Friday, September 28, 2012

Ogham Prayer Beads

Ogham Prayer Beads

I was trying to figure out a way to meditate on the Ogham, the meanings, the aspects, and how to develope them into My everyday life, when I came up with the idea of a prayer necklace. Similar to the Catholic rosary, this one is custom made for the Ogham. Each bead is touched in the process of the following "prayer".

Yes, I do make these sets as special orders for those who wish one, and they include the prayer in a small booklet. Contact me for more information if you are interested.

The Five Sections of the Ogham can be seen as Five Stages of a Spiritual Journey, in a Pentagram of Pentagrams.  Each tree stage has a meaning, as does each set of five:  

I. Beginnings- Beginning of Birch, Magic of Rowan, Protection of Alder, Passage of Willow, Integrity of Ash.
II. Commitments- Hospitality of Oak, Balance of Holly, Wisdom of Hazel, Choice of Apple, Chastity of Hawthorne.
III. Challenges - Direction of Reed, Fate of Blackthorne, Renewal of Elder, Intuition of Vine, Spiral of Ivy.
IV. Achievements - Achievement of Aspen, Eternity of Yew, Vision of Fir, Gathering of Gorse, Healing of Heather.
V. Wisdom - Vastness of Sea, Community of Grove, Delight of Spindle, Secret of Honeysuckle, Knowledge of Beech.

On the Medallion, say the Druid's Prayer:  “Grant to me, O great God & Goddess, thy protection; and in protection, strength; and in strength, understanding; and in understanding, knowledge; and in knowledge the knowledge of justice; and in the knowledge of justice, the love of it; and in the love of it, the love of all existences; and in the love of all existences, the love of You both and all goodness. And then say a prayer of thanks for the spirits of the trees.

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the sacred grove, through belief in its power, and the power of the Universe, through every aspect of the Divine and the Oneness, of the Lord and Lady of the growing Earth.

I arise today through the strength of the ancient stones, in obedience of the universal laws, in service to my higher power, in hope of enlightenment, in the legacy of the Ancients, in the teachings of the elders, in faith and fellowship of the Earth, in the innocence of the laughter of children, in the deeds of brave men and women.

I arise today through the strength of the heavens, light of the Sun, Splendor of Fire, Speed of Lightening, swiftness of the Wind, depth of the Sea, stability of the Earth, firmness of the Rock.

I arise today through the strength of Ogma’s grove of wisdom:

H Birch to renew me
D Rowan to shield me and mine from all harm
T Alder’s wisdom to guide me
C Willow’s eyes to look before me
Q Ash to activate my will
BHawthorn to defend me
LOak’s power to open the way for me
F Holly to strengthen me in adversity
S Hazel as my inspiration
N Apple to give me sanctuary
M Vine to nourish my body and soul
G Ivy to remind me who I am
P Broom and Reed to bless my body and home
Z Blackthorne as a barrier from danger
R Elder to make me aware of my actions
A Silver Fir and Elm to help me honour the wonders of life
O Gorse to bolster my wild heart
U Heather to guide me into faithful fellowship
E Aspen to awaken my courage
I Yew to protect my mortality
7 the entire Grove to keep me balanced
9 Spindle to remind me of my obligations
0Gooseberry to bless my success
 8Woodbine to reveal the secrets of my book of dreams
6Beech to make me both student and teacher

I summon today all these powers between me and those who would harm me and mine, against any cruel and merciless power that opposes my body and soul, against angry plans of misguided people, against the use of any power invoked out of fear , aggression, or jealousy, against my own misgivings and fears that may cause my own harm.

The Grove before me, the Grove behind me, the Grove in me, the Grove’s roots beneath me, the Grove’s branches above me, the Grove all around me. Goodness in the heart of everyone who thinks of me, goodness in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, goodness in the eye that sees me, goodness in the ear that hears me.

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the sacred Grove, through a belief in its power and the power of the Universe, through every aspect of the Divine and the Oneness, and of the Lord and Lady of the growing Earth.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Ogham Alphabet

What is the Ogham?

 The Ogham (pronounced owam), or sacred Druidic alphabet, contained hidden secrets for magic and divination. Only the initiated could understand these occult meaning. The ancient Celts had a kinship with trees which is shown in this magical alphabet and in their tree calendar. Further proof of their respect for trees is in the old Celtic word for oak (Duir); the word Derwydd or Duirwydd (oak-seer) was probably the origin of the word Druid.

