst we would not call all of them a tree by our current way of thinking, the Celts felt and respected their energy. They used. the natural materials around them to survive and items such as Reed and Gorse were used for thatching and Bramble was used for its strength as a tie or rope.
Here is a simple list of the trees with their Celtic name, the letter associated with them, and idea of the energy they resonate and the time of year they align with.
Birch - Beith, B, beginnings, renewal, youth - 24th Dec to 20th Jan
Rowan - Luis, L, protection, expression, connection - 21st Jan to 17th Feb
Alder - Fearn, F, endurance, strength, passion - 18th March to 14th April
Willow - Saille, S, imagination, intuition, vision - 15th April - 12th May
Ash - Nion, N, connection, wisdom, surrender - 18th Feb to 17th March
Hawthorn - Huath, H, contradiction, consequence, relationships - 13th May - 9th June
Oak - Dair, D, strength, stability, nobility - 10th June to 7th July
Holly - Tinne , T, action, assertion, objectivity - 8th July - 4th August
Hazel - Coll, C, creativity, purity, honesty - 5th August to 1st Sept
Apple - Quert, Q, beauty, love, generosity - Beltane to Samhain the light half of the year
Vine (Bramble) - Muin, M, introspection, relaxation, depth - 2nd Sept to 29th Sept
Ivy - Gort, G, determination, change, patience - 30th Sept to 27th Oct
Reed- Ngetal, NG, harmony, health, growth - 28th Oct to 24th Nov
Blackthorn - Straif, ST, discipline, control, perspective - Samhain to Beltane the dark half of the year
Elder - Ruis, R, transition, evolution, continuation - 25th Nov to 23rd Dec
Fir - Ailm, A, clarity, achievement, energy - 22nd Dec Winter Solstice/Yuletide start of the new year and the sun returning
Gorse - Onn, O, transmutation, resourcefulness, exposure - Ostara Spring Equinox
Heather - Ur, U, dreams, romance, feelings - Litha Summer Solstice
Poplar - Eadhadh, E, victory, transformation, vision - Mabon Autumn Equinox
Yew - Iodhadh, I, transference, passage, illusion - 21st Dec Winter Solstice at the end of the year.
Over the past year we have gathered all the sacred Celtic woods from our own Devon woodland, garden and surrounding countryside near our home and humbly offer our own Ogham Sets which have been handcrafted with love and positive intentions. They are available on our website www.shambhaladesign.co.uk