Friday, May 1, 2015

Sacred Groves and Writing: On Ogham and Oak

All the tales in my latest collection, Wood & Stone, use words as markers between sections. I've written before about the power of words, but these markers are especially magical: they are the word meanings of Celtic Ogham sigils.

Ogham is a writing system, still found on stone monoliths throughout Ireland, Scotland, Wales and parts of England, used by the  Druids and poets/Bards of the ancient Celts. It was a message system, a recording system of important deeds and names, a symbolic device used for learning and remembering ancient lore, and a spiritual tool. Each sigil represented a letter or sound and was linked to a tree or plant, with a corresponding "kenning"or poetic description to explain its meaning. Sacred groves were important to the ancient Celts, so it is no wonder that their writing/magical system was connected to trees. Although there are none that remain, Ogham was probably also carved on wood staves, and it is possible that its messages were transmitted secretly by hand gestures.
Ogham is the middle column.

This is my stunning Ogham set made by WYTCHENWOOD on Etsy. 
Each stave is its corresponding wood.

In  Love Lies Bleeding, the word marker between sections is "duir," which is the Ogham symbol for the letter/sound D and the oak tree. It carries the same root as "Druid," which means "one with the wisdom of oak." In fact, the root of "duir" actually holds three meanings: oak, door, and stag.

"Aislin, find the door in the oak."

The sacred oak, its door to the Otherworld, and the grove of trees is central to the events in Love Lies Bleeding, and we will revisit that grove again in Wood & Stone Part Three, albeit at another time period. 

The oak was considered one of the primary "chieftain" trees (the other classifications were "peasants" and "shrubs") by the Druids because of its strength. It has a very large root system, which spreads through the earth to mirror its branches above. The roots of the old oak trees by my house are known to buckle sidewalks and tangle into water pipes below ground. 

Some famous oaks in England include Herne's Oak in Windsor Great Park, from which the Wild Hunt is said to ride out every Samhain, Major Oak of Sherwood Forest, and the twin oaks, Gog and Magog in Glastonbury. Gog and Magog were once part of a great avenue of oaks stretching up to the Tor (Avalon), but these trees were cut down in 1906 to clear the land for farms. Only Gog and Magog remain...2,000 year old trees.
"Each oak is a guardian and a marker of the way between the worlds, and how much more so must this whole avenue have been...Now these two are all that remains, but the hold all the power of the others within them, all their memories and sacred hidden knowledge. Gog no longer puts forth leaves, and sitting with him one can feel he is more than halfway to the otherworld. Magog is still strong, however, and she scatters her acorns far and wide. A small forest grows at her feet."
Excerpt from Celtic Tree Magic by Danu Forest
(See bottom of post for list of works consulted)

The oak tree is synonymous with the Oak King, King of Summer, and the Green Man, who represents sovereignty and fertility, and whose purpose is to protect and provide. 
The Green Man and a Standing Stone
The Forest Lord's first appearance to Aislin in Love Lies Bleeding echoes the Green Man. 

Celtic sacred groves were places where the Otherworld below, the sky above, and the earth meet, and a person could be granted access to the magical realm of the Otherworld. If the grove was a doorway between worlds, then the oaks were the guardian spirits of the soul's quest. 

The stag was a symbol of fertility, and often associated with the Horned God, Cernunnos, or Herne the Hunter.

Ogham is a key to enchantment in the Wood & Stone tales, and I hope as you read Love Lies Bleeding this explanantion of "duir" and the spirit of the Oak guide you to find magic and meaning in the story. 

But for now, "duir" is your key that unlocked the following excerpt! Surprise! Click and Enjoy! Happy Beltane!

(Just so you know...I have a bit of a flair for the dramatic...I was, after all, an English teacher...)


Works Referenced and Recommended:

Celtic Tree Magic: Ogham Lore and Druid Mysteries by Danu Forest (an informative and enlightening book!)
Celtic Magic by D.J. Conway
Myths of the Sacred Tree by Moyra Caldecott
Glastonbury Reception Centre and Sanctuary

All pictures are from Pinterest. If you are the owner of a picture and would not like it to be used in this blog post, please contact me and I will take it down. Thank you.