Was the Ogham system used for magic?

This is from a web site by Brendan Myers (" http://www.uoguelph.ca/~bmyers/druid.html"), in a section entitled "WHAT ARE SOME OTHER COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS OF DRUIDISM?" :

The Ogham Alphabet was not used by Druids for divination: Virtually all the Ogham inscriptions that exist are burial monuments, property divisions, or landmarks. The University of Cork has an excellent collection of them. It's not enough evidence to claim that Ogham was used as an oracular tool by Druids, however, many modern Druids do use ogham effectively for that purpose. Historians cannot be certain because any Ogham inscriptions carved on wood have rotted away long ago; only stones remain. Each letter in the Ogham alphabet was also the name of a tree, which may have had a mystical meaning associated with each tree.

Does someone contest the order of the ogham letters?

This page is located at http://www.armory.com/~mortoj/magick/druidry/oorder.html
(as of January 2, 1999)

                        ORDER OF OGHAM LETTERS

        There are two different orders of the Ogham letters.  The older

    is known as the B.L.N. [Beth-Luis-Nion] version, the more recent as the 

    B.L.F. [Beith-Luis-Fern] version.

    Robert Graves devotes two chapters in his White Goddess to this question

    of order. It is strongly suggested that the book be obtained and read.

        The following two quotes are from the book and are just to serve

    as a memory jog; not a full explanation!

        "What complicates the case is that the ancient Irish word for

    'alphabet' is 'Beth-Luis-Nion' which suggests that the order of the

    letters in the Ogham alphabet was orginally B.L.N. though it had

    become B.L.F. before the ban on inscriptions was lifted."  p. 116

        "But is not the answer to our question to be found in the

    'Battle of the Trees'?  What distinguishes the BLFSN from the BLNFS

    is that the letter N, 'Nion' the ash, the sacred tree of the God

    Gwydion, has been taken out of the dead period of the year, where it

    is still in black bud, and put two months ahead to where it is in

    leaf, while 'Fearn' the adler, the sacred tree of the God Bran,

    which marks the emergence of the solar year from the tutelage of

    Night, has been thrust back into 'Nion's' place. The BLNFS is a

    trophy raised by Gwydion over Bran.  And is it not strange that a

    few years before the 'Battle of the Trees' was fought in Britain and

    the letter F humbled, the Greeks had made a dead set against their

    F, only retaining it as a numerical sing for 6?  More than this

    happened when the order of the letters changed; Gwydion's ash, N,

    took the place of the fifth consonant, 'Saille' the willow, S, which

    was naturally sacred to Mercury, or Arwan; and Gwydion thereupon

    became an oracular god.  Also, Amathaon who had evidently been a

    willow-god, S, took Bran's place at F and and became a fire-god in

    the service of his father Beli, God of Light.  It only remained in

    this General Post for Bran to take over the maritime ash that

    Gwydion has relinquished and sail away on his famous voyage to one

    hunderd and fifty islands; yet sailing was no novelty to him, the

    tradition preserved by Virgil being that the first boats that ever

    took to the water were alder-trunks."  p. 244

Here's an argument against taking Graves too seriously (from an anonymous reviewer at the amazon.com reviews of Graves' book):
"If you treat this as poetry or new mythology, this is a great book. Inspiring, poetic -- great stuff. Unfortunately, it's presented as history and a commentary on ancient mythology -- and that it's not. I'm a medievalist; the quality of the historical "research" is exceptionally low. In fact, Graves is responsible for much of the historical misinformation that plagues Neo-Paganism. He invented the Triple Goddess motif (Maiden, Mother, and Crone), the "Celtic" tree calendar, and the notion that lunar calendars have thirteen months. So while I acknowledge the beauty of Graves' vision, I can't recommend his book highly. It's done too much damage."

Here's something interesting from an fed-up LISTSERV poster:
From: Iain MacAnTsaoir <iain@vol.com>

Subject: [CLANNADA] The Ogham Alphabet


>my book on the very topic of Ogham an excerpt

  Amongst the great many topics upon which is heaped tomes of

misinformation, is the topic of the Ogham alphabet. Most of the

misinformation, and not just on this topic, is attributable directly to New

Age Gurus. Now I am not saying that someone cannot use Ogham for divinatory

purposes. What I am saying is that the evidence doesn't back up

statementsthat the Ogham is ancient from time out of mind. Fact is that it

doesn't appear to be any older than 400 AD. Some variants of it could very

well be. However there is no evidence, even scant, of it being older than

that. Anyone who would make such unbased statements and insinuations,  -a

prioiri- , really does need to examine their own commitment to truth. If

people, are going to create something new they need to state that it's new.

To falsify a history for things Celtic is just as ugly for emerging Celtic

approaches to spirituality, as it is for other paths. I think we can all

agree that personally revelation and enlightenment does occur. I think we

can all also agree that new approaches to religion and spirituality can be

valid because they have been inspired. However, when bold face BS is

presented as fact, in the face as fact, it detracts from the believablity

in the inspired nature of that thing so lied about. In addition it

constributes to the demise of the culture the thing is being stolen from...

yes I said stolen.

