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The memory of trees: Part 1

By Helen Riding

[Snip] “Ogham is an alphabet of carved grooves. Vertical, horizontal, diagonal, single or grouped. Notation for music; a visual code for sounds. These sounds become names and stories and folklore. Prehistory is the world before words. Ogham breaks that spell. Ogham is the first sound-byte.” The Alphabet Stone, Derek Hyatt

Ogham is an ancient Irish alphabet that was used in inscriptions on stone monuments found in Ireland and Britain, possibly to indicate land ownership. It is also a mnemonic system and a symbolic language that may be used for communication, divination and magic. The Ogham alphabet comprises 20 original letters (feda) in four groups (aicmí) of five letters. The first three groups contain consonants and the fourth group contains vowels. Five supplementary letters (forfeda) were added at a later date.

Each Ogham letter is associated with a sound, a letter name and words starting with the same sound from various categories (trees, animals, birds, colours, occupations, tools, people, places, etc.). Several of the letter names are also the names of trees and today the Ogham alphabet is primarily associated with the native trees of Ireland and Britain. Studying the Ogham as a symbolic language means learning about the physical characteristics, mythology, folklore and customs relating to these trees.

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