Whispering Woods Ogham Course – Lesson Two – First Aicme

Whispering Woods Ogham Course
Lesson Two – First Aicme

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The most familiar Ogham system in use today is the Tree Ogham. The Tree Ogham is split up into; eight Chieftain Trees, eight peasant trees and eight shrub trees. In lessons two through five we will take a look at each group of five and their associations. We can develop a deeper understanding of each letter by understanding its connections with each tree.
1st Aicme:
Ogham Symbol Sound/Letter Name Associated Tree
Beith – pronounced (BETH) Birch (Betula pendula Roth)
Beth (BEH), birch – The silver birch is the most common birch in much of Europe. It is one of the first trees to colonize an area after a mature forest is harvested; this is probably a large part of its symbolic connection with new beginnings. It grows up to 100 feet high, but is more often found in spreading clumps on sandy soils. The common birch (B. pubescens Ehrh.) is almost as widespread as the silver birch, but grows primarily on acid or peaty soils; it can reach 65 feet in height.
The word “birch” derives from a root meaning ‘bright’ or ‘shining’ Because of its connection to renewal; the birch has been utilized in many cultures. In Scandinavia, switches of birch are used on the body to stimulate the process of purification in the sauna. In ancient Britain the birch rod was used as a rod to purify the criminal of their misdeeds, and in some cases it was used to expel evil spirits from those deemed insane.In many cultures, including the Shamanic beliefs, the birch is seen as the “Axis Mundi”, (Cosmic World Tree). Often, baby cradles were made out of birch because of its power to drive out evil influences and its association with renewal.
Luis – pronounced (LWEESH) Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)
Luis (LWEESH), rowan – the rowan, or mountain ash is related to serviceberries. The red berries were historically used to lure birds into traps, and the specific epithet “aucupari’a” comes from words meaning “to catch a bird”. Rowans thrive in poor soils and colonize disturbed areas. In some parts of Europe they are most common around ancient settlements, either because of their weedy nature or because they were introduced by humans. Rowans flower in May. They grow to 50 feet and are members of the Rose family (Rosaceae). They are cultivated in North America, especially in the northeast.
The rowan is sometimes called “the Whispering Tree” because it is thought that the tree held secrets. The rowan is also associated with protection against witchcraft and bad luck. Rowan twigs were placed above doorways and barns to protect the inhabitants against misfortune and evil spirits.
Rowan stakes were driven into corpses to stop their ghosts from visiting, especially when they died from acts of violence. The Druids used rowan fires with incantations to summon spirits to help them portend in forthcoming battles.
Scottish tradition does not allow the use of the Rowan tree’s timber, bark, leaves or flowers, nor the cutting of these trees, except for sacred purposes under extenuating circumstances.
Rowan is also called the Witch Tree, or Wicken Tree, and can be used for divining precious metals.
Fearn – pronounced (FAIR-n) Alder (Alnus glutinosa Gaertner)
Fearn (FAIR-n), alder – The common alder is often found along lowland rivers, where it grows with aspens and willows. Like willows, alders sprout from stumps–this allows them to regenerate after heavy flooding. In protected sites they may grow to 65 feet tall. Their leaves are more blunt-tipped than most North American alders, which look more like the grey alder (A. incana (L.) Moench). Like ashes, European alders are not widely cultivated in North American (they are often sold as black alders), but several native species are. Alders are members of the Birch family (Betulaceae).
The old superstition of “whistling up the wind” comes from making a whistle out of Alder.
Alder figures into a couple of ancient mythologies. Scandinavian mythology tells us the first woman was fashioned from an Alder trunk. In Irish mythology the first man was said to be made from an Alder.
