Few occult ciphers and cryptic alphabets are as fascinating or quite so old as the Ogham.
This early Medieval alphabet was used throughout the Celtic regions of Britain and Ireland from the 4th century BC. In fact, they can still be found even today carved into some 400 stone monuments.
In later centuries, the Ogham was dropped as a mundane alphabet and came to be used by Gaelic scholars and poets as the basis of grammar and poetry.
Later sources ascribe each ogham letter to a tree and it was through the work of Robert Graves that the Celtic Tree Alphabet came into common occult usage in the Western Mystery Tradition.
In Celtic Tree Magic, Pagan writer and researcher Danu Forest presents her understanding of tree wisdom in a book that extends research into Druidic lore.
The book begins by looking at the historical roots of ogham and its proposed usage by those learned Druidic Priests. Forest explains that the Ogham is much more than a simple tree alphabet.
In fact, as the author points out, the book Libor Ogaim (‘The Ogham Tract’) includes a bird ogham, dog ogham, hand ogham and foot ogham.
Danu Forest then offers some practical advice on how to make that all important spiritual connection to trees as well as the correct techniques of becoming aware of tree spirits.
These techniques include a guided meditation as a way of establishing a connection to the ‘Inner Tree Ally’ and the ‘Guardians of Tree Groves’. As a prelude to doing this, Forest offers advice on how to ground and connect to Earth Energy.
The author advises us that ‘Tree Spirits’ of all kinds appreciative offerings in the form of gifts. However, they must be given in the right way.
Following on from this practical approach of tree magic, the next chapter of the book deals with each of the twenty Ogham trees.
Each one is subdivided into four groups or aicmes under the jurisdiction of birch, hawthorn, blackberry and pine.
The author offers the various associations related to each tree. These include their meaning and significance, botanical description, connected lore, legend and their divinational meaning and the trees healing and magical attributes.
As well as the Ogham trees, the book looks at the Forfeda—the five additional trees that are featured in ‘The Ogham Tract’. Unlike their Ogham counterparts these do not have the same complex list of associations.
Following on from this, the author returns to offer further practical magical advice—this time with a protracted guided meditation for using the Ogham as a spiritual quest.
Staying with the world of practical magic, the author then explores the correct method for making and preparing Ogham staves.
These can be used for magical and divinational purposes. You can create a complete set either from the wood of each individual tree or from the wood of a single type.
In this regard, the author advises on the correct method of selecting the word, including methods for engaging with a tree to identify the best wood to take from its branches.
You are interested in making a wand for magical ceremonies or rituals. If so, the author offers specific advice to get the best results.
Having prepared the Ogham staves, the author next offers advice on how to use them in divination. This includes help on how to frame the question, the different stave positions and sample readings to help you to understand the likely process a reading might take.
The final sections of the book move a little deeper into magic, starting with a sacred ceremony for creating sacred space for spiritual work such as spell work, healing, shamanic journeying etc.
Trees can also be used for the creation of besoms bracelets, charms, protection crosses, shamanic shields and wreaths.
A short section on vibration tree essences and tinctures ends the books main content with a short conclusion, appendix of ogham correspondences, bibliography and index to draw matters to a conclusion.
Throughout the pages of Celtic Tree Magic, the author does a good job in pressenting a fascinating subject in a way that is both academically stimulating and magically engaging.
As her surname suggests she clearly lives and breathes trees and her knowledge on the subject of Celtic magic is evident throughout the pages.
To my mind though, it is a book that could have offered so much more to its reader had more attention been paid to its visual presentation. Sadly, there are few illustrations—certainly of trees, the images of oghams are so small that you could be forgiven for thinking that they do not exist at all.
I also feel that more should have been made of the associations that Robert Graves revealed in his research into the ogham, including its astrological and annual cycles. The use of these would invariably open up new avenues in practicisng tree magic not covered in this book.
Nevertheless Celtic Tree Magic, whilst not the triumph that I hoped it would be, has much to commend it. The ogham descriptions are interesting and the inclusion of practical examples of ogham stave prediction add greatly to an otherwise little known style of divination.
I look forward to further insights into the subject of tree magic from the author and welcome her contribution to the further unveiling of our ancient Celtic tradition.