The Celtic Literature Collective

The Ogham Tract 
from the
Auraicept na N-…ces

What are the place, time, person, and cause of the invention of the Ogham (Ogam)? Not hard. Its place the island of Ireland where we Irish live, In the time of Bres son of Elatha king of Ireland it was invented. Its person Ogma soní of Elatha son of Delbaeth brother to Bres, for Bres, Ogma and Delbaeth are the three sons of Elatha son of Delbaeth there. Now Ogma, a man well skilled in speech and in poetry, invented the Ogham. The cause of its invention, as a proof of his ingenuity, and that this speech should belong to the learned apart, to the exclusion of rustics and herdsmen. Whence the Ogham got its name according to sound and matter, who are the father and the mother of the Ogham, what is the first name that was written by Ogham, in what letter it was written, and why b precedes every letter. 

Ogham from Ogma was first invented in respect to its sound according to matter, however, ogum is og-uaim, perfect alliteration, which the poets applied to poetry by means of it, for by letters Gaelic is measured by the poets; the father of Ogham is Ogma, the mother of Ogham is the hand or knife of Ogma. 

This moreover is the first thing that was written by Ogham, >-,,,,-,,,- i.e. (the birch) b was written, and to convey a warning to Lug son of Ethliu it was written respecting his wife lest she should be carried away from him into faeryland, to wit, seven bís in one switch of birch: Thy wife will be seven times carried away from thee into faeryland or into another country, unless birch guard her. On that account, moreover, b, birch, takes precedence, for it is in birch that Ogham was first written. 

How many divisions of Ogham are there, and what are they? Not hard. Four: b five, h five, m five, a five, besides diphthongs. 

How many groups of Ogham? Not hard. Three, viz., eight chieftain trees, eight peasant trees, and eight shrub trees. Eight chieftain trees first: alder, oak, hazel, vine, ivy, sloe, furze, heath. Eight peasant trees, viz: birch, quicken tree, willow, ash, whitethorn, whin, apple tree. As to their letters all other shrubs are peasant trees. 

Quot sunt genera [Whence is the origin] of the Ogham? Not hard. I shall speak firstly of the woods of the trees whence names have been put for the Ogham letters. Query, well then, whence are the Ogham vowels and consonants named? Not hard, It is from the school of Fenius Farsaidh, to wit, the school of poetry which Fenius sent throughout the world to learn the languages. There were five and twenty that were noblest of them so that it is their names that were put for the Bethe Luis Nin of the Ogham, both vowels and consonants; and there were four who were the noblest of these again, so that it is their names that were given to the seven principal vowels: 


and they added other three to them so that from these are named the other three diphthongs, wherefore 
>-6-x-#- are classified apart. Second of all, it is from the trees of the forest that names were given to the Ogham letters metaphorically. Moreover Beithe, b, is from the birch of the forest for the first letter on the path of the Ogham alphabet. Luis, l, that is rowan, or elm in the forests. Fern, f, that is, alder in the forest. Sail, s, of the Ogham, that is, willow, again, in the forest. Nin, n, of the Ogham, to wit, maw of spear, or nettles in the woods. Uath, h, of the Ogham, that is, test-tree or whitethorn, on account of its thorniness. Dur, d, of the Ogham is oak, again, in the forest. Tinne, t, of the Ogham, holly or elderberry in the forest. Coll, c, of the Ogham, hazel in the forest. Quert, q, of the Ogham is holly in the forest, or quicken tree, or aspen. Muin, vine, m, mead [from it]. Gort, cornfield, g, fir. Getal, ng, broom. Straif, str, willowbrake in the forest. Onn, o, furze or ash. Ur, u, thorn. Edad, e, yew. Ida, i, service tree. Ebad, ea, elecampane. Oir, oi, spindle tree. Uilleann, ui, ivy. Pin, io, of the Ogham, pine, again, in the forest. Hence are named caera pinne, gooseberries; ifin, again is the name of that letter. Emancoll, witch hazel, ae, again, c doubled according to fact or according to form, c across c in its form.

