I just got back from a three-week visit to Ireland on a pilgrimage of sorts to connect with the spirits of the land. We were a small group that traveled with local guides so that we could visit out of the way places strong in spirit.
The greatest reward for traveling there was understanding that Ireland is the birthplace of the ogham, or tree alphabet. It originated in Ireland and then moved east to the rest of the rest of the British Isles. So, in a way it was like going home. I also met quite a few people who are as passionate about the ogham as I am. I was very impressed with their desire to teach and preserve these teachings. I received a lot of encouragement and gratitude from these new Irish friends who shared a reverence for the ogham.
One such woman is passionate about finding and restoring and maintaining the ancient wells known for healing. Her name is Rosaleen Durkin and her website is at rosaleendurkin.com.
One man is carving stone markers for the wells, and creating a tree walk with the ogham. His name is Seighean O Draoi, and he can be reached on Facebook. He and I had a lovely time talking about the trees. He is also involved with a project that is working to digitally record all the known ogham stones in Ireland. The website is: www.countywicklowheritage.org/page/creative_ogham_wicklow_project.
And, another man named John Willmott has a book of stories and poetry called Bathing in the Fae’s Breath. He is known as the Woodland Bard, and can be reached at bardsinthewoods.com.
John owns the Carrowcrory Labyrinth Gardens, where he has restored a thatched cottage. He has created a Native Tree Labyrinth here that he shares with visitors. It was my honor to visit many sites with John, including a reclusive Fairy Glen, a walk at Benbulben Mt, a visit to the Caves of Keash, and a walk in the Hazelwood forest. Being a writer, poet, storyteller, and songwriter, he likes to offer and coordinate time in the woods and forests with others. He loves to help each other with identification of trees, shrubs, flowers, fungi, insects, birds and mammals we see there. He also loves to share poetry and his own works as well.
It was fun to exchange our work. John was thrilled about my new book, Celtic Tree Rituals: Ceremonies for the Thirteen Moon Months and a Day, and he ordered one. And I bought his book. I love this sense of “cross-pollination” among tree lovers!
One thing John shared about the ogham I found interesting: the scribes and monks wrote in Latin the sounds that they heard from the Irish speakers. Thus, we can only guess at the exact sound and nature of the spoken words. Also, we need to remember that so much came through the religious interpretation of the early church (which was trying to eradicate the Pagan teachings). As such, John feels that much of what is known about the ogham must be intuited through the heart, as there are many systems both of ogham writing, and different month designations. He stays with the teachings he learns while sitting with trees, much as I have. And so, it was easy for him to accept one more interpretation with there being no one truth about the origins of the ogham or the tree teachings.
I felt so at home with these people. The other treasure was meeting all the Irish trees that I talk about in my tree books. It was thrilling for me.
I am thinking about how to show respect for the Mother Earth and all her creatures. As we approach summer, I am so happy that I can reach for Celtic Tree RitualsWheel of the Year.
In closing, I bid you a bountiful summer full of family, love, and bright blessings!
Our thanks to Sharlyn Hidalgo for her guest post! For more from Sharlyn, read her article “Tree Ceremonies and Guided Meditations for Working with the Summer Season.”