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Myths & Symbols

The Claddagh Story

Celtic Ogham

Ogham was a system of writing which used horizontal or slanting notches cut on stone or wood to indicate letters. Existing examples suggest that Ogham was used primarily on grave and boundary markers. Evidence exists however, to support its use by Druids for recording tales, histories, poetry, genealogies, and the like. In addition, each letter was named for a particular tree, and a vast lore of religious and mythological knowledge could be encoded in cryptic verse. The names of the main twenty letters are the names of 20 trees sacred to the druids.

There is no direct evidence that the Ogham alphabet was used [in antiquity] for divination or any other magical purposes. It has twenty letters, grouped into four 'aicme' of five letters each. A fifth Aicme (consisting of another five letters) was invented later to account for sounds in Latin that do not occur in Gaelic.



Letter Standard Name Pronounced English Name Scientific Name
Beth   B Beth (BETH) Birch Betula pendula
Luis   L Luis (LWEESH) Rowan Sorbus aucuparia
Fearn   F Fearn (FAIR-n) Alder Alnus glutinosa
Saille   S Saille (SHAL-yuh) Willow Salix alba
Nion   N Nion (NEE-uhn) Ash Fraxinus excelsior
Huath   H Huath (HOO-ah) Hawthorn Crataegus spp.
Duir   D Duir (DOO-r) Oak Quercus robur
Tinne   T Tinne (CHIN-yuh) Holly Ilex aquifolium
Coll   C Coll (CULL) Hazel Corylus avellana
Quert   Q Quert (KWAIRT) Apple Malus sylvestris
Muin   M Muin (MUHN) Vine Vitis vinifera
Gort   G Gort (GORT) Ivy Hedera helix
Ngetal   Ng Ngetal (NYEH-tl) Reed Phragmites australis
Straif   Ss Straif (STRAHF) Blackthorn Prunus spinosa
Ruis   R Ruis (RWEESH) Elder Sambucus nigra
Ailm   A Ailm (AHL-m) White Fir Abies alba
Onn   O Onn (UHN) Gorse Ulex europaeus
Ura   U Ura (OO-rah) Heather Calluna vulgaris
Eadha   E Eadha (EH-yuh) Aspen Populus tremula
Idho   I Idho (EE-yoh) Yew Taxus baccata
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