A Beginner’s Guide to
by Ceri Norman
Publisher: Moon Books
Release Date: December 1, 2022
From the publisher:
Discover the magic, mythology and meaning of the 25 trees of the Celtic Ogham, once the alphabet of the ancient Celts and now a system of divination that is perfect for tree lovers everywhere. This book invites and guides you to forge a meaningful and deep connection with the trees by listening to and learning from them. Each of the trees acts as a wise and insightful guide. By tuning into the energies, magic and personality of each of the trees, we can come to better understand them and to better understand ourselves. Featuring traditional correspondences, ancient kennings, folklore, divinatory spreads and so much more this book gives you a step-by-step to working with the Ogham as a practical as well as spiritual means of divination. Bring the magic, mystery and meaning of the trees into your life.
I love the cover of the book that is shown on Amazon, though it wasn’t on the review copy that I received. Those beautiful birch trees! I can see me sitting there in that glade becoming one with nature – losing my troubles and woes for awhile. All my life, I have fled to nature to get away! Sometimes a picture like this one can take me away in my mind! I have always been fascinated by my Celtic heritage since I learned of it and soaked it in like a sponge. Nowadays I don’t always remember so I was thrilled with an opportunity to to renew my acquaintance with the trees of the Celtic calendar and to learn more about the Ogham. Ceri Norman is an excellent author. I was glad to be asked to review one of her books! I have studied divination some but it is not my strong point. I gladly took this book.
Ceri’s aim in writing this book is stated as “to inspire you to find and create your own practical and meaningful way of working with the magic and mystery of the ancient Celtic Ogham and its trees, for both divination and as a part of your daily life and spiritual practice – if you have one.” She has a deep love of trees and for nature and it shines through in this book.
She begins “The Ogham is an ancient magical and mysterious alphabet, the letters of which are closely associated with various trees, as well as a vast storehouse of ancient wisdom. It is much more than just a series of letters though, for the letters, or Fews, are essentially keys that unlock the mysteries, metaphysics, magic and mythology of the Forest and the wider Universe, and provide invaluable insight into what is going on inside our own heads and hearts. Each letter has a myriad of associations, such as a tree, a bird, a craft, a colour, a saint, a king, a body of water, a type of person, and a whole lot of lore and legends. The Ogham has a lot to teach us. All we need to do is listen and learn.”
The book is divided into four parts – Part 1 has The Letters, Legends, and Lore of the Ogham. She tells us the Mythical and Historical Origins of the Ogham. There are two mythical legends which vary considerably. One is Pagan, the other is Christian. She relates both and also tells us that the Ogham was originally invented by the Gaulish Druids as a secret system of hand signals. That was around 600 B.C.E. It was not used as a writing system until much later. We learn more about The Celtic Tree Calendar, about the Celtic Perception of Trees:
“That the Ogham became associated with trees is no surprise, for the Celts have long revered and respected trees. In Irish they even have a special word for a ‘Sacred Tree’ – Bile. The first century CE Roman writer, Pliny, recorded that the Druids of Old practiced their rites in woodland groves, especially those of Oak. It is also worth noting that according to The Living Tree Foundation in Sneem, County Kerry, out of the approximate 16,000 towns in Ireland, around 13,000 are named after trees. That is over eighty percent!”
She contrasts that to our modern perception of trees “Today there seem to be two general perceptions of trees. For some they are simply resources, they are things to make furniture, medicines, paper, and other material goods from, and this attitude to trees is why there are far fewer of them today than there were in times past. For others, trees are incredible, awe-inspiring and majestic living beings which have so much to offer and teach us. In many ways it is this second attitude that connects us most deeply with how our ancestors viewed trees, although they were not averse to hewing them down. What is truly fantastic is that modern science and ongoing scientific discoveries are revealing some amazing and mind-bending things about trees that fully support the idea that trees are intelligent and amazing beings.”
“We are also rediscovering the amazing medicinal and healing properties of trees, not just in terms of the medicines they can provide us with, but in the sense of healing that their mere presence inspires.”
There is so much more and her research is well documented. This is another book I cannot do justice to in a review. Part 1 finishes up with a meditation exercise and other ways to connect to trees and forests.
Part 2 is about making an Ogham set, should you wish to do so or you can purchase a set already made. “Making your own Ogham set requires dedication and time, but is an incredibly rewarding experience. By making your own set and putting your energy and intentions into it, you will be connecting more deeply and more personally to the set and to the trees that each Few represents. The effort, emotion and energy that you put into making your Ogham set helps to give it its energy; it is part of your offering in exchange for the wisdom of the Ogham and the forest. You will form a connection, completely unique to you, with your Ogham set and with the energies and forces that they represent. It is a deep and meaningful experience.” You can make them from stone, crystal, wood, cut round branches, twig cut, or square or rectangular cut, or make them from clay. There are lists and directions. You can also use Ogham cards but they are not as ideal. They cannot be cast as easily and can get tatty quickly when frequently handled.