The Celts believed that many trees where inhabited by spirits or had spirits of their own. This idea most notably applied to any tree with a strong aura around it. They also believed that certain trees had a healing influence on humans. From this ancient respect for the power of trees came the expressions 'touch wood' and 'knock on wood'.

The Ogham  is an Early Medieval alphabet used primarily to write the Old Irish language, and occasionally the Brythonic language. Ogham is sometimes called the "Celtic Tree Alphabet", based on a High Medieval Bríatharogam tradition ascribing names of trees to the individual letters. There are roughly 400 surviving ogham inscriptions on stone monuments throughout Ireland and western Britain, the bulk of them are in the south of Ireland, in Counties Kerry, Cork and Waterford. The largest number outside of Ireland is in Pembrokeshire in Wales. The remainder are mostly in south-eastern Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man, and England around the Devon/Cornwall border. The vast majority of the inscriptions consist of personal names.
The etymology of the word ogam or ogham remains unclear. One possible origin is from the Irish og-úaim 'point-seam', referring to the seam made by the point of a sharp weapon.

The earliest inscriptions in ogham date to about the 4th century AD, but James Carney believes its invention is rather within the 1st century BC. Although the use of "classical" ogham in stone inscriptions seems to have flowered in the 5th–6th centuries around the Irish Sea, from the phonological evidence it is clear that the alphabet predates the 5th century. A period of writing on wood or other perishable material prior to the preserved monumental inscriptions needs to be assumed, sufficient for the loss of the phonemes represented by úath ("H") and straif ("Z"), as well as the velar nasal, gétal, all of which are clearly part of the system, but unattested in inscriptions.

It appears that the ogham alphabet was modelled on another script, and some even consider it a mere cipher of its template script (Düwel 1968: points out similarity with ciphers of Germanic runes). The largest number of scholars favours the Latin alphabet as this template, although the Elder Futhark and even the Greek alphabet have their supporters. Runic origin would elegantly explain the presence of "H" and "Z" letters unused in Irish, as well as the presence of vocalic and consonantal variants "U" vs. "W" unknown to Latin or Greek writing. The Latin alphabet is the primary contender mainly because its influence at the required period (4th century) is most easily established, viz., via Britannia, while the runes in the 4th century were not very widespread even in continental Europe.

In Ireland and in Wales, the language of the monumental stone inscriptions is termed Primitive Irish. The transition to Old Irish, the language of the earliest sources in the Latin alphabet, takes place in about the 6th century. Since ogham inscriptions consist almost exclusively of personal names and marks possibly indicating land ownership, linguistic information that may be glimpsed from the Primitive Irish period is mostly restricted to phonological developments.

Theories of origin
There are two main schools of thought among scholars as to the motivation for the creation of ogham. Scholars such as Carney and MacNeill have suggested that ogham was first created as a cryptic alphabet, designed by the Irish so as not to be understood by those with a knowledge of the Latin alphabet. With this school of thought, it is asserted that the alphabet was created by Irish scholars or druids for political, military or religious reasons to provide a secret means of communication in opposition to the authorities of Roman Britain. The Roman Empire, which then ruled over neighbouring southern Britain, represented a very real threat of invasion to Ireland, which may have acted as a spur to the creation of the alphabet. Alternatively, in later centuries when the threat of invasion had receded and the Irish were themselves invading the western parts of Britain, the desire to keep communications secret from Romans or Romanised Britons would still have provided an incentive. With bilingual ogham and Latin inscriptions in Wales, however, one would suppose that the ogham could easily be decoded by anyone in the Post-Roman world.

The second main school of thought, put forward by scholars such as McManus, is that ogham was invented by the first Christian communities in early Ireland, out of a desire to have a unique alphabet for writing short messages and inscriptions in the Irish language. The argument is that the sounds of Primitive Irish were regarded as difficult to transcribe into the Latin alphabet, so the invention of a separate alphabet was deemed appropriate. A possible such origin, as suggested by McManus, is the early Christian community known to have existed in Ireland from around AD 400 at the latest, the existence of which is attested by the mission of Palladius by Pope Celestine I in AD 431. Palladius died and was buried at Auchenblae in the Mearns in eastern Scotland. These events may be associated with a Christian community there propagating ogham to the otherwise anomalous cluster of inscriptions in eastern Scotland.

