©2022 Michael Raven
I’ve worked my way through, as of last night, all of the traditional fews that were not latter add-ons to account for language changes (the addition of the forfeda), which were later add-ons by medieval scholars wanting to address diphthongs (or so one of the the theories goes). They look like late add-ons because they fail to follow the established patterns up to their inclusion, and they are largely too complex to be useful a ogham would have been used — and are a sign of attempting to use ogham as a written language instead of a symbolic language — something I have my doubts about (nor am I alone in that thinking). But my thoughts are still nebulous with respect as to how ogham might have been used…
I am thinking about following up the poems now with some concordance information, however incomplete it is doomed to be. But, due to scholars closer to the actual usage of ogham (however they were used) having made up lists of ogham outside the “tree” associations that have commonly been associated with the ogham, there are actual records of what each few might have been intended to convey in terms of meaning. There are “bird ogham”, “color ogham”, “trade skill ogham”, and etc. which all used the same ogham used to represent plants/trees and vocalized sounds.
And, unfortunately, any divination techniques employing ogham are largely reconstructed based on what several people at the turn of the last century manufactured. In spite of insistence to the contrary, we don’t really know how ogham were used for any purpose. Their intended and actual use remains mostly mystery. Anything else is wishful thinking.
Does that make them useless to study? Oh, goodness, no.
Even as flawed as those lists might be associated with various cuts into wood and stone, they still may point to understanding something about a society two thousand years ago, and that understanding (also however flawed during that time period), is a reflection on what the people’s minds were before the ogham were ever used. Understanding that may be the gateway to an understanding of the cosmology of a people prior to it being muddled quite so much by conflict, assimilation, and technological advances. Not that advances are bad, but they tend to gloss over the core ideas behind primitive thinking, which was arguably closer to the earth rhythms and patterns.
And it is that raw stuff that most interests me, what I find most seductive. So, ogham may hep unlock a deeper understanding about what underlies everything.
Or it might be just fancy property and grave markers.