The Alder is known as the “King of the Fairies”.
In Homer’s Odyssey Alder is named the first of the three trees of resurrection. The two other are White Poplar and Cypress.
In Denmark and Germany, the spirit of the Alder tree was said to carry children off to the Otherworld. An example of this belief can be found in Goethe’s ballad “The Erl-konig” (The Alder King).
Sail – pronounced (SHAiLuh) Willow (Salix spp.)
Saille (SAHL-yuh), willow – Like North America, Europe is home to a large number of willow species Two common tree willows are the white willow (Salix alba) named for the whitish undersides of its leaves, and the crack willow (Salix fragilis) for the propensity of its branches to “crack” off (probably another adaptation to flooding). Both species grow along with poplars and alders along lowland rivers. They can reach 80 feet in height, and they both vigorously sprout from stumps. The white willow is sometimes grown in cultivation in North America. Willows are members of the Willow family (Salicaceae).
The Willow is often the symbol for the Ovate Grade of Druid. According to Druidic mysteries, two scarlet snake eggs were hidden within the Willow. The Universe was hatched from these two eggs, one containing the Sun, the other the Earth, relating to both cosmic birth and the birth of mankind. Traditionally, in spring rituals, these were replaced by hen’s eggs, colored scarlet for the Sun and eaten at Beltane. This rite later became the Christian celebration of Easter.
In Sumer, 4000 BCE, Ishtar’s predecessor, Belili, was known as the Willow Mother.
Orpheus, the poet, was said to have received his Gift by touching the Willows in a grove sacred to Persephone. Brighid has Her Fire festival, Imbolc, or Brigantia, during the Willow month
The Willow tree has been associated with death, grief and cemeteries, the leaves themselves symbolizing unrequited love or the loss of a lover. The leaf has also been worn as a charm to protect against jealousy.
Willow has been used in the Sacred Pipes and the tobacco blends of many Native Americans because it is thought that it is most effective in carrying messages to the Great Spirit.
Nion – (NEE-uhn) Ash (Fraxinus excelsior)
Nion (NEE-uhn), Ash is a major tree of lowland forests in much of Europe, along with oaks and beeches. It grows to 130 feet in open sites, with a broad crown reminiscent of American elm trees. Ash was and still is an important timber tree, and is a traditional material for the handle of a besom; it is also a popular wood for wands. The common ash is occasionally cultivated in North America, and similar native ash species are widely grown as street trees. Ashes are members of the Olive family (Oleaceae).
The wood of the Ash is thought to be enchanted and was used by the Druids to fashion wands and spears.
At one time, children would be passed through the branches of an Ash in order that they might be protected and to cure them from illness. Ash leaves were placed under pillows to induce prophetic dreams or placed in bowls of water to ward off ailments.
The Celts believed that the Ash originated in the Great Deep or the Undersea Land of Tethys. It belongs to the trilogy of sacred Irish trees (the other two being the Oak and Hawthorn) and is said to offer particular protection from death by drowning.
The seeds of the Ash have long been used in love divination. If the seeds did not appear on a certain tree, then its owner was thought to have been unlucky in love or a future venture would be unsuccessful.
In Northern England, it was believed that if a woman placed an Ash leaf in her left shoe, then she would be fortunate enough to immediately meet her future spouse. In Greece, the Ash was sacred to the Sea God Poseidon.
In Norse mythology, the Ash is known as “Yggdrasil” (Cosmic World Tree). It was from this tree that Odin hung upside down from for nine days in order to obtain the runes. Also in Norse legend, it was an Ash which spanned the universe, with its roots in Hel and its boughs supporting the Heavens and Earth at its center.
In Celtic lore, the Ash connected the three circles of existence; Abred, Gwynedd and Ceugant.
Quiz:
1. Stakes from which tree was used to stop ghosts from visiting?

