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The Spiritual Significance of Ogham Hawthorn

ogham divination ogham today trees Jul 04, 2023
The Spiritual Significance of Ogham Hawthorn

Here we will look at the spiritual significance of Hawthorn as recorded in the Medieval manuscript Ogham tradition, and Irish folklore, and at how we can relate to it when working with the Ogham in a contemporary Paganism, or when following a native Irish spiritual path.

In Brief: What is Ogham?

We have already covered the history and origins of the Ogham alphabet in extensive detail on this blog (see for example, Here, and Here), but in brief...

The Ogham alphabet is an ancient system of writing that has been used for centuries, if not millenia, in Ireland. It is not a language in its own right, but rather a script which was developed, certainly no later than the 3rd or 4th century Common Era, to express the sounds of the earliest forms of our Irish language.

In Neo Pagan culture, it is commonly thought that each letter of the Ogham alphabet is associated with a tree or plant, but that is not actually the case. As told by Prof. David Stifter:

"Some names refer to items items that certainly have nothing to do with trees, and for others... the assumed arboreal meaning is only supported by late glossaries where it may be a learned conceit. Those words do not occur in ordinary usage for the trees they purport to signify." (Stifter, 2022)

 So, not all Ogham letters represent trees or plants. Some though, have come to be associated with them (and some still, not at all!). 

One of the most intriguing of these is the Hawthorn, which is represented by the letter H in the Ogham alphabet. This small but mighty tree has a rich history in Irish lore, and its spiritual properties have been revered for centuries.

In this article, we explore the Irish cultural and spiritual significance of the Ogham Hawthorn, and how modern practitioners can tap into its power for inspiration and insight. The Hawthorn has much to offer those who seek to deepen their spiritual practice.

So, grab a cup of tea, light a candle, and let's dive into the magic of the Ogham Hawthorn.

Hawthorn, hÚath in Ogham

The root word here is Úath, which carries many meanings in the Irish language. As a noun it translates as: fear, horror, terror; a horrible or terrible thing, horrible creature, spectre, phantom. As an adjective is describes something terrible, or horrible.  

Additionally, the word came to describe the name of a colour; represent earth, clay, or mould; be used to count a small number, a few; to be used in the name of certain Medieval tales; and also in later sources connected to the Whitethorn (Hawthorn), and the name of the Ogham letter H. 

It forms a part of the name the Mórrígan gives when listing attributes as her given name, in the tale of the Táin Bó Regamna, as she has come out of the Síd ar Cruachán, the fairy mound or Otherworld entrance that is now called the Cave of the Cats at Rathcroghan, County Roscommon. 

H, hÚath, is the first Fid of the second Aicme, in the Ogham alphabet.

The Hawthorn in Irish Folklore

The Hawthorn or Whitethorn tree has a long and storied history in Irish folklore. It is known as a Fairy Tree, and is still considered to be a gateway between this world and the Otherworld, the realm of the SidheThe Othercrowd are said to gather by lone hawthorn trees, and that the tree is protected by them.

There are many people in Ireland who won't even cut a branch off a single Hawthorn tree, never mind cut down a whole tree. 

In addition to its mystical associations, the Hawthorn holds medicinal properties in traditional Irish herbalism. The leaves, flowers, and berries of the Hawthorn tree have been used for centuries to support heart health and promote emotional well-being. It is considered a sacred and potent herb, known for its ability to calm the mind and heal the spirit.

The Hawthorn's presence in Irish folklore is a testament to the deep connection between the natural world and the spiritual realm. Its lore and symbolism continue to inspire and captivate those who seek to explore the rich tapestry of Irish traditions and the enchanting mysteries they hold.

Although you may see some sources state that the Hawthorn is connected to love and romance, this is not the case. It is considered unlucky for humans, and should not be associated with anyone's love life.

Hawthorn in Ogham Divination

Some of us, even in academic circles, think that while it's important to thoroughly grasp and study the historical sources related to Ogham, we can also create a contemporary divination practice that feels meaningful and true based on the knowledge we have. We can go beyond the limitations of the available evidence and let our practice evolve naturally, while still staying rooted in what we do know.

To this end, 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, as per the Medieval manuscript tradition.

The kennings for the Ogham Hawthorn, hÚath, are as follows, across three different word Ogham lists.

H - Assembly of packs of hounds - Blanching of faces - Most difficult at night

As said above, this is not about love or romance!

Connecting with Hawthorn through Meditation

Although this powerful Ogham can be intimidating, and should be handled with care, it can be worth the time and effort it takes to develop a relationship here. 

Meditation and visualisation are powerful tools for connecting with the spiritual properties of the Hawthorn tree. To begin, find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths and allow yourself to relax.

Visualise yourself standing in front of a large, spreading Hawthorn tree. Take in the details of the tree - its thorny branches, its delicate flowers, and the leaves rustling in the breeze. As you stand there, allow yourself to feel the energy of the tree. Feel its energy surrounding you, and allow yourself to be open to any insights or guidance that may come to you.

You may also choose to incorporate guided meditation into your practice.

>>>You can learn about Guided Meditation Practices in an Irish Context Here.

There are also a number of general guided meditations available online that are specifically designed to help practitioners connect with the spiritual properties of the Hawthorn tree.

Using Hawthorn as a Tool for Personal Growth

The Hawthorn tree can be a powerful tool for personal growth and transformation. Its thorny branches may seem prickly and intimidating, but they can also provide a catalyst for change and personal growth. By working with the Hawthorn, practitioners may be able to tap into their own inner strength and undergo a profound spiritual journey, even connect to the Irish Otherworld.

One way to use the Hawthorn as a tool for personal growth is to incorporate it into your journaling practice. Spend some time reflecting on the symbolism of the Hawthorn and how it can apply to your own life. What areas of your life do you need protection or transformation? How can you use the energy and strength of the Hawthorn to help you in these areas?

Resources for Further Exploration of Ogham and Hawthorn

Personal Experiences and Insights

As with any spiritual practice, the experience of working with the Hawthorn tree will be unique to each individual practitioner. Some may find that the tree's protective energy is particularly helpful in their daily lives, while others may be drawn to its associations with love and fertility.

Many practitioners report feeling a profound connection to the Hawthorn tree, and some even describe it as a spiritual ally or guide. By working with the tree and its spiritual properties, practitioners may be able to tap into their own inner strength and undergo a powerful spiritual transformation.

The Hawthorn tree is a powerful tool for spiritual practitioners, with a rich history and symbolism that spans centuries. So, go forth and explore the magic of the Ogham Hawthorn!



OGHAM - Quick & Easy Reference Guide

>>> Free PDF Download

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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