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Bringing the Tales and Stories of the Ancient Celts to your Fireside

Ogma’s Tale of the Trees, a Bardic Journey by John Wilmott

Ogma's Tale of the Trees

Ogma’s Tale of the Trees

Pic: John Wilmott

I have always been fascinated about how sounds became attached to symbols. Then a fascination for how those symbols connect together to form words, then form into what we call sentences and eventually into language. Language is the most amazing thing to give us ability to share thoughts and feelings.

How are these sounds and symbols de of the cided. How does a single symbol represent various sounds. Even the “a” symbol in Pagan has two distinctly different sounds in the way most of us pronounce the word.

My other love has been, and is, tree lore, all those stories of fae, little folk, the sidhe and the spirits of the trees and surrounding flowers, mosses and fungi showing us the way.

Introduction to Ogma’s Tale Of The Trees

It delights me how the most ancient of gael languages used trees as a symbol and memory device for applying sound to symbol.

Today a lot of folks use the ancient Ogham language within their divination and often this includes tree associations and tree mythologies. Folks form cycles with these symbols such as applying 13 of the Ogham symbols to accompany the 13 cycles of the moon within a year cycle.

Cycles take us away from linear thinking and imitate the rings within a tree trunk where a new cycle forms each winter and provides today’s tree forensic scientist with a “log”, ‘scuse the pun, of the year past as a gap between tree rings tells of the weather, water, food and other conditions of that year.

The creator and first teacher of the Ogham, is said to have been Ogma of the Tuatha De Dannan. It is said he taught the sounds to symbols as both language and music notation, as both were one back then. It is said he first taught this at or near the land where I live in Co. Sligo.

Of course, this is disputed as there are two townlands north of Ballymote, about 10 km from where I live with the same claim, and a townland called Ogham a short way west of where I live.

How this project started …

I first learned about Ogham and Ogma’s Tale of The Trees on Iona, around 1973, which is interesting on an island with just a few ancient hawthorns and a bunch of 40 year old beech trees. It is said, by some, to be where the Gaels first met the Picts and where the Gaelic symbolism of Ogham and sound was matched with the Pict tree lore.

On Iona I also engaged a lot in “The Four Cilles Of Instruction”, with mythologies similar to the Four Gifts of the Tuatha De Dannan but also relate to the Four Seasons of The Year, Four Seasons of Our Lives and even the Four Quadrants of an Astrology Chart.

The earliest Ogham is said to have been 4 sets, 4 scales, 4 aicmi, and each set, scale or aicmi containing 5 sounds, a pentatonic scale. A later 5th set of sounds was introduced to.


The Island of Iona

The Island of Iona

Pic: Wrens and Hedge-sparrows

Ogham in the Book of Ballymote

Ogham in the Book of Ballymote

Pic: Wiki

What I have done over the years is expand the mythology of each of the original 20 Ogham Tree symbols into 20 semi autobiographical story poems with music and song included too. I call this Ogma’s Tale Of The Trees.

This also follows the Four Cilles of Instruction to form a cycle of the four seasons of our life.

It is said that language, poetry and music were once all one because the Ogham and other ancient languages were spoken as sound tones so speaking would have been like song, especially by the teachers. The near monotone we speak language today may have come from a lazier slang tone introduced by students.

Where this project is now, can you help?

With the wonderful enchanting composing help of my singer harper partner Claire Roche we tried out some Ogma’s Tale of The Trees live during a 27 date concert tour in the USA. To our surprise and delight these Ogma Tales were extremely popular live. After each show many people asked us, where’s the book, where’s the CD?

So, I wrote these down, expanded them and Claire and I are continually making tighter arrangements. We are creating and releasing a book and double disc audio cd to present these 20 adventures as Ogma’s Tale Of The Trees with a launch date of 3rd of March 2013, the first day of the National Tree Week in Ireland.

Our funding for this is almost zero so we are inviting the help of others to pre-order this work. Can you help us to make this project possible?

Please support with a donation of any amount, which will be treated as a pre-order for book and audio to the value of your donation. All currencies accepted. Many thanks.

Please come along to Ogma’s Tale of the Trees and click on the Donate button on the right-hand side.

Four Seasons of the Tale featuring the 5 “keys” of each season

First Season – our Spring

growth, our new shoots, discovering ourselves.

Beith the Birch keys =  birth, first life

Luis the Rowan keys =  discovery of passion, love

Fearn the Alder keys =  discovering our senses, responding to elements

Saille the Willow keys =  experiencing the ebbs and flow of sorrow and joy

Nuin the Ash keys =  learning tolerance and forgiveness


Second Season – our Summer

blossoming, connecting,

Huathethe Hawthorne keys =  flirting, courting and mischief

Duir the Oak keys =  being present and accountable

Tinne the Holly keys =  releasing affirmations and prayers

Coll The Hazel keys =  receiving nourishment and wisdom

Quirt The Apple keys =  our dreaming and their revelations

Third Season – our Autumn, Fall

our harvest, our unity,

Muin The Vine keys =  dreams manifesting into our awaking world

Gort The Ivy keys =  becoming aware of our spirit guide

NGetal The Reed keys =  accepting responses to our prayers and affirmations

Straif The Blackthorn keys =  awareness of our egos and our place in all things

Ruis The Elder keys =  voice of conscience that guides our choices


Fourth Octave – our Winter

sharing, our divine service,

Ailim The Pine keys =  discovering our true home from which to serve from

Ohn The Gorse keys =  detoxing our soul so our visions are clearer

Ur The Heather keys =  clarity of our vision of our quest to serve

Eadha The Poplar keys =  becoming at one with all things and owner of none

Oho The Yew keys =  becoming attuned to cycles and resurrection, and that there is no end!

Bards In The Woods

Ogma’s Tale Of The Trees is also part of our larger campaign, Bards In The Woods, that encourages more people into more of the woods of Ireland more often.

This is important as the threat of selling off Ireland’s public access woodland and forests to private owner, who will probably restrict access, is getting stronger here.We also share picnics there in the woods, from local foods from local gardens, farm shops and farmer’s markets.

So Ogma’s Tale of The Trees is a kind of a flagship to a much larger trees, woodland and local food calling.

Bards at Rath Lugh

Bards at Rath Lugh

Pic: John Wilmott


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  1. Graham


    I find this post very interesting and inspiring. I would love to know if the book and CD have been published and where I would be able to get hold of them.

    Do you have information on the language in the Oogham in the book of Ballymote?

    With many thanks

  2. Hi Graham,

    I don’t know off the top of my head, but I will ask John for you about the Book & CD.

    The Book of Ballymote is written ‘mostly’ in Irish – I’m not sure what the other language is. As it was written in the early 16th Century, it was probably Latin. You can have a look at the original manuscript on the Irish Script on Screen site.

    Many blessings

    Gary xx

  3. Hi Graham,

    I’ve spoken to John and he tells me that they are still working on editing and compiling the audio right now. You can see his notes online as work progresses at http://www.ogmatrees.com/.

    Hope that helps

    Gary xxx

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