In the Irish myth Tochmarc Etaine1, “the Wooing of Etain,” a Druid named Dalan used a method of Ogham divination to find where the God Midir had taken Etain. He cut four wands of yew on which he cut three Oghams, and with them he found the "eochra ecsi (keys of science and Ogham)," with which he was able to discover that she had been taken to the Sidhe-mound of Breg Leith, where Midir dwelt. Therefore, when Midir abducts Etain, Dalan discovers where she is by using Ogham but we simply do not know precisely how Dalan did his divination.
So, is Ogham divination an ancient tool?? Quite possibly. Is it the same as modern Ogham divination? Most likely not. Does this make the modern use of Ogham in divination somehow less valid? Most definitely not.
Ogham divination uses staves of wood with an individual few carved on each. You may also use paper cards, as paper comes from wood. Some prefer this method because they are easier to store and manipulate than 25 sticks. I have also seen Ogham placed on stone, but I believe wood staves are better as they more traditional and remains true to the importance that woods play in the art. However, there is some legitimacy to this practice lent by the fact that all surviving Ogham inscriptions were written on stone. Some Ogham staves will also include the Irish name and the corresponding wood, and I recommend this if you are just learning the correspondences. The more you see them, the quicker you will learn them. You need to make sure that you have a way to tell which way is upright because this will make a difference in the way the Oghams are read.
Ogham fews are given “kennings” or associations based on the letter which they represent. For instance, if you wished to give Ogham deity correspondences, you could associate Beith with Brigid and Bel. Or for animal correspondences you could associate Ruis with the Raven and the Rattlesnake. It is perfectly acceptable in Ogham divination to create your own correspondences. In fact, sometimes this is better because they are more personal to you. In addition to kennings, fews can also be assigned divinatory meanings. I will include some examples of these in another post.
Like any other art, Ogham divination should be practiced as much as possible, preferably every day. Below is a simple spread that is easy to incorporate into your daily ritual.
The Ray of Light Spread2
This spread is based on Awen, the three rays of light, which is a classic symbol in modern Druidry. The first ray, on the left, is the Ray of Knowledge, and represents the influence of the past. The middle ray is the Ray of Peace, and represents the present. The third and final ray, on the right, is The Ray of Power, and it represents potential for change, the future.
To use the Ray of Light Spread, the practioner will shuffle the staves or the cards, and then draw three, one by one. The first stave will be placed on the left, for the past. The second stave draw will be placed on the right, for the future. The final stave, the Ray of Peace, will be placed in the middle, representing the future. This order is very important in druid ideology. The middle stave is the grey area, the middle ground. This stave represents the area where the other two meet, the in between. This is the area where druids strive to exist, in the grey between *black and white,* between extremes. Essentially, living in the present; knowledgeable of the past, with the power to face and influence the future, but living in peace in the present.
Your spread should be representative of this image, Awen::
After the few are placed, you can begin to study and interpret their meanings. At first, this task can seem daunting, much like tarot. Remember that there are no clear cut answers and no definitive correspondences and meanings. John Michael Greer recommends that you ask yourself “What does this remind me of?” or “What does this make me think of?” in place of “What does this mean?” The first two leave more room for personal interpretation, any rely a tab bit less on the stock meanings and correspondences you are working with. Over time you may develop meanings that are exclusive to your own work, and this is wonderful.
Well, what about the question? What should you ask while using Ogham? If you are just beginning, I suggest you start with a simple, relatively short term question. “What does this day hold for me?” You can do this as part of your morning ritual. Take notes in your divination journal; the fews, the order, your interpretations. Then, as part of your night time ritual, compare your interpretation to your actual day. Then compare the fews to your day. Were your interpretations accurate? Were there possibly more appropriate interpretations? Notice, from time to time, if certain fews begin to develop their own meanings which are unique to you. Remember, there are no *right* meanings in Ogham divination, so it is most important to concentrate on developing your intuitive abilities and to find the meanings that speak to you.
After you become more familiar with Ogham and individual few meanings for you, you can gradually expand your questions to encompass the next week, the next three months, the next year, and so on. Remember this is an art. It takes practice, and you cannot get in a rush.
Now, here is another example of Ogham divination. The interpretation here is much more involved and should be attempted after one is comfortable with the Ray of Light Spread, in my opinion.
With this approach, a practioner would draw three circles on the ground, or the circles can also be drawn on a piece of cloth that you use repeatedly for this purpose. The circles can represent different things; past, present, future; earth, sea, sky (the Celtic elements); etc. The staves are then tossed in the air, and interpretation is based on which staves fall into which circle. I recommend journaling this process the same as you would with the Rays of Light spread, or any approach for that matter.
2. This spread is found in John Michael Greer’s The Druid Magic Handbook
Places to purchase Ogham sets:
The Spirit of Old – This is my favorite provider of Ogham sets. They offer sets where each few is carved on the corresponding wood. They are also reasonably priced, all things considered.
The Haunted Wood – This company offers more commercial staves. They do have a set on Irish bog wood, which is interesting at the very least.
I will also be adding a discussion on how to make your own Ogham sets very soon.
This is Mike from the Haunted Wood- Thanks for the link! (although the page got moved during the site redesign- the new page is here: http://hauntedwoodonline.com/24-ogham) Spirit of Old is a great site as well- I love some of their carvings.
I've used your Coelbreni method quite a few times with runes. I find that you can discern a lot of information from which ones fall near or facing one another, crossing others, etc.