There are instructions how to consecrate, empower and cleanse your ogham stones.
Divining with the Ogham – Did the Druids and Celts use the Ogham for divination? How does divination work? There is a chapter on this. Then she gives quite a few spreads and methods:
Three Staves Spread
Three Realms Spread
The Four Directions or Four Elements Method
The Tree Spread
The Five Keys Method
The Celtic Cross Spread
Ceridwen’s Cauldron Spread
The Wheel of the Year
Random Casting Method
The Astrological Method
Fionn’s Window or Ridge Pole
Part 3 The Format – Modern Correspondences; Source Based Correspondences; The Word Oghams and Other Sources; There is a LOT of information here about the letters (fews) and their trees. You will find correspondences you will be able to refer back to. You can even add the parts you fancy to your Book of Shadows. As a matter of fact, she encourages you to do so.
“In the following chapters we will be looking at each Few in detail, their correspondences, meaning, mythology, folklore and more. We begin with the name of the Few and the tree is has become associated with, followed by – where known – the original meaning. This is to give you a better understanding of how the meaning has changed and allows you to explore each Few and its meaning more deeply if you so wish. The keywords are there in case you just want the basics of the meaning of the Few, kind of like a quick reference, and you will also find a handy quick reference guide at the back of this book so you can avoid flicking through the whole thing when you just want to be reminded of the basics.”
For example, for Beth – Birch – There is a very clear drawing of the rune and there are almost five full pages of information about this one. Quite frankly, that is more than I usually find in one place and I have looked up the Celtic ‘trees’ frequently over the years.
The information for each includes:
Tree Type in Brehon Laws:
Celtic Tree Calendar:
as well as the Word Oghams and the General Explanation which is extensive.
Each also includes the ‘Reversed’ meaning of the Ogham.
The Forfeda – “These are the later additions to the Ogham, and so there is generally less information available on them. Many scholars, diviners and magical practitioners ignore them or even discredit them. There is some confusion over which symbol refers to which tree, or even if it refers to a tree at all. I have included them here to help you to get a full overview of all the Ogham Fews available to you. It is your choice as to whether you use them in your
divination or not.”
The Forfeda are Ebhadh – Elecampane; Oir – Spindle; Uillean – Honeysuckle; Iphin – Gooseberry; Eamhancholl – Twin of Coll or Witch-Hazel/Wych-Elm
Part 4 has a Pronunciation Guide, References, Bibliography, Websites for Online Copies of Various Sources; General Ogham Resources; Information on Trees; and an Ogham Reference Quick Guide that looks quite handy.
Do I recommend this book? I am going to buy a paperback copy for my own bookshelf as soon as I have the means to do so. It is wonderful!
About the author:
Ceri Norman is a green witch, folklorist, historian and an internationally known author. Her inspiration comes from the natural world, ancient magic, mythology and sacred monuments, as well as the inner realms of magic and mystery. Through her works she hopes to inspire others to appreciate the magic and magnificence that is all around us.
After gaining a degree studying History and English, Ceri gained diplomas in Crystal Healing and Rune Divination. She has been working with plants, trees and the Ogham for over 30 years. Ceri is most definitely a Scorpio, and was born on Halloween, which probably explains a lot!
Ceri has also penned articles for a variety of magazines including FAE Magazine, Goddess of Avalon Magazine, Soul & Spirit, Indie Shaman, The Magical Times, Cinema Scandinavia, the Nordic Noir Magazine and Scan Magazine, on a wide range of topics, from folklore to fashion.
About the Author:
Katy Ravensong is a practicing green witch in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. She was raised here where she ran barefoot & free. She is a wife, mother, grandmother, voracious reader, crocheter, and amateur herbalist. She glories in the freedom that comes with being a Crone ~ when she is gone, she will not be known as a woman who could keep her mouth shut! She is disabled, yet tries to make disability work for her. She is an advocate for human rights. She is Dean of Wortcunning and Assistant Dean of Natural Philosophy at The Grey School of Wizardry. She has studied with various herbal teachers, with Witch School International, with Avalonian Institute of Metaphysical Arts, and is a priestess with the Sisters of Earthsong, Order of the White Moon. Her poetry has been featured in several publications including ‘Pagan Poetry for the Festivals and Seasons’ by Wyrdwood Publications edited by Edain Duguay, 2008. Her favorite quote is from Emily Dickinson “If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain. If I can ease one life the aching or cool one pain or help one fainting robin unto his nest again, I shall not live in vain.”