May 12, 2020

The Ogham Alphabet

Those of you who have read the Morgana Trilogy know that I've been inspired by the Ogham Alphabet a lot (as well as Norse Runes), combining it with a key Fey feature to make it a central plot point in my stories.

So here's a little more on what the Ogham Alphabet is, historically-speaking:

  • The word "Ogham" derives from the Irish god Ogman, the god of poetry and learning (who, like the god Thot in Ancient Egypt, was said to have created the alphabet)
  • The alphabet is sometimes referred to as Beth Luis Nuin, after the original (Gaelic) first three letters of the Ogham Alphabet.
  • They were carved singly, or in groups of up to five --> 20 different characters could be created.
  • The basis of each letter is a vertical line and characters are lines branching to the left and right from it --> like a tree (the Ogham Tree)
    • Because of this, letters were named after trees: Beth is birch, Luis is roan; and Nuin is ash.
    • The whole alphabet is therefore considered like a forest.
  • "Individual trees held high symbolic significance, so the forest alphabet was deemed to be a repository of wisdom. The word for 'knowledge' also means 'wood'."
  • Inscriptions are read from the bottom up, the way a tree grows.

Of course, I used what I wanted from this (mostly using the term "ogham" along with Norse runes--the horror!), and then grouped each into different elemental categories. These, in turn, became the basis for calling out the basic Fey powers for the knights to use. My intention was to keep historical oghams for more complexe Fey beings, but that just didn't happen in this series...

The Element Encyclopedia of the Celts, by Rodney Castleden

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