Word Ogham of Morann Mac Main here. Feocus foltchain, faded trunk and fair hair, that is for birch, b, in the Word Ogham, because names which Morann gave of himself to the Ogham letters, these are they which take the effect of letters in the Word Ogham. Feocus foltchain for b, for these are two aspects of the birch, and it was hence put for the Ogham letter which has taken a name from it.

Li sula, delight of eye, that is luis, quicken tree, l, to wit, the flame. 

Airinach Fian, i.e., shield of warrior-bands, i.e., shield for fern, f, with him owing to their redness in the same respect: or because the alder, the material of the shield was from fernae given to the Ogham letter which has taken a name from it. Airenach Fian, i.e., shield, that is fern, f, with him. 

Lií n-aimbií, hue of the lifeless, i.e., hue of one dead, to wit, am for denial, so that he is not living but is dead. Lií n-aimbií, again, to wit, that is sail, willow, s with him, and hence it was put for the Ogham letter. 

Cosdad sida, checking of peace, that is nin, ash, n: it is the maw of a weaverís beam as applied to wood: a sign of peace is that. A checking of peace with him is that from the ash of the weaverís beam. 

Conal cuan, pack of wolves, that is uath, thorn h, for a terror to any one is a pack of wolves. Conal cuan said of the Ogham h, owing to the affinity of the name, for they are a thorn, in the same way. 

Ardam dossaibh, highest of bushes, that is dur, oak, d, with respect to its wood in the forest. Trian, t, another thing the meaning of that today. 

Cainin fedaib, fairest of trees, that is hazel, c, owing to its beauty in woods. 

Clithar mbaiscaill, shelter of a hind, i.e., a fold: to wit, boscell, lunatic, that is bas-ceall, death sense, it is then his sense comes to him when he goes to his death. Clithar boscell, again, that is an apple tree: or boscell, that is, hinds, to wit, they are light. Clithar boiscell, again, i.e., lunatics or hinds: quert, an apple tree, q, with reference to its letter. 

Tresim fedma, strongest of effort, that is muin, vine, m, with him, i.e., owing to identity of name with muin, back of man or ox, for it is they that are the strongest in existence as regards effort. 

Millsin feraib, sweeter than grasses, that is gort, ivy, g, with him owing to the identity of the name with the cornfield. When it is in the blade, sweeter than any grass is that grass, to wit, the cornfield. 

Hence for that letter in Ogham owing to the complete identity of the name between them Luth legha, a physicianís strength; that is broom, ng, because it is strength with the physicians, and there is an affinity between cath, battle, and getal, broom. 

Tresim ruamna, strongest of red, that is str with him in Ogham. Straif, sloe, according to fact; for in the sloe red for dyeing the things is stronger, for it is it that makes the pale silver become azure, making it genuine (?) silver. It is it which is boiled through the urine into the white gold so as to make it red. Tresim ruamna is the sloe according to fact. Hence it was put in the letter named str, owing to identity of name between them, i.e., straif is the name of each of them. 

Tinnem ruccae, intensest of blushes, that is ruis, elderberry, r, from the reddenirig or shame according to fact, for by r it is written, and it is a reddening that grows in a manís face íthrough the juice of the herb being rubbed under it. Tindi ruccae, an ingot of a blush, again, said of the ruis, elder-berry, from shame or from reddening, for it is by r that it is itself written. 

Ardam iachtadh, loudest of groanings, that is wondering, that is ailm, fir, a, with him; for it is ailm or 'a' a man says while groaning in disease, or wondering, that is, marvelling at whatever circumstance. 

Congnamaid echraide, helper of horses, the onnaid of the chariot, i.e. the wheels, that is onn, furze, with him, for it is by onn, o, that the wheels of the chariot are written. Also, comguinidech, equally wounding, i.e. whin. Hence it was put for that letter which is named onn, o, owing to identity between them, for onn is a name for each of them; and it is from whin that the name onn was put for the Ogham letter o. 

Etiud midach, robe of physicians, cath, panacea (?). Hence it was put for getal, broom, ng. 