A variation on both theories is that the alphabet was first invented, for whatever reason, in 4th century Irish settlements in west Wales after contact and intermarriage with Romanized Britons with a knowledge of the Latin alphabet. In fact, several ogham stones in Wales are bilingual, containing both Irish and Brythonic-Latin (an ancestor of contemporary Welsh), testifying to the Celtic contact that led to the existence of some of these stones.

A third theory put forward by the noted ogham scholar R.A.S. Macalister was influential at one time, but finds little favour with scholars today. Macalister believed that ogham was first invented in Cisalpine Gaul around 600 B.C. by Gaulish druids as a secret system of hand signals, and was inspired by a form of the Greek alphabet current in Northern Italy at the time. According to this theory, the alphabet was transmitted in oral form or on wood only, until it was finally put into a written form on stone inscriptions in early Christian Ireland. Later scholars are largely united in rejecting this theory however, primarily because a detailed study of the letters show that they were created specifically for the Primitive Irish of the early centuries AD. The supposed links with the form of the Greek alphabet that Macalister proposed can also be disproved.

Macalister's theory of hand or finger signals as a source for ogham is a reflection of the fact that the signary consists of four groups of five letters, with a sequence of strokes from one to five. A theory popular among modern scholars is that the forms of the letters derive from the various numerical tally-mark systems in existence at the time. This theory was first suggested by the scholars Thurneysen and Vendryes, who proposed that the ogham script was inspired by a pre-existing system of counting based around the numbers five and twenty, which was then adapted to an alphabet form by the first ogamists.

Legendary accounts
According to the 11th c. Lebor Gabála Érenn, the 14th c. Auraicept na n-Éces, and other Medieval Irish folklore, ogham was first invented soon after the fall of the Tower of Babel, along with the Gaelic language, by the legendary Scythian king, Fenius Farsa. According to the Auraicept, Fenius journeyed from Scythia together with Goídel mac Ethéoir, Íar mac Nema and a retinue of 72 scholars. They came to the plain of Shinar to study the confused languages at Nimrod's tower (the Tower of Babel). Finding that they had already been dispersed, Fenius sent his scholars to study them, staying at the tower, coordinating the effort. After ten years, the investigations were complete, and Fenius created in Bérla tóbaide "the selected language", taking the best of each of the confused tongues, which he called Goídelc, Goidelic, after Goídel mac Ethéoir. He also created extensions of Goídelc, called Bérla Féne, after himself, Íarmberla, after Íar mac Nema, and others, and the Beithe-luis-nuin (the ogham) as a perfected writing system for his languages. The names he gave to the letters were those of his 25 best scholars.

Alternatively, the Ogam Tract credits Ogma mac Elathan (Ogmios) with the script's invention. Ogma was skilled in speech and poetry, and created the system for the learned, to the exclusion of rustics and fools. The first message written in Ogam were seven b's on a birch, sent as a warning to Lug mac Elathan, meaning: "your wife will be carried away seven times to the otherworld unless the birch protects her". For this reason, the letter b is said to be named after the birch, and In Lebor Ogaim goes on to tell the tradition that all letters were named after trees, a claim also referred to by the Auraicept as an alternative to the naming after Fenius' disciples.

Monumental ogham inscriptions are found in Ireland and Wales, with a few additional specimens found in England (Devon & Cornwall), the Isle of Man, and Scotland, including Shetland. They were mainly employed as territorial markers and memorials (grave stones). The stone commemorating Vortiporius, a 6th century king of Dyfed (originally located in Clynderwen), is the only ogham stone inscription that bears the name of an identifiable individual. The language of the inscriptions is predominantly Primitive Irish, apart from the few examples in Scotland, such as the Lunnasting stone, which record fragments of what is probably the Pictish language.

The more ancient examples are standing stones, where the script was carved into the edge (droim or faobhar) of the stone, which formed the stemline against which individual characters are cut. The text of these "Orthodox Ogham" inscriptions is read beginning from the bottom left-hand side of a stone, continuing upward along the edge, across the top and down the right-hand side (in the case of long inscriptions). Roughly 380 inscriptions are known in total (a number, incidentally, very close to the number of known inscriptions in the contemporary Elder Futhark), of which the highest concentration by far is found in the southwestern Irish province of Munster. Over one third of the total are found in Co Kerry alone, most densely in the former kingdom of the Corcu Duibne.

