Tag: ogham

Trees of the Goddess, by Elen Sentier

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Ogham staves, photo by Jenny BachTrees of the Goddess, by Elen SentierTrees of the Goddess: A New Way of Working with the Ogham, by Elen Sentier Moon Books, 9781782793328, 101 pp., 2014For millennia, trees have been held sacred among indigenous cultures and great civilisations alike. Tree mythology features in all major world religions. Trees speak deeply to our human collective unconscious, as symbols of otherworld connection, longevity, nourishment, and the mysteries of transformation.To the ancient Celts, certain trees held special value as a magickal alphabet known as the oghamTrees of the Goddess is a short book describing these sacred trees in the context of the mystical "Song of Amergin," translated by Robert Graves in The White Goddess. While the ogham’s popular use as a calendar is loosely based on Graves’ work, his interpretation has been disputed (in true Pagan style) as a corruption of original sources. Read More

Robert Graves’ fabrication of the Celtic tree calendar

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Tree, photo by Romain ValletFor many people, their first introduction to the Song of Amergin came through Robert Graves' The White Goddess.  Graves states that, "English poetic education should, really, begin not with Canterbury Tales, not with the Odyssey, not even with Genesis, but with the Song of Amergin."However, despite this apparently reverential beginning; Graves does not actually put forward the Song of Amergin as we have it; rather he begins by utterly changing this ancient poem to better fit his own pet theory, connecting the lines from this poem to the Ogham alphabet and the "months" of the year.  This creates a vague pattern, unprecedented in either nature or the Gaelic source culture he purports to respect.Graves provides neither the original Irish poem, nor anyone else's English translation. Instead he just sets off on his own imaginative journey. Read More

Ogam, by Erynn Rowan Laurie

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Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom, by Erynn Rowan Laurie Megalithica Books, 9781905713028, 310 pp.I must admit that I requested this book for review because I have only a passing acquaintance with the subject matter. I have reviewed dozens of books on Wicca/Witchcraft, Paganism, magick, Tarot, etc., all of which I am reasonably well-read on (as well as having personal experience to call upon). Every once in a while I like to find a subject I can approach as a novice reader, so I can see if the hypothetical average reader can make sense of what is being written.The author makes a statement which should, in my opinion, be branded in the hearts and minds of every “eclectic” Pagan: “That said, these things [local spirits and personal ancestors] must be done with the utmost respect for the local people and traditions, and not stolen, twisted, and used without instruction or permission.” Far too many eclectics seem to feel that if it comes from a Pagan culture it is usable by any Pagan, anywhere, even without an understanding of the parent culture. Ms. Laurie recognizes that such behaviour is inappropriate, and for that, I applaud her. Read More

Review: Celtic Astrology, by Phyllis Vega

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Celtic Astrology: How the Mystical Power of the Druid Tree Signs Can Transform Your Life, by Phyllis Vega
New Page Books, 2002
One of the things I liked about this book is the assumption on the part of Ms. Vega that she shouldn’t assume anything about the basic knowledge of her readers. She doesn’t assume that everyone knows the “standard” astrological dates and attributes. On the other hand, she doesn’t assume that her readers have no basic background. She walks the fine middle line by giving out basic details without being condescending about it. She does a fine job of contrasting the “normal” astrological types with the types associated with the Celtic astrology.

Make no mistake. This is not an astrological book in the usual sense of the word. There are no calculations to make; no charts to cast; no planetary alignments to be concerned about. It simply breaks humanity into the thirteen types associated with the Celtic Tree Calendar (plus the Nameless Day). This makes it easy to compare general sun sign attributes with Tree sign attributes.

She feels that the sun sign represents the outer qualities in an individual – those that the world sees and reacts to, while the Tree sign represents the inner qualities – those that affect how you react to the world.

On a non-astrological note, Ms. Vega does not fall into the trap all too many other authors have of assuming that the Celtic world consisted of a homogeneous, matriarchal society, with established sacred schools of learning. She acknowledges the patriarchal basis of the Celtic world, without insisting on a matriarchal or balanced role of the sexes. Neither does she claim an advanced social agenda on the behalf of the Celts, although she does give a nod to their technological innovations and advancements.

Unlike many books on either of these topics (Celtic studies and/or astrology), this book is an easy, enjoyable read. When this book arrived, I figured I was in for a difficult reading, especially as I am not a big astrology fan. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy Ms. Vega made it to understand. It contains a lot of food for thought and will encourage the reader to stretch his or her mind. It is not, however, a fluff book. It contains a great deal which is usable by almost anyone.

She does rely extensively on The White Goddess by Robert Graves for her information on the Ogham alphabet. While this is an extremely popular work, there are significant questions about its validity on a factual level. Graves himself acknowledged that he was writing as a poet, not a historian.

Ms. Vega relates basic stories of each of the deities associated with the thirteen trees, which compose the tree alphabet, as well as explaining about each of the animals associated with each of them.

She shows the correspondence between the Celtic tree astrology and the more traditional zodiac. She takes the time to give thumbnail sketches of the traditional signs in language, which is easy to understand, and entertaining to boot. Nor does she sugar coat the shortcomings we all have. She does her best to present things in a positive light, without the cloying sweetness and light, which is so prevalent in many books today.

The exercises and techniques she sets out for each of the tree/sun sign combinations are easy and fun to do. They do not involve strenuous occult exercises and beliefs. She runs the gamut from healing baths to chakra balancing, with guided meditations and simple charm construction thrown in for good measure. All of these are designed to made use of regardless of the reader’s religious orientation, if any.

Once again, I have to state that this not your standard astrology book. It is, however, a handy companion to help one understand all of the influences that affect our daily lives. And, given the popularity of Celtic orientation in the modern Pagan world, it should find a home on many bookshelves. Just don’t let it sit there, though. Take it down periodically and re-explore the offerings contained within these covers.