Uaraib adbaib, in cold dwellings, that is ur, fresh, with him, for from uir, the mould of the earth is the name uaraib adbaib. Hence it was put for the letter named ur, heath, in Ogham, owing to identity of name between them, each of them is ur, and it is written by u. 

Ergnaid fid, distinguished wood, that is aspen with him, for ergnaid fid is a name for the trembling tree. Hence it was put for the Ogham letter named edad, aspen, for hence was edad, e, put for it. 

Siniu fedaib, oldest of woods, that is idad, yew, with him; for siniu fedaib is a name for service-tree. Hence it was given to that letter in Ogham named idad, yew, i, for hence the name idad was put for it; for idad, yew, is a name for ibur, service-tree. 

Snamchain feda, most buoyant of wood, that is ebad, aspen, with him, for fair swimming is wood; that is a name for the great raven. Hence it was put for the letter named the Ogham ebad, for e is a name for salmon, and it is written by ea like the alphabet of the fauna: i.e., by stag (deer), eo by eonasc (ousel). 

Sruitem aicdi, most venerable of structures, i.e., oir, oi, spindle tree, according to fact. Hence it was put for the letter owing to the identity of the name that is between them, to wit, oir is the name of each of them. 

Tutmur fid uilleann, juicy wood is woodbine, that is woodbine with him, for it is a name for honeysuckle. Hence it was put for the Ogham named woodbine, ui; for hence was woodbine put for it, for it is a name for honeysuckle. 

Millsem feda, sweetest of wood, that is gooseberry with him, for a name for the tree called pin is millsem feda. Gooseberries are hence named. Hence it was put for the letter named pin, for hence pin, or ifin, io, was put for it.

Luad soethaig, expression of a weary one, i.e., ach, ah! uch, alas! that is emancoll, ae, with him, for emancoll is taken for ach, though it may be taken for something else. Finit Word-Ogham of Morann.

Alphabet of word-oghams of Mac ind Oic here below.

Glaisium cnis, most silvery of the skin, that is the birch of the Ogham from birch of the forest, for hence birch, b, was put for it. 

Cara ceathra, friend of cattle, elm. Cara, dear to the cattle is the elm for its bloom and for down. Hence it was put for the Ogham luis, quicken tree, l, for hence was quicken tree, l, put for it. 

Comet lachta, guarding of milk, that is the Ogham alder, f, from alder of the forests, for it is it that guards the milk, for of it are made the vessels containing the milk. 

Luth bech, activity of bees, that is Willow s, for its bloom and for its catkin. Hence it is put for the cognate Ogham letter. 

Bag ban, fight of women, ash, n, of weaverís beam, i.e., maw of weaverís beam. Hence for its cognate letter. 

Banadh gnuisi, blanching of face, fear, huath, h, for blanched is a manís face when he is encompassed with fear or terror. Hence for the Ogham letter owing to identity of name between the same two, uath stands for each of them.

Gres sair, carpenterís work, oak, d. Hence it was put for its cognate Ogham letter. 

Smir guaili, fires of coal, that is holly. Hence for its cognate, Ogham letter, i.e., tinne, t, for tindi is a name for holly. 

Carg bloisc, friend of cracking, coll, hazel, c. Hence for its cognate Ogham letter. 

Brigh an duine, force of the man, queirt, q, apple tree. Hence for its cognate letter. 

Arusc n-airlig, condition of slaughter,muin a manís back, m. Hence for its synonymous letter.

Med nerce, ivy, g. Hence for its synonymous letter, 

Aforad run, increasing of secrets, sloe, str. Hence it was put for its synonymous letter. 

Ruamna dreach, redness of faces, sap of the rose which causes the redness of the faces, so that blushing is in them. Ruamna dreach, again, said of the Ogham ruis, elder, r, from the blush or from the reddening, for it is by elder, r, it is itself written. 

Tosach fregra, beginning of an answer, that is ailm, a; for the first expression of every human being after his birth is a. 

Fethim saire, smoothest of work, or fedem, onn, stone, o. 