Later inscriptions are known as "scholastic", and are post 6th century in date. The term 'scholastic' derives from the fact that the inscriptions are believed to have been inspired by the manuscript sources, instead of being continuations of the original monument tradition. Unlike orthodox ogham, some mediæval inscriptions feature all five Forfeda. Scholastic inscriptions are written on stemlines cut into the face of the stone, instead of along its edge. Ogham was also occasionally used for notes in manuscripts down to the 16th century. A modern ogham inscription is found on a gravestone dating to 1802 in Ahenny, County Tipperary.

In Scotland, a number of inscriptions using the ogham writing system are known, but their language is still the subject of debate. It has been argued by Richard Cox in The Language of Ogham Inscriptions in Scotland (1999) that the language of these is Old Norse, but others remain unconvinced by this analysis, and regard the stones as being Pictish in origin. However due to the lack of knowledge about the Picts, the inscriptions remain undeciphered, their language possibly being non-Indo-European. The Pictish inscriptions are scholastic, and are believed to have been inspired by the manuscript tradition brought into Scotland by Gaelic settlers.

Non-monumental uses
As well as its use for monumental inscriptions, the evidence from early Irish sagas and legends indicates that ogham was used for short messages on wood or metal, either to relay messages or to denote ownership of the object inscribed. Some of these messages seem to have been cryptic in nature and some were also for magical purposes. In addition, there is evidence from sources such as In Lebor Ogaim, or the Ogham Tract, that ogham may have been used to keep records or lists, such as genealogies and numerical tallies of property and business transactions. There is also evidence that ogham may have been used as a system of finger or hand signals.

In later centuries when ogham ceased to be used as a practical alphabet, it retained its place in the learning of Gaelic scholars and poets as the basis of grammar and the rules of poetry. Indeed, until modern times the Latin alphabet in Gaelic continued to be taught using letter names borrowed from the Beith-Luis-Nin, along with the Medieval association of each letter with a different tree.

Modern New Age and Neopagan approaches to ogham largely derive from the theories of Robert Graves in his book The White Goddess. In this work Graves took his inspiration from the theories of the ogham scholar R.A.S Macalister (see above) and elaborated on them much further. Graves proposed that the ogham alphabet encoded a set of beliefs originating in the Middle-east in Stone Age times, concerning the ceremonies surrounding the worship of the Moon-goddess in her various forms. Graves' argument is extremely complex, but in essence he argues that the Hebrews, Greeks and Celts were all influenced by a people originating in the Aegean, called 'the people of the sea' by the Egyptians, who spread out around Europe in the 2nd Millennium BC, taking their religious beliefs with them. At some early stage these teachings were encoded in alphabet form by poets in order to pass on their worship of the goddess (as the muse and inspiration of all poets) in a secret fashion, understandable only to initiates. Eventually, via the druids of Gaul, this knowledge was passed on to the poets of early Ireland and Wales. Graves therefore looked at the Tree Alphabet tradition surrounding ogham and explored the tree folklore of each of the letter names, proposing that the order of the letters formed an ancient "seasonal calendar of tree magic". Although his theories have been disregarded by modern scholars (including Macalister himself, with whom Graves corresponded ), they have been taken up with enthusiasm by the neopagan movement. In addition, Graves followed the BLNFS order of ogham letters put forward by Macalister (see above), with the result that this has been taken up by New Age and Neopagan writers as the 'correct' order of the letters, despite its rejection by scholars.

The main use of ogham by modern Druids & Neo-Pagans is for the purpose of divination. Divination by using ogham symbols is mentioned in Tochmarc Étaíne, a tale in the Irish Mythological Cycle. In the story, druid Dalan takes four wands of yew, and writes ogham letters upon them. Then he uses the tools for divination. The tale doesn't explain further how the sticks are handled or interpreted.

Some Neopagans and other interested people use ogham as a divination system, in a manner reminiscent of the incomplete description in Tochmarc Étaíne. They create a series of sticks, one for each letter. The sticks may be used in a fashion similar to runic divination. Another method requires a cloth marked out with Finn's Window. A person selects some sticks randomly, throws them on the cloth, and then looks both at the symbols and where they fell.

The divinatory meanings are usually based on the tree ogham, rather than the kennings of the Bríatharogam. Each letter is associated with a tree or other plant, and meanings are derived from them. Robert Graves' book The White Goddess has been a major influence on assigning divinatory meanings for ogham. Some reconstructionists of Druidic ways use Briatharogam kennings as a basis for divinatory meanings in ogham divination. The three sets of kennings can be separated into Past-Present-Future or Land-Sea-Sky groupings in such systems, but other organizing structures are used, as well.