By Anne Delaney

I received a glowing silver pendant from a friend for a recent birthday. It’s a tiny facsimile of an Ogham stone with irregular grooves cut into its surface. I was oddly pleased to discover that those grooves spelt out my Christian name: Anne.

It’s a gift I treasure and regard as a very appropriate gift for an Irishwoman – mainly because the mysterious and ancient alphabet of Ogham was invented in Ireland for the purpose of writing an early form of the Irish language in the 4th to 6th centuries.

The origins of Ogham are lost in the swirling mists of Celtic pre-history and legend. It is thought that the Ogham alphabet had its origins in southwest Ireland as the standing stones bearing that ancient script are most frequently found in Cork and Kerry.

However, every county in Ireland is host to these intriguing monuments from the past.

Amazingly, many of these stones have endured despite centuries of bloody warfare and extreme weather. They continue to bear silent testimony to the eternal Irish desire to express ourselves in writing.
Some Ogham stones have endured for at least as long as 16 centuries; there are 369 verified examples of Ogham surviving today. The bulk of them are to be found in Ireland but there are scatterings of such stones found in Great Britain, presumably created there by Irish settlers, who brought their mysterious form of writing with them.

It seems that Ogham writing was often used for commemorative purposes and for recording the names of land-owners or for giving their ancestral background. For example, an Ogham phrase might go as follows; ‘B son of C from the family of D.’

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own


Picture courtesy of Ridiculopathy Wikipedia