Ancient practices for a modern world
Ogham & the Celtic Tree Calendar
The ancient Celts didn’t have a written language, but they had a mysterious set of symbols known as the Ogham, pronounced 'Oh-am'. The exact historical origin of the alphabet has been the source of arguments for many years between modern pagans, scholars and authors. The Celtic alphabet of Ogham is an undisputed ancient written form in Ireland from around the 4-10th Century CE found on giant stone monuments. The notched grooves carved into these rocks seem to hint at it existing for centuries before this, in its symbolic form. There are around 400 such stones that have survived to this day, found throughout Ireland as well as in Wales and England. Most of these ogham stones showcase personal names. it is often cited as the first attempt at written communication in the British Isles.
The Ogham alphabet in turn has been linked to native British Trees. Sadly, as written history from this period is virtually non-existent, the historical veracity of many of the Ogham interpretations can probably never be proven but the majority of what we do know id that it was used as an alphabet with some of the meanings derived from or being the name of trees.
Like most (if not all) human civilizations, we do know the Celts and Druids had a calendar, one which existed before the Romans, or at least independent of the Romans. It is known from Irish literature that there were four important holidays in the year: Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lughnassadh, and from archaeological findings (namely stone chambers, circles, etc.) it is possible they adopted the solstices and equinoxes, though these were not as important, but considered "mid" days (hence "midwinter," "midsummer").
We know that they worshipped nature, sun and moon (as well as Gods and Goddesses) and their sacred places were often where there were trees, rivers, caves and groves and believing that trees had wisdom we could learn from.
The Coligny calendar (1st century BCE) has twelve months plus an extra month, syncing up both the solar and lunar calendars, but relying more on the moon. The names of the months are not derived from trees, however, but instead translate names along the lines of "Summer's End", "Horse Month" and "Hot Month" They had two "weeks"--the first with fourteen days, the second with 14 or 15, depending on the appearance of the full or new (this is still debated) moon. The year began on the first of Samhain, November 1.
So, we can see some evidence that their calendar a system based was on the cycles of the moon and the celebration of the four Solstices and possibly included the other four holidays of imbolc, Beltane, Lugnassadh and Samhain.
As the Ogham has come to represent trees as well as the alphabet, these may have been added it later, Although, there is conjecture as to whether this was the case or something that has arisen out of a book written by Robert Graves where (supposedly) the first mention of wheel of the year and Celtic tree calendar comes from. More on this below under Wheel of The Year.
As you can see from the Ogham or Celtic Tree Calendar examples below, there are variations in names and dates. The Ogham symbols, along with their tree names are now often used in Divination, a way of gaining deeper insight or reading natures wisdom from them. Tree wisdom is added in to each solar and fire festival on the links below.
I also pactice and offer Celtic reiki treaments which is based on the original Usui reiki practice of self healing through energy. The Celtic Reiki system utilises the Ogham symbols and earth energies assocaited with Celtic traditions. to find out more about my Celtic reiki offeings, please visit my reiki page here