This is a thorough book for novices to Ogham staves, a Celtic alphabet closely linked to Druids and trees. Each stave is associated with a particular tree or shrub. The contents are divided into four parts. Part 1 is the introductory material, including some mythic and historical information on the origins of Ogham. Because of the lack of written material the age and sources of this alphabet are somewhat in doubt.
The author delves into the ties between Ogham and tree species, and the great importance of trees to the Druids, who felt they were sacred beings that acted as portals to different realms or the afterlife. There are notes about the Celtic Tree Calendar, a more modern construct used as a pagan alternative to the twelve zodiac signs. There are methods for connecting with trees through interaction, meditation, and rituals. There are meditation exercises and suggestions for activities when spending time with trees in a forest, park, or at home.
Part 2 describes options for creating one’s own set of Ogham staves out of a variety of materials. Chapter 5 shares an overview of divination methods and techniques followed by a dozen spreads that can be used for divination with Ogham staves. The final spread is called Fionn’s Window or Ridge Pole. It looks intriguing but I wish there had been more of a description on possible manners in which it could be used. It’s somewhat unusual for divination methods and spreads to appear in a text before descriptions of the symbols and meanings. Some helpful sample readings are provided.
Part 3 is the heart of the book and presents meanings for twenty-five Ogham symbols. Not all of the staves are in common use but are included for completeness and to offer the option to include in one’s custom-made Ogham divination set. The descriptions of each Ogham stave include its Roman letter equivalent, a few keywords, and a range of correspondences (element, deities, bird, color, people, stone, planet) along with the associated Celtic Tree Calendar dates or sabbat dates. This is followed by an in-depth description of the concepts and lore connected to the Ogham stave and its associated tree.
Part 4 is the end matter – a pronunciation guide, an extensive reference section and lengthy bibliography, websites offering access to some of the primary resource materials and other Ogham information, and a Quick Reference Sheet.
This beginner’s guide fulfills its promise to readers new to the Ogham staves. The author notes when the information she found is not quite credible or may be subject to other interpretations. The accumulated lore shared in the stave descriptions is impressive and may be more familiar to British than American readers. Recommended for readers who want a solid introduction to this subject.
~review by Elizabeth Hazel
Author: Ceri Norman
2022, Moon Books/John Hunt Publishing
240 pgs. $19.95 pb, $9.00 Kindle