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Ogham FAQs

ogham alphabet ogham history ogham origins ogham stones Nov 21, 2022

Video Transcript 

Hello, this is Lora O'Brien of the Ogham Academy and I'm here to answer some frequently asked questions about the Ogham. And I suppose to start off with - what is Ogham?

What is Ogham

So Ogham is a writing system or an alphabet, which was developed to express the sounds of Primitive Irish, which is like the ancestor of Old Irish, which is maybe better known. And obviously it followed a progression then through the language. So in the original tradition, which was the stone inscriptions, we had 20 letters. There was one of the, what's called the Forfeda, the extra letters, which came later. And that was a set of 5 or 6 of the extra letters. But one of them would've appeared regularly enough in the Ogham inscription tradition. And these 20, 25, 26 letters would form the Ogham alphabet and still form the Ogham alphabet.

The second question would be, when was the Ogham invented? And I suppose where, as well?

When and Where Was Ogham Invented?

So where would be Ireland. It did travel to other countries, other places with the Irish people and the Irish tribes who had invented it and then moved or migrated. So you do have examples outside of Ireland as well, but it was invented in Ireland. And the earliest that we can date it, because the earliest records that we have of it are on stone, the earliest that we can date it would be to the last 300s Common Era or AD. So the Ogham alphabet probably existed before that, quite possibly existed before that, but we can't categorically date it. And one of the issues that we have is that we can't date stone. You can't carbon date stone. So archeologically speaking, we have to look at what the context of where the Ogham inscriptions were found and how they were found.

And the other clue then that we have was the the linguistics. So the actual development of the Irish language, which is why we can put it back with Primitive Irish. It definitely existed before Latin became a thing in Ireland, but Latin became very mixed in with it through the tradition as well. So the later then, the scholastic tradition, would have been around the six, seven hundreds, probably when Ogham started to be written down into the manuscripts of medieval monasteries by medieval monks. And these monks would've been very keen to preserve the native Irish tradition alongside the Greek and the Roman traditions, the classics that they were learning. They would seemed to have viewed the native Irish alphabet and script and writing system of Ogham as just as important, if not more so, than the Greek and the Roman traditions and classics and all the rest of it, the scholastic learning that they were engaging in as part of their medieval studies.

What was the Ogham used for?

Well, originally within the classical tradition, the stone inscriptions from the, you know, 300s to the 500s or the 600s; even the 700s there were still inscriptions being made. They would have been representing personal names and tribal names, so they would've been used on Ogham stones, Ogham pillars. The Ogham would've been written from bottom to top or along one of the edges usually, and it would've been such and such a personal name of a tribe, or son of, or grandson of. So that's how they were being used.

So those are some basic frequently asked questions about the Ogham and we will be doing more on this channel about the Ogham as time goes on. And you can always pop over to Ogham.Academy, that's O G H A M dot academy, join the mailing list there and check out the blog. And you will absolutely get top quality native Irish Ogham resources.


And we do have a free gift for you as well. So what you can do is go to and you will get a downloadable pdf, which has the Ogham letters and some basic history in the timeline of the Ogham. And just some, you know, some information about it. So you can have it in a printable format as a reference guide, a quick reference or a refresher. So hopefully that's been helpful to you. This is Lora O'Brien from the Ogham Academy, and I will see you in the next video.


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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