  Regarding the Ogham proper, while I could provide quotes from many many

academacians, from Green to Ross to Ellis. Here is one that sums it up

rather nicely:

"The history of Ireland's Celtic Iron Age and of the first four and a half

centuries AD was not writen down at the time, because the Celts did not

write, indeed they did not see the need to write. They commited things to

memory and passed them on orally. This is what is called the oral

tradition. Probably the áes dana, that is, the intellectual class knew how

to write but deliberately did not commit their knowledge to script so as to

concentrate the power of memory and to ensure the purity of the knowledge

as it was passed down orally. There was also as element of keeping the

secret in order to maintain superiority over others. When the Celts did

begin to commit anything to permanence in the form of writing, their first

script was a cumbrous and unimaginative usage of short horizontal or

diagnal lines on stone slabs, known as Ogham or Ogam script, and limited to

the recording of names and genealogies. It emerged in the early centuries

AD and was a crude system that served to represent Greek or Latinletters.

Generally thought to have been Irish in origin, Ogham inscriptions have

been found in other Celtic parts, such as Wales, the Isle of Man and

Scotland. As the script for recording historical events, listing laws, or

defining religious procedures, for example, it can be seen from the

photograph of an Ogham stone that is would have been well-nigh useless." (a)


(a)A History of Ireland, Peter and Fiona Somerset Fry

Does ogham writing appear outside the British isles?

This is from "http://www.pe.net/~merlin/ogam.html", (written by Richard M. Smith) ...

The implications of Ogham on american soil I'll leave to your imagination... (The discovery of carvings similar to Ogham in the state of West Virginia in the United States, has caused some speculation that the Celts may have come to the New World as early as 100 BC.)

Ogam, a system of writing used by the ancient Celts, is usually thought to exist only in the British Isles.

In his book,America B.C. (pub. Pocket Books, 1986), Barry Fell describes and translates several ancient ogam inscriptions found in North America. Another interesting book, In Plain Sight (by Gloria Farley, pub. Hoffman, 1994), contains descriptions and translations of ancient ogam inscriptions found in North America, and elsewhere outside the British Isles.

At several locations in Oregon, there are petroglyphs and pictographs that appear to be Celtic Ogam. At least two of these locations contain a ladder-shaped sign next to a rayed circle that may symbolize the sun. The ladder, which seems to be ogam, (GIF, 16k) has the rungs grouped left-to-right, 2-5-3, which is equivalent to ogam "G-R-N". In Ogam consaine, the vowelless type usually found in North America, this spells the Gaelic word "grian" or "sun".

This example (GIF, 56K) of ogam, from an Oregon site, is presently untranslated.

Are ogham "runes"?

Is ogham a "runic" script? Could they be called "runes"? 

The word "runes" refers 

to ancient characters used in Teutonic, Anglo-Saxon, and Scandinavian inscriptions

(such as Anglo-Saxon rune or Swedish-Norwegian runes). But if taken to refer to any

culture's early inscription-type script, one could concievably include ogham in 

the definition. The New Colombia Encyclopedia defines ogham as an "ancient 

Celtic alphabet of one of the Irish runic languages. The ogham runes

remain only as gravestone inscriptions..."

Oghams were used to write very old Irish, from 3rd to 6th century of our era. 

The inscriptions were not used for record keeping, but usually occur as simple

"X son of Y" inscriptions.

Various opinions exist onto what is the exact origin of ogham. Some claim that 

it stems from a cryptic way of writing runes, some others say that it is inspired 

from the Roman alphabet, and yet others hold that it is independently invented. 

According to the New Colombia Encyclopedia, runes "were probably first used by 

the East Goths (c.300), who are thought to have derived them from Helleno-

Italic writing. The runes were adapted to carving on wood and stone; they consisted

of perpendicular, oblique, and a few curved lines. They were used extensively 

throughout N Europe, Iceland, England, Ireland, and Scotland until the 

establishment of Christianity."

Here's a definition of ogham in Irish (Irish Gaelic):
Ogham a thugtar ar an aibítir a bhí ag na Ceiltigh in Éirinn fadó.

(The ancient Irish Celts had a form of writing called ogham.)

Faightear inscríbheanna ogham ar chlocha seasta nó galláin.

(The surviving examples of ogham are on large standing stones.)

Cuireadh grúpaí stríocanna nó poinc ar imeall ingearach na clocha. 

(Letters were formed by inscribing groups of dashes or dots 

on a vertical edge of the stone or gallán.)

Ainmneacha a bhíodh ann de ghnáth. 

(They usually held the name of a person.)

Tá feiche litir san aibítir agus léightear ó bhun go barr í. 

(The ogham alphabet contains twenty letters and is read from the bottom up.)

See also this usage example. 

Exploring the Origins of the Celtic Ogham

What is Tábhall-Lorg?

The Names of Ogham
This chart lists the character names of the Ogham alphabet as compiled from a number of sources.

Curtis clark's table of Ogham letters and associated trees.
The Hungarian Runic Writing
Druids @ http://www.uoguelph.ca/~bmyers/druid.html :
specific link to Ogham table

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Content Last Updated: June 4, 1999
Links last checked: July 24, 2003