Ogham (OR: Blogging some actual work)

It occurred to me today that I talk a lot here about my theology and ideas, but not so much about my practices. And while I do write in my druidry journal, about once a week, it can be tricky to get an overview when I look back on what I’ve written.

So. There are (at least) two things I’m doing at the moment that I need to write about here a bit more. The first is the ADF Dedicant Path. The other, which I’m doing on my own, is work with Ogham. I should take these one post at a time, so – Ogham first.

My interest in Ogham was sparked by reading Greer’s The Druid Magic Handbook about a year ago (I still haven’t finished the book, because I am rubbish, but the section on divination and Ogham really inspired me). I’d been trying to work with tarot and oracle cards before that, and I like tarot a lot, but it feels like something I need to learn slowly – the symbols need to settle in. But learning Ogham is almost like remembering something I knew before (to steal a phrase from my father). Not that I think I have some kind of woo-woo past life memory of it or anything – more that it fits so well with my world view, and with the religious/spiritual path I’m forging, that it feels comfortable, familiar and friendly, as well as very powerful. In contrast, the tarot is based on a set of symbols that are like a different language that I haven’t learnt yet.

The first revelation I discovered is that Ogham is not all about trees – though it does have a lot of tree associations. I recommend Erynn Laurie’s book for an approach to Ogham that looks at older sources for meanings (which includes, but is not limited to, the tree lore). I love that – it means I can do work with the trees, but also have a whole lot of other meanings and uses at my fingertips. Example: the first fid I worked with was tinne, which is associated with holly, and initially I did a lot of work with the holly tree, which was fantastic. But then I started looking at its other meanings, including the iron bar, symbolising work, the forge, and balance. Unlike, say, the Knight of Pentacles, which isn’t an image that means much to me, the image of an iron bar opens up so many symbolic avenues for exploration, alongside all the lore about the holly tree.

Stuff I am doing with Ogham

Painting by numbers – I mean, by meditation. I’ve been meditating with each of the trees whose Ogham fid I’m working with, and then painting the images that come to me during the meditation. This was an idea that came to me about six months ago, just in time for most of the trees to be asleep, so I’ve been doing this slowly, with holly, pine and a few of the others that are awake year-round. I’m looking forward to going a bit more quickly through the rest during summer (if it ever comes) – great opportunity for more outdoor stuff, that I can then bring indoors with my painting.

Here’s something I painted when I was working with idad, the yew tree. (Note that I mispelled it. I’m seeing that as an idiosyncratic quirk, not an error. Yes.)


– Magic. Ogham is really interesting with spell-work. Erynn Laurie’s book encouraged me to start working with it this way. You can use Ogham in much the same way you can use bind-runes, by combining them and working with their (for want of a better word) energies. So far, I’ve only attempted some healing work and a job spell for a friend with the Ogham. As I get to know it better, I’ll try other things.

– Divination, obviously. This is the only system of divination I’ve really felt like I could learn, which has been exciting. Now that I’ve been working with this for a while, I’m practising with readings for other people. Please, be my guinea pig! (Or feel free to wait until I know what I’m doing a bit more. But I’ve had pretty good feedback so far.)

– Exploring one fid at a time. I’ve set up a (very) simple little altar, with a candle for Ogma, the god who’s said to have invented the Ogham, and branches/twigs of the tree I’m working with at the moment. I think this idea came from Laurie’s book – it’s been really useful. Currently it’s set up for ailm, the fir or pine. This is what it looked like when I was working on tinne:

ogham altar

I’ve just had the (somewhat obvious) thought that might be a good idea to add the fid symbol to the altar in the future, to help me remember it. The symbols are fairly incomprehensible at first, since they all look the same, but working on one at a time is helping there, and so is having them on the right tree woods.

Talking of which… My tools so far are a set of cards and a set of sticks. The cards were given to me as a surprise present by a wonderful friend who knew I wanted a set – they’re a beautiful design that’s out of print, and I adore them. But when I started working with the trees, I also wanted a set of sticks made out of the associated types of wood. Eventually I’d like to make my own set, especially as some of the trees I associate are not the traditional ones – but that will be a HUGE project, so it won’t be anytime soon.

ogham sticks

My Ogham sticks. (Missing one – I think it’s on the altar!)

So that’s one of the big projects I’ve been working on since I ‘graduated’ from the OBOD bardic course. Another is my ongoing research into folk magic, and some practice of it, which I won’t be blogging about for a while because, erk, no good yet. The other is the ADF DP, which I’m taking a little more slowly than the ‘complete in a year’ schedule, since I plan to do other things alongside it. But more on that soon.

9 thoughts on “Ogham (OR: Blogging some actual work)

  1. This was really interesting to read. I’ve never worked with Ogham before but you’re definitely taking a very thorough tack. I especially like the meditation/painting combination… I may have to steal a variation on that.

  2. I like how you meditate and then paint what you see. Also seeing the Ogham not just for the trees, which Erynn does encourage in her book.

    Sophia did an Ogham reading for me a couple of nights ago. It’s helpful to have somebody else read for you, especially when you’re having trouble making sense of your own readings.

    • I’m glad you found my reading helpful! I agree – it can all get a bit too subjective when you’re reading for yourself. I need to find someone to do ogham readings for me – like an exchange.

  3. Hey, there’s no rush to do the DP in a year. Took me longer. Also, I’m glad divination makes sense for you! I’ve been having lots of trouble, but I hope to remedy that soon with my divination system.


  4. Nimue from Druidlife, you should be able to pull my email from this, if you might be up for hosting something from Judith (you liked the post) mail me? cheers.

  5. Pingback: Are We There Yet? Assessing the Road Ahead | Léithin Cluan

  6. I have been working with the Ogham for some time now. I have two sets cut from branches of two trees — a small apple set no bigger than the end of my thumb marked in fine point pen, and a larger set cut out of yew that I burned the symbols in with the blade of a soldering iron. I use them every day, now more often the yew set, and I use them with one of two pendulums — one my husband turned me from yew (by far the tree I have the longest association with after willow, the other a hazel nut, each are attached to a length of embroidery floss. I draw the tree of the day, as I call it, and the then dowse for the meanings since there are often several and not all apply to any one day. It is uncanny how accurate they are for the energy or lesson or quality I need on any given day. I also read at night as I review the day and prepare for the journeys of sleep.

    I use the cards from my Ogham divination sets to place on my altar — some I find are for periods of time and having them out and visible reminds me of that and provides focus or reference when I get so bound up in the short term I forget the longer view.

    I too find the tarot has images and meanings that are harder to grasp, though I have a couple of decks and now and then draw a card. I find the Ogham assists me in holding on to the shaping of patterns and a way to view energies that are at work in various situations in my life. And using the pendulum helps me with seeing specifics more clearly, the finer details.

    I often try and seek out the tree of the day on my daily walk to have a different kind of encounter with the energy/lesson-bearer of a given day. I find it opens a way of communicating with the tree as we already have a link for a certain day or length of time.

    Thank you for sharing your insights and experiences.

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