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The Ogham Alphabet for Beginners

beginners ogham alphabet ogham letters ogham origins Dec 13, 2022
Ogham Alphabet for Beginners

The Ogham alphabet is an early Irish alphabet that was developed and used to write the Irish language. It was first used from the 4th to the 6th centuries CE. The Ogham alphabet during this time frame consisted of a series of lines and notches that were carved into stone or wood, and it was typically read from bottom to top in this earliest period of use.

There are many examples of its use on stone monuments in Ireland, primarily spread through the South (Munster), and even in Britain which remain today, as the creators and influencers of the time would have travelled and settled through these islands.

Early Christians in Ireland valued having a writing system of their own, and Ogham was viewed as equivalent to the classical alphabets of Rome and Greece. It was used to write Primitive Irish, and later for Old Irish. It was also used to write Pictish and Old Welsh in Britain. Eventually, it ceased being a practical alphabet. However, it has remained an important part of learning for Gaelic scholars.

Originally, the Ogham alphabet consisted of 20 letters, which were named after various trees, plants, and other concepts (it's not a Celtic Tree Alphabet!). Each letter is represented by a series of one to five vertical or diagonal lines.

The letters are written in groups of five, and in some association lists the letters represent a different trees or plants. There are also many other association lists, such as colour ogham, bird ogham, and river ogham.

The Ogham alphabet was primarily used for inscriptions on stone monuments and grave markers, but later it was also used for manuscripts and other written materials. It is an important part of Irish culture and was perhaps used by the druids and other learned people to transmit knowledge and record historical events.

Today, the Ogham alphabet is of interest to linguists and historians, as it provides insights into the early history and culture of Ireland. It is also used by some modern-day practitioners of Celtic spirituality and folklore as a means of divination and communication with the natural world.

There is fantastic research being done on the archaeology of Ogham through the Ogham in 3D Project.


To see and work with the letters for yourself, make sure to download your free Ogham Alphabet Cheat Sheet Here.

OGHAM - Quick & Easy Reference Guide

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In this Guide you will find a brief history of the Ogham, and the Ogham letters laid out across two A4 sheets, for easy printing and quick reference or reminders as you learn.
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