Meanings of the Ogham
Beth / Birch
Birch is one of the first trees to grow on bare soil and thus it births the entire forest. Children's cradles were made of Birch. The tree bark is white, the inner bark provides a pain reliever and the leaves are used to treat arthritis. Criminals were at one time birched to drive out evil influences on them, to renew them for the new year. Axe handles were also made from Birch. The Amanita Muscaria grows well under the Birch. Birch indicates new beginnings.
Physical: You must rid yourself of negativity, unhelpful influences and bad thoughts for a new, fresh start.
Luis / Rowan
The Rowan tree is long known for aid and protection against enchantment. Sticks of the Rowan were used to carve Runes on. It was also used in the art of metal divining. Rowan spays and crosses were placed over cattle in pens and over homes for protection. Its lovely red berries feed the birds in winter. The berries have a tiny pentagram on them. The pentagram is the ancient symbol of protection. The Rowan tree indicates protection and control of the senses from enchantment and beguiling.
Physical: You will keep your senses about you to distinguish good from bad, and harm from help.
Fearn / Alder
This tree is a water lover. The oily water resistant wood has been used extensively for underwater foundations and pilings in Venice and elsewhere. It is used in dairy vessels and the branches in making whistles. It is associated with Bran, as He used His body as a bridge to span dangerous waters. It is used in the construction of bridges. Bran's Head was oracular. Alder indicates protection and oracular powers.
Physical: Be aware of uniqueness in self and others. Keep your eyes open to see the unusual and acknowledge what is seen in another if at all possible.
The willow is another water loving tree. Willow bark contains Salicin which is used in the treatment of rheumatic fever and various damp diseases. Her catkins, which appear in early spring before her leaves, attract bees to start the cycle of pollination. She indicates cycles, rhythms and the ebb and flux.
Physical: A comfortable relationship to the material world is full of lessons and cycles of changing values. Change is necessary for growth, and values are no exception to the rule.
The Ash tree has the toughest, most elastic wood. It is used in weaver's beams. Women would weave cloth and intermingling threads together in a tight pattern as the microcosm and the macrocosm are united. The Ash tree indicates the linking of the inner and outer worlds.
Physical: Your actions echo in the cosmos as a stone thrown in a pond casts ripples. Know you and the world are interconnected. Be aware of the effect of your actions.
The wood from the Hawthorn provides the hottest fire known. Its leaves and blossoms are used to create a tea to aid with anxiety, appetite loss and poor circulation. This small tree can create dense thickets and have thorns that are an excellent defence. The Hawthorn signifies cleansing, protection and chastity.
Physical: You need to work upon the physical condition of yourself. To better yourself you need to alter diet, smoking or eating properly. Healthy body can be attained by diet and exercise. A healthy body means a healthy mind.
The grand Oak, King of the Forest, grows slowly. Its dome shape and clean, straight trunk make it known on the horizon. Its wood is hard and tough and it burns slowly. Acorns when processed feed humans. Druids taught lessons under the Oak. Duir means doorway. This tree indicates protection - a doorway to mysteries and strengths.
Physical: A hands-on approach will nurture the skills you wish to have. Step through the door, one learns by doing.
The Holly is an evergreen bush with bright red berries. It is one of the three timbers used in the construction of chariot wheel shafts. It was used in spear shafts also. The qualities of a spear shaft are balance and directness, as the spear must be hefted to be thrown the holly indicates directed balance and vigour to fight if the cause is just.
Physical: Challenges will be overcome with unity and concerted effort. Ensure the cause is just.
The Sacred Salmon is associated with the Hazel tree in legend. The Salmon swimming under the overhanging Hazel trees ate the 9 nuts of poetic wisdom. The number of spot on the Salmon's side denoted the number of nuts eaten. The Hazel tree provided shade, protection and baskets. Hazel twigs were used for divining because of their pliancy and affinity with water. Hazel indicates intuition to lead to the source, poetry, divination and meditation.
Physical: Your skill in poetry, divination and meditation allows you to inspire others to increase their capacity in these arts. Example is the best teacher.
The Apple is the earliest cultivated tree. It is associated with choice. At Somerset, an auction was held for single acre plots on two pieces of common land. Plots were marked and matching marks made on the fruit. The apples were then placed in a bag and commoners were allocated land by the distribution of the fruit. All the acres of land were similar, as many times today choices must be made between similar and equally attractive things. Regardless, the choice must be made. Apple indicates choice.
Physical: Choice, while not easy, is necessary. Stop procrastinating, you will end up with nothing or an unsatisfying taste from each choice.
The Vine has been known and grown in the British Isles for a long time. Its distinctive fruit and foliage appear on Bronze Age artifacts. The grapes of the Vine are the supply of wine. The effects of wine are well known. Wine loosens inhibitions and allows one to speak more truthfully than normal. The Vine indicates the release of prophetic powers.
Physical: Unwind, if you then sense at a deep level that you must act in a certain way at this moment in order to deal with an issue; let intuition be your guide and do it.
Ivy is capable of growing and spreading in any land climate conditions. It is strong and difficult to destroy. Growing in a helix pattern it represents the spiral of the self and the search for the self. Ivy symbolizes the soul's wandering inward and outward seeking nourishment and experience from both the inside and out to achieve enlightenment. Ivy indicates the search for the self.
Physical: Link with others turn out this is not the time to be alone.