Silad clann, growing of plants, that is ur, heath, u with him, for it is uir, the soil of the earth, that causes the growing of the plants that are put into it. Growing of plants, again, said of the soil of the earth, is said of the Ogham letter which has taken the same name with it, each of them is ur. 

Comainm carat, synonym for a friend, aspen, e, in the forest. Hence for its synonymous Ogham letter.

Crinem feda, most withered of wood, or sword, service tree, i. Hence for the Ogham letter, which has taken a name other than it, idad, yew.

Cosc lobair, corrective of a sick man, woodbine for the Ogham letter, which has taken a name other than it, ebad, aspen, ea. 

Li crotha, beauty of form, heath. Hence for its synonymous letter, the Ogham oi. 

Cubat n-oll, great equal-length, woodbine, i.e., honeysuckle. Hence for the Ogham letter which it has taken from it, woodbine, ui. 

Amram blais, most wonderful of taste, pin or ifin, gooseberry. Hence for the letter that has taken its name from it, pin or iphin, io. 

THIS IS SOW OGHAM. This is group B prius. 
White b, grey l, black f, amber s, blue n. 
Group H. Accompanying litter of a white (i.e. milch-) sow h, grey d, black t, amber c, blue q. 
Group M. Litter of a white sow m, grey g, black ng, amber str, blue r.
Group A. Pig-in-pen of a white sow a, grey o, black u, amber e, blue i. Diphthong group here: Hog-in-pen of a white sow ea, grey oi, black ui, amber io, blue ae.

Group B. Barrow b, Lower Shannon 1, Foyle f, Shannon s, Nith n. 
Group H. h-Othain (Fahan) h, Dergderg d, Teith t, Catt c, Cusrat q. 
Group M. Muinten m, Gaval g, Graney ng, Sruthair str, Rye r. 
Group A. Aru a, Eobul, Uissen, Erbus, Indiurnn.

Group B. Bruden, Liffey, Femen, Seolae, Nephin. 
Group H. h-Ocha, Dinn Rig, Tara, Cera, Corann. 
Group M. Meath, Gabur, nGarman, Streulae, Roigne. 
Group A. Ae(Cualand), Odba, Usney, Navan, Islay. 

Group B. besan pheasant (?), lachu duck, faelinn gull, seg hawk, naescu snipe. 
Group H. Aadaig night raven (?), droen wren, truith starling, querc hen. 
Group M. mintan titmouse, geis swan, ngeigh goose, stmolach thrush, rocnat small rock (?). 
Group A. aidhircleog lapwing, odoroscrach scrat (?), uiseog lark, ela swan, illait eaglet (?).

Group B. ban white, liath grey, flann red, sodath fine-coloured, necht clear. 
Group H. huath terrible, dub black, temen dark grey, cron brown, quiar mouse-coloured.
Group M. mbracht variegated, gorm blue, nglas green, sorcha bright, ruadh red. 
Group A. alad piebald, odhar dun, usgdha resinous, erc red, irfind very white.

Group B. Bangor, Laith, Ferns Saigear, Noendruim. 
Group H. h-Irard (Cluain), Durrow, Terryglass, Clonmacnois, Kildare. 
Group M. Mugna, Shrule, Rahen, etc. 
Group A. Armagh, etc.

Man or hero for group B, one man, two,í three, four, five men. 
Minna nobles (or women) or clerics for group H, i.e., a woman, two, three, four, five women. 
Youth for group M, one youth, two, three, four, five youths. 
Boy or lad for group A, one boy, two, three, four, five boys, one boy for a, two for o, three for u.

Heroines for group B after the same procedure (or method), one for b, two for 1, thus all down. 
Nuns for group H. 
Maidens for group M. 
Girls for group A, one for a, two for u.

Group B. biail axe, loman rope, fidba hedge-bill, srathar pack-saddle, nasc ring.
Group H. huartan; dabach cask, tal adze, carr waggon, cual faggot. 
Group M. machad, gat withe, ngend wedge, sust flail, rusc basket.
Group A. i.e., Arathar plough, ord hammer, usca heather-brush, epit billhook, indeoin anvil.

