Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees: Ash

Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees: Ash




Ash, ash of the long strong twigs
You timber creation!
Branches of ash trees gather new light
In the deep, dark mazes of January snows.

Nion

The ancient Ash, bare branched in winter, is a witchy sight. Its gnarled branches and tangles of twigs seem to be holding secrets, perhaps spells cast up from its roots by the Three Fates who, in the perpetual night of the Underworld, weave the threads of destiny. This is the power of World Tree, Yggdrasil, the Ash.
It was from the branches of the Ash tree that Odin hung himself for nine days and nights to gain the power of the Runes, or magical speech that could harness and transform Fate according to his will. For is it not true that when something is named, and especially when it is written, that it comes within our power to control it?

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As for the Ogham, the Ash, bare in its season of mid winter, is like a great scrawl, signifying that outward life is unformed as yet, that the great energies emerging from below the ground, are not yet set into the patterns of things to come. This leaves them vulnerable to the Magician who can grasp the pliable tangles and move them into the patterns of his or her desire. It is as if the branches can be arranged so that they write one’s spell upon the heavens.
The Ash is a tree that loves the wet ground. Thus it is said to be rooted in the Well of Wyrd, the deepest portal into the Underworld out of which the Runes were born. Around the rim of the Well, the Weavers sit, catching the Runes in their threads to re-create the world.
At the base of the tree is the serpent of wisdom, who winds its way up the trunk of the tree, and into its branches, to peer out of its leaves in search of those who would seize the knowledge of the forces of Creation. Thus Shamans, known in European cultures as Witches, used this tree as a road into the deepest levels of the primal Unseen, and then again, as a ladder rising up the planes into the highest of Celestial realms, where the Moon, Sun, and Stars confer another kind of wisdom.
It is the branches of tall and ancient Ash tree that gather the new light from the Heavens and bring it to Earth in preparation for renewal in Spring

Yggdrasil: The World Tree

Ash Working

When entering and leaving Faery by way of the inverted tree, it would lend potency to your working to know the lore of the Ash, for this detail will lead you deeper into the Underworld, and open more realms to you.
The efficacy of magical work hinges on the build up of certain images in the aethers that surround planet earth in the sub-lunar plane. The older the images, the more power they hold, and that power is made of the thought forms of every person and animal who has projected their intention towards it. An avatar as ancient as the Sacred Ash, the World Tree, Yggdrasil, is a battery of potent imagery that can catapult you through time and space to where the soul imprints of past Magicians  and Witches are still active.

Divination by Ash: New energies are stirring deep inside you. take time to meditate and grasp the messages that your subconscious mind is sending you.

One way to do this would be to cast the magical circle with the ash as its central axis. Let it take you into the Underworld, and then up into the stars. Pay attention to what you see, and what and whom you meet. Keep a  journal, and record of your journey, and by doing so, self knowledge will come to you.
You may begin to have prophetic dreams. Write them down. remember the Scared Letters and their power to influence the Web of Wyrd at this time.
Magical tools made of Ash are said to be most potent as they draw on the strength of the World Tree.

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Magical Correspondences

Ogham name: Nion
Letter: N
Tree: Ash
Deities: Gwydion, Lleu
Bird: Snipe
Animal: Adder
Color: Clear
Use: Wands, spears, lintels

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Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees – part 2

The Alphabet of the Gods

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According to the Irish Bards of old, the Ogham was received by a great poet, mac Elatha mac Delbeath from the God Ogma Grian-ainech or Ogma Sun-Face, a mercurial God of language and poetry. It was instantly conceived as a magical tool. One only has to cast the mind back to the times when uttering spells and charms was enough to change reality at will, or to recall the opening of the Bible, “In the beginning was the WORD”, in order to grasp the power of letters and language in the old world before books usurped the power of communication and turned language into a standard collection of letters printed on pieces of parchment. Of course every witch knows that books themselves in those times were believed to be magical, and for some of us, they still are.

The first letter written was the Ogham for Birch, Beth, carved seven times on the birch bark paper by Ogma for the God Lugh, as an oracle to warn him that his wife would be carried away.

Blogger, Kevin Jones, at: www.taliere.tripod.com, has these interesting things to say about the word Ogham:

Ogham is named after Ogma. However, in Greek ogmos means a line, row or
furrow, which is quite an apt description of Ogham… In Scots Gaelic the word
for Ogham, oidheam, means ‘a notion of anything, an idea, an inference, hint’.
This is an accurate description of the Ogham. The cognate word in Latin,
agmen, means both ‘boatmen’s oars’ and ‘speech’, which is very apt! There is
also the rather obscure word ogygia which is best translated as primeval or
‘before time’. This may or may not be related but if it is, it is apt since the
Ogham does concern primeval things.

Primeval…yes! What could be more primeval than the trees and the sky and
the birds and the earth?

Wooden portal of the Stave Church at Urnes

Deer nibbling the leaves of the Ash Tree
that is also like a door into the Otherworld.

Witches Wheel

Two trees on either side of a path can be perceived as gateways
into the Otherworld. Therefore you must pass between two birches on the Eve
of Samhain, or All Soul’s Night, to begin your journey around the Wheel of the
Year through the grove of sacred trees.

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acadia-birch-trees-michael-hudson

photo:Michael Hudson

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As pretty as the correspondences are, I feel the current popular trend of creating Celtic Tree calenders with Birch on the threshold of January is  wrong. The Ogham is an ancient Celtic system. The ancient Celtic calender, and one adopted by many who follow a magical Celtic path, begins at Samhain and the Rites of the Birch are meant to be carried out at that time.

Robert Graves, author of The White Goddess, was among the first to popularize the Ogham as the sacred alphabet of the Celts.  He also claimed that all true poetry sprang from this sacred source, magical words formed of magical letters seeded in the subconscious of the inspired poet, and behind that was the power of the Great Goddess. His description of this alphabet, which he called Beth, Luis, Nion, or Birch, Rowan, and Ash respectively, follows the Celtic year of thirteen lunar months. beginning on November first.

I am following the order of trees in a poem I wrote in the early 1980’s called Witches Wheel. I wrote this poem under the influence of The White Goddess, well before the New Age version of Ogham hit the bookstores under the guise of “Celtic Astrology”. Each tree in this book is accompanied by a stanza of this old poem of mine, which was the first poem I ever had published. Even this order is unusual, but it the one that works for me. I give my reasons in the text, though I wrote the poem in a completely intuitive, stream of consciousness state that intellectually justified none of my choices.

The truth is that the idea of a Celtic Tree calender has more to do with the Celtic Twilight of the Victorian Age than with any historical facts. Nevertheless, it is still a beautiful concept that inspires the imagination and gives us a sense of place in a world where human beings are increasingly alienated from nature.

As one who resonates with the most primal levels in magic, I will attempt to reach back intuitively  into the origins of the Ogham in the mists of the “Dark Ages” on the British Isles.  Fact or fantasy? Who cares!

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