Discover the fascinating world of Ogham divination and its meanings. This guide will teach you the historical background, symbolism, and significance of Ogham divination, while the video above will teach you how to create your own Ogham divination set (save it for the end!).
Lora O'Brien, founder of the Ogham Academy (and author of this article), has been studying and working with the Ogham for almost 30 years, while devoting the most recent of those years to a Masters in Irish History, and a thesis on the topic of the Ogham and Irish Identity.
What is Ogham Divination?
Ogham divination is a modern way in which Contemporary Pagans, and those generally interested in divination, may predict future happenings, communicate with beings or entities such as Gods or Ancestors, or gain deeper insight and understanding of past, present, and future situations and events.
You will hear elsewhere that 'it is an ancient Celtic system of fortune-telling and symbols which has been used for thousands of years by Druids and Shamans'... but the reality is, we have no reliable historical evidence on whether the Ogham was used for divination or magical practice.
What we do have are tantalising archaeological hints, and manuscript references which were recorded at a much later date, and in a very different context, to the events, situations, or stories they purport to be telling us about.
There are those of us, even within academic settings, who believe that while we absolutely MUST clearly understand and study the archaeology, linguistics, and historical source material that does remain to us with regard to the Ogham... we can also extrapolate and develop a modern spiritual, magical, and divination practice that is fulfilling and authentic to what we do actually know, while organically growing from and beyond the admitted restrictions of the evidence.
Ogham Divination Meanings
Ogham Divination uses a set of 25 symbols, based on the letters of the ancient Irish Gaelic script. Each symbol represents the letter name, is related to the others within its original Aicme or grouping, and holds a key to many layered deeper meanings which can be used to interpret a person’s life.
Depending on the context, each Ogham letter or Fid can take on a different meaning. While we do provide suggested meanings below, we strongly encourage you to study the original source materials and develop your own 'kennings' for each of the Feda ('letters') of the Ogham.
Though most Neo Pagan and New Age sources will tell you that Ogham Divination meanings come from some sort of 'Celtic Tree Oracle', this is unfortunately, inaccurate.
Though very popular, this nonsense comes from a misunderstanding that the Ogham alphabet is ALL about trees, and each ogham divinatory meaning is related to trees, or worse, a 'Celtic Tree Calendar'.
Though we can blame Robert Graves for much of this, as he published it in his pseudo academic (but actually fiction and romantic poetry) book, the White Goddess. (More on that by Morgan Daimler Here).
Even leading Ogham scholars such as Damien MacManus have been frustrated by this focus within academia, as he stated in 1988:
It has become a commonplace of Irish scholarship to regard all the Irish letter-names as names of trees and no other aspect of Irish letters has contributed more to the derailment of a serious study of the history of Ogam than this.
Trees, and tree associations, can form a part of our understanding of the Ogham divination meanings, but they are not (and really should not be trusted as) the whole picture.
At the Ogham Academy, we base our complete divinatory system on the whole of the knowledge of the Ogham which remains to us, and much of this relies on the Bríatharogaim lists as a strong and solid foundation.
Ogham Kennings as Divination Meanings
A Bríatharogam (which translates as 'word ogham', the plural of which is Bríatharogaim) is a two word kenning, a poetic tool of memorising and understanding, which explains the meanings of the names of the letters of the Ogham alphabet.
Three different lists of Bríatharogaim have been preserved in the Manuscript Tradition, dating to the Old Irish period. They are known as:
- Bríatharogam Morainn mac Moín
- Bríatharogam Maic ind Óc
- Bríatharogam Con Culainn
The Bríatharogaim appear mainly in a text called the Ogam Tract or Book of Ogams, compiled from multiple manuscripts and published by George Calder in his work 'Auraicept na n-éces: the scholars' primer; being the texts of the Ogham tract from the Book of Ballymote and the Yellow book of Lecan, and the text of the Trefhocul from the Book of Leinster'.
The given meanings for the Feda of the Ogham alphabet are as follows...
B - Withered foot with fine hair - Greyest of skin - Beauty of the eyebrow
L - Lustre of the eye - Friend of cattle - Sustenance of cattle
F - Vanguard of hunting/warrior bands - Milk container -Protection of the heart
S - Pallor of a lifeless one - Sustenance of bees - Beginning of honey
N - Establishing of peace - Boast of women - Boast of beauty
H - Assembly of packs of hounds - Blanching of faces - Most difficult at night
D - Most exalted tree - Handicraft of an artificer - Most carved of craftsmanship
T - One of three parts of a wheel - Marrow of (char)coal - One of three parts of a weapon
C - Fairest tree - Friend of nutshells - Sweetest tree
Q - Shelter of a lunatic - Substance of an insignificant person - Dregs of clothing
M - Strongest in exertion - Proverb of slaughter - Path of the voice
G - Sweetest grass - Suitable place for cows - Sating of multitudes
GG (nG) - Sustenance of a leech - Raiment of physicians - Beginning of slaying
Z (St) - Strongest reddening (dye) - Increase of secrets - Seeking of clouds
R - Most intense blushing - Reddening of faces - Glow of anger
A - Loudest groan - Beginning of an answer - Beginning of calling
O - Wounder of horses - Smoothest of craftsmanship - Sustaining (equipment) of hunting/warrior bands
U - In cold dwellings - Propagation of plants - Shroud of a lifeless one
E - Discerning tree - Exchange of friends - Brother of birch
I - Oldest tree - Fairest of the ancients - Energy of an infirm person
EA - Fair-swimming letter -Admonishing of an infirm person - Fairest fish
OI - Most venerable substance - Splendour of form
UI - Fragrant tree - Great elbow/cubit
IO - Sweetest tree - Most wonderful taste
AE - Groan of a sick person - Groan of a sick person
>>> Download Your Free Printable Guide (including a modern interpretation of these Ogham Divination Meanings!)
How to Connect the Meanings to Your Life
By using Ogham Divination, you can gain insight and understanding into your own life. Study this article, meditate on the Bríatharogaim in turn, and journal your thoughts or intuitive gleanings.
To connect the meanings to your life, start by focusing on the symbols and their possible interpretations. Ask yourself which of these energies need to be balanced or refreshed in your life. What needs to change? What resonates, and what repulses?
Once you have identified which energies are out of balance, use the Ogham Divination interpretation as a guide to help you identify potential solutions for regaining balance in your life.
Trustworthy Ogham Divination Sources:
- Laurie, Erynn Rowan. Ogam Weaving Word Wisdom. Immanion Press, 2016.
- McManus, Damian. A guide to Ogam. Vol. 4. An Sagart, 1991.
- McManus, Damian. "Irish letter-names and their kennings." Ériu 39 (1988): 127-168.
- Stifter, David. Ogam. Language| Writing| Epigraphy. Prensas de la Universidad de Zaragoza, 2022.
- The Irish Pagan School - Ogham Courses by Lora O'Brien
- [Video Guide] - How To Make An Ogham Set - Beginners - Lora O'Brien
OGHAM - Quick & Easy Reference Guide
>>> Free PDF Download
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