Bran, Labraidh, etc., and so all, to take for the name, the name of the king that begins with the letter.

Rivulet for group B, one rivulet for b, five for n. 
Weir for group H, one weir, two, three, four, five weirs. 
River for group M, one river, two, three, four; ífive rivers. 
Well for group A, one well, two, three, four, five wells.

Watch-dog for group B, one watch-dog, two, three, four, five watch-dogs.
Greyhound for group H, one greyhound, two, three, four, five greyhounds.
Herdís dog for group M, one herdís dog, two, three, four, five herdsí dogs.
Lapdog for group A, one lapdog, two, three, four, five lapdogs.

Bull for group B, one bull, two, three, four, five bulls. 
Ox for group H, one ox, two, three, four, five oxen. 
Bullock for group M, one bullock, two, three, four, five bullocks. 
Steer for group A, one steer, two, three, four, five steers.

Milch cow for group B, one milch cow, two, three, four, five milch cows. 
Stripper for group H, one stripper, two, three, four, five strippers. 
Three-year-old heifer for group M, one three-year-old, two, three, four, five three-year-old heifers. 
Yearling heifer for group A, etc.

The manís name is divided, to wit,
Group B to the right side. 
Group H to the left side. 
Group M to the right side. 
Group A to the left side.

They are the same, viz., a division of the name.

Pregnant women Ogham, that is, the name of the woman is divided there unless she bear a child previously. If, however, she bear a child, it is the childís name that is divided there; and if there be a letter over, it is a boy. If it be an even number, it would be a daughter that will be born of that pregnancy.

The fingers of the hand about the shinbone for the letters and to put them on the right of the shinbone for group B. To the left for group H. Athwart the shinbone for group M. Straight across for group A, viz., one finger for the first letter of the groups, two for the second letter, till it would reach five for the fifth letter of whichever group it be.

The fingers of the hands about the nose, viz., similar to right and left, athwart, across.

The name of the Saint with which it will commence is taken for the letter, viz., Brenainn, Laisren, Finnen, Sincheall, Neasan. .H-Adamnan, Donnan, Tighearnach, Cronan, Ciaran. Manchan, George, nGeminus, Strannan, Ruadhan. Aed, Oena, Ultan, Ernen, Ita.

Livelihood, pilotage, poetry, handicraft, notary work.
Trisyllabic poetry, wizardry, turning, harping, fluting.
Soldiering, smithwork, modelling, deer-stalking, dispensing.
Sovereignty, harvesting, brasswork, fowling, fishing, or yew wood work.

FOOD OGHAM, to wit,
Bread, sweet milk, etc.

HERB OGHAM, to wit,
To take the name of whatever herb it be for the letter with which it will commence, ut est, braisech, kale, for b, etc.

Head in Bush, to wit,
Consisting of a letter at the beginning of the word, i.e., as far as the name of it (the letter) resembles the beginning of whatever word it be, to write that letter at the beginning of the name for its own name; and to write the end of the name according to the proper letters. And persisting Ogham is another name for this Ogham, ut est, >-''''--,,--||||--, i.e. cert-le, ball of thread.

Head under Bush, again:
The opposite of the foregoing Ogham, to wit, consisting of a letter at the end of the name, to write the beginning of it according to its proper letters, ut est, >-/-|-||||-////-, i.e., Mael R, to wit, Ruis.

Serpent about Head, to wit,
To write the first letter of the name in the middle of the stem, and to write the name straight thence to the end of the stem; and to write it backwards to the beginning of the stem, so that it is the same thing that stands at the beginning and at the end of the stem, i.e., it is the end of the word which stands on each of them, ut est in hac figura, Ceallah, indifferent to read it up or down; and it is from the middle of it that the name is read, for there stands the first letter of the name, ut est.

Source: Auraicept na N-…ces (The Scholar's Primer) ed. and translated by George Calder, Edinburgh, John Grant 1917.