on the edges of this pillar stone (left) are characters from an alphabet that
was used in fifth-century Ireland.
Known as ogham, the 25-letter alphabet
was supposedly inspired by Ogma, god of eloquence.
- Ogham was
carved and read from BOTTOM to TOP.
(Also carved, occasionally,
right to left).
- Also written as ogam or ogum, it
is pronounced "AHG-m" or "OH-ehm."
- Ogham served as an alphabet for one
of the ancient Celtic languages. Its origin is uncertain: it may have been adapted
from a sign language.
Current understanding is that the names of the main
twenty letters are also the names of 20 trees sacred to the druids.
Some authors have suggested the existance of a 13 month calendar which shared
some of these names.
- A 15th century treatise on Ogham, The Book of
Ballymote, confirms that ogham was a secret, ritualistic language.
there is no direct evidence that the Ogham alphabet was used [in antiquity] for
divination or any other magical purposes. ( see
Shown at right is a key to ogham: its consonants and vowels
can be identified by the number, position, and direction of their notches.
The letters consist of one to five perpendicular or angled strokes, meeting
or crossing a center line.
The form of the letters allows them to be
carved easily on objects of wood or stone, with the edge of the object forming
the center line.
This is a standing stone (galla'n) on Dingle Peninsula, Ireland.
courtesy " The World of
- Any wood carvings have of course long vanished: the Cetlic runes are known
principally from incriptions cut on the edges of rough standing gravesones. These
are found primarily in west Ireland, but they have also been found in Wales, Cornwall,
western Scotland, the Isle of Man, and the Shetland Islands.
- The Irish had no other written alphabet until Christian missionaries
introduced Latin (though runes may have also been used).
to be used after the first few centuries of the Christian era, as the use of inscription
languages (like runes and ogham) was reviled as a pagan practice.
The vowels can
be written with dots like this....
...or as lines crossing the middle divider, like this.
This inscription says "beth
luis nion";* this is a name of the ogham alphabet and, somewhat like the
word "alphabet", comes from the names of the first, second, and fifth
letters (remember: read from the bottom up).
NOTE: "BETH" is also spelled (perhaps more accurately) "BEITH."
There is a more modern custom of orienting the writing
by placing it on its side, like this:
E T H
I S N
I O N
This is a "ogham line" showing all 25 "letters" of the Ogham alphabet:
The following image
of a Ogham wheel is a segment from the 14th-century Book of Ballymote,
a manuscript that contains a collection of Irish sagas, law texts, and genealogies,
as well as a guide to the ogham alphabet. Much of the information available on
ogham has come from this manuscript (currently housed in the Royal Irish Academy
in Dublin) and this information is thought to have been copied from a much earlier
9th century manuscript. It is from this text that the descriptions of Ogham characters
have largely been drawn.
CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO VIEW THE ENTIRE
STONE MAIN PAGE | WHAT IS OGHAM? | OGHAM
TABLE | MESSAGE BOARD | SOURCES
This page copyright
© 1999-2005 Liberty Miller
Please contact me if you wish to use elements of this