Reed grows in clumps at the river's edge. Reed resembles an arrow by its thinness. It was at one time used to make arrows. It is symbolic of music, bagpipes and flutes. In the winter the villagers rethatched their roofs with reed for security in the cold ahead. Weavers used reed to separate threads and to beat the fibres before spinning. Reed indicates direct action, and finding direction and meanings to the purpose of your journey.
Physical: You are able to find order where others find and create only chaos. Put this valuable skill to work. Take charge.
Blackthorn is a winter tree. The sloe, its fruits ripen and sweeten only after the nip of the frost. White flowers are seen even before the leaves in the spring. It is black barked with vicious thorns and grows in dense thickets. The wood is used in the cudgel shillelagh and Blasting Stick. Its thorns are used to pierce waxen images. Blackthorn indicates strong action of fate or outside influences that must be obeyed.
Physical: Unexpected change, plans altered or ruined. No choice however unpleasant. Events take over forcing you down the unavoidable path. Take courage, issues must be faced, decisions are unavoidable.
Elder regrows damaged branches with ease and can root rapidly from any part. A tea for purifying the blood can be made from the flowers and wine from the fruit. Sticks of Elder were used as magical horses by Witches. Elder indicates the end in the beginning and the beginning in the end. Life in Death and Death in Life.
Physical: Though one aspect of your life is over, another begins anew.
Fir is a very tall slender tree that grows in mountainous regions on the upper slopes. Fir cones respond to rain by closing and the sun by opening. Fir can see over great distance to the far horizon beyond and below. Fir indicates high views and long sights with clear vision of what is beyond and yet to come.
Physical: In this issue you can see what is beyond and what is coming. You have the perception to see and to understand from the point where you stand. Take long view point and foresee the future.
Furze is a yellow flowering shrub that grows on the moorland and common land. It blooms throughout the year. The flowers are plentiful in pollen and nectar and give off a strong sweet aroma of honey. The flowers are frequented by the first bees of the year. The bruised shoots provide food for the horses. In the spring Furze is set on fire to burn away the old growth to make room for the new. Furze indicates a gathering together, a skill at collecting elements needed for a goal.
Physical: Your search is over. What you seek shall be found. Continue on towards your goal.
Heather grows on top of peat moss, which provides fuel after it is cut and dried. Heather blossoms are used in the brewing of tea. The blossoms also attract bees and are valuable as a source of honey unsurpassed in flavour and delicacy. The bee travels from the heather back to the hive in relation to the position and angle of the sun. It is regarded as a messenger from and to the Spirit world by the Celts. Heather indicates closer contact with the Spirit world and healing.
Physical: Listen to your body's message. The time for healing is now.
The White Poplar flourishes beside rivers, in marshes and in other watery areas. The pith is star shaped. The upper leaves are green, the underside is silver. The wood was used in the making of shields. Leaves move with every puff of wind. It is commonly referred to as the talking, whispering and quivering tree. The Poplar's ability to resist and to shield, its association with speech, language and the Winds indicates an ability to endure and conquer.
Physical: Whatever challenge you now face, you will endure and conquer with determination. You can bend and not break.
The Yew is an evergreen tree with the leaves attached spirally to the twigs. As the outer tree decays a new tree grows within. The branches grow down to form new stems. Yew timber is dark and very strong. Yew berries were used to poison weapons. Wine barrels were constructed of Yew to symbolize the death of the Vine. Yew was also used in the manufacture of bows. Yew indicates rebirth.
Physical: Something held for many years must be passed on, let go. It serves you no longer.
Certain groups or groves of trees have always been revered. Their branches are never pruned or loped. It is assumed these are the remnants of Druidic Groves. These groves contained various types of trees, among them the Oak, and were by a stream. It is here all meetings by the Druids were held 'in the face of the Sun and in the eye of Light". Here grievances were heard and judgements rendered that would settle issues. Grove indicates all knowledge, past, present and future, where all are linked in unity, and the resolution of conflict.
Physical: You may be participating in a resolution of conflict.
The hard wood of the Spindle was used in the making of pegs, bobbins and spindles. It is a small and delicate tree with smooth grey bark and tiny white flowers. Deeply lobed brought crimson fruits appear in Autumn. Spindle indicates honour of tribe, community and the sweetness and delight of a sudden revelation.
Physical: Fulfil your obligations, not for reward but because you must, honour demands it and the greatest happiness will be yours.
Honeysuckle is also known as Woodbine. It twists and coils as the Ivy does. Beautiful yellow flowers entwine with the leaves. Its scent is very cloying and sweet. the Honeysuckle shows the way in which to achieve the search for the self. Honeysuckle indicates hidden desires, secrets and the path to the search for the self.
Physical: Pursue your desires, allow yourself to experience pleasure - you are not a monk. By joy do we learn, not by abstinence of what we enjoy.
The Pine tree is an evergreen, its old title was "the sweetest of woods". Its needles are a valuable source of vitamin C and can loosen a tight chest. The scent of Pine is useful in the alleviation of guilt. The Bach's flower remedies lists it for dealing with feelings of guilt. Pine indicates issues of guilt within you.
Physical: Use the guilt you have to clear the slate with those you have hurt and renew the relationships.
Phagos / Beech
Beech wood is closely grained, very easy to work giving a smooth even surface. At one time Beech tablets were used as writing surfaces because of the above mentioned qualities. Beech and book have the same word origins. Beech is concerned with ancient knowledge as revealed in old objects, places and writings. Beech indicates guidance from the past to gain insight which protects and provides a solid base upon which all relies.
Physical: Reviving memories will bring understanding that is needed. Do not neglect the past it is rich in experience.
Written by Colleen Whittaker 1996