2. The Celts believe that the Ash originated from where?

3. Whistling up the wind is associated with which tree?

4. Bright or shining refers to which tree?

 

Source:
Researcher & Author: Crick

Website: The Whispering Woods

January Is The Celtic Month of the Birch Tree

This Is The Month of the Birch Tree

(December 24 – Jan 21)

Latin name: Yellow birch – betula alleghaniensis; black birch – betula lenta; canoe or common birch – betula papyrifea.

Celtic name: Beth (pronounced: beh)

Folk or Common names: Beithe, Bereza, Berke, Beth, Bouleau, Lady of the Woods, Birth, Canoe Tree, Paper Tree, Silver Birch, White Birch. “Birch” is derived from the meaning “Bright” or “Shining” in Indo-European and Sanskrit terminology. Quite possibly it came from the Anglo-Saxon term “Beorgan” meaning “to protect or shelter”

Parts Used: Leaves, bark, wood, sap, branches.

Herbal usage: Birch leaves can be used to make an infusion that is good for breaking up kidney or bladder stones. Birch bark is an astringent and can be used to treat non-hereditary baldness. Birch tea can be made from the inner bark and leaves and this is good for rheumatism or as a sedative to aid sleep. Birch sap can be harvested the same way maple sap is, and then boiled down into birch syrup.

Magical History & Associations: The bird associated with the Month of the Birch is the pheasant. Birch’s color is white, its day is Sunday and its gemstone is red chard. The Celtic symbol of Birch is the White Stag with a rack with seven tines. Birch is associated with the element of water, is a tree of the sun and the planet Venus, and its Herbal Gender is feminine. The Birch tree is sacred to the God Thor and the Goddesses Diana and Cerridwen. Birch is considered to be a Goddess tree, the symbol of summer ever-returning. The Birch is also a special tree to the Celts (“On a switch of birch was written the first Ogham inscription in Ireland, namely seven B’s, as a warning to Lug son of Ethliu, to wit, ‘Thy wife will be seven times carried away from you into fairyland or elsewhere, unless birch be her overseer.” – Robert Graves, The White Goddess) and Birch wood is one of the nine traditional firewoods to be added to the Belfire that is burned at Beltane. It is one of the three pillars of Wisdom (Oak, Yew, Birch) and often symbolizes the first level of Druid working. Birch trees often have Otherkin spirits attached to them and the “Lieschi” or “Genii of the Forest” are said to dwell in their tree tops. The Ghillie Dhu (pronounced “Gillee Doo or Yoo”) are guardian tree spirits who are disguised as foliage and dislike human beings. They prefer birch trees to all others, and jealously guard them from humans. If the spirit of the Birch tree touches a head it leaves a white mark and the person turns insane. If it touches a heart, the person will die.

Magickal usage: The month of Birch is a good time to do magick associated with new beginnings. Magickal work done in this moon adds strength and momentum to any new choices made. The Birch has applications in magick done for protection, creativity, exorcism, fertility, birth, healing, Forest Magic, Inner Authority/Self-Discipline, Lunar workings, love, and purification. Magickal protective uses of Birch include tying a red ribbon around the trunk of a birch to ward off the evil eye. Also, gently whapping someone with a Birch twig drives out negative energy, and Birch branches hung near a cradle will protect the newborn from psychic harm. In fact, cradles can be made from Birch wood to further protect a newborn. Many farmers plant Birch around their houses to protect against lightning. For magical parchment, gather Birch bark from a tree that has been struck by lightning (chosen by Thor) – and the Birch paper will keep the writings safe. Because Birch wood has the qualities of exorcism and protection, its twigs are traditionally used to make witches’ brooms. Brooms made of a mixture of Ash, Birch and Willow are said to be especially powerful in magick. Birch rods are also used in rustic rituals to drive out the spirits of the old year. Birch is also perfect to use to make a ‘Goddess’ wand, since Birch is the tree known as ‘the Lady of the Woods’ and a grove of Birch trees is an excellent place to communicate with the Goddess. Birch wood is also a good choice for making rune sets to use for divination. Be sure to harvest your branch for the rune set during the waxing moon, and make sure you ask Odin or Byarka to inspire your work. Also ask the tree if it will allow you to take a branch and be sure to leave the tree an offering of thanks when you are done. Birch trees especially appreciate gifts such as pretty stones, sea shells, flowers or herbs. (Please note: never take bark off a living Birch tree, since this will kill it.)