The Celtic Ogham: An Ancient Tree Alphabet that May Disappear Before Showing its Roots
The Ogham alphabet. ( Anárion/CC BY 1.0 )
Unfortunately, by the time they reached the plain of Shinar, the cursed people had all dispersed. King Fenius thus sent his scholars out to the far edges of the known world in order to learn the multitude of languages. The search lasted for ten years and Fenius remained near the ruins of the Tower the whole time, waiting for his loyal servants to return with their findings. Once the search was complete, the King created a special language known as Bérla tóbaide . It was made up of the best elements of each of the confused languages. He also devised the Beithe-luis-nuin, a perfect writing system to accompany the new language. This script was commonly referred to as the Ogham.
‘The Tower of Babel ’ (1594) by Lucas van Valckenborch. ( Public Domain )
This fantastic tale is not the only legend that exists to explain Ogham. Modern researchers also have a plethora of beliefs to explain the language’s purpose, and while they are not as extraordinary as the Legend of Fenuis Farsa, they are equally disputed.
Some scholars argue that Ogham was created so that the Irish could communicate without the British knowing what was being said (the Brits were the Celts’ enemy, even in the first centuries AD). Another hypothesis argues that the alphabet was composed by early Christian missionaries in Ireland because they found it difficult to capture the sounds of Gaelic with the Latin alphabet. Still another posits that Ogham was originally a secret hand signal language of the ancient Druids that ultimately made its way into permanence by being carved into stones. This idea rests on the similarity between the groupings of one to five twigs for a sound and the five fingers of the person passing on messages in a secret sign language. However, few academics believe this last hypothesis to be credible.
Ogham alphabet, Plumbridge. ( Kenneth Allen/CC BY SA 2.0 )
Archeologists continue working to find as many Ogham stones as possible and to create digital copies of them. Once the preservation of Ogham is secured, the business of comparing the messages with other ancient texts and symbols will begin in earnest in order to unveil the secrets behind the mysterious Irish tree language.
Ogham stone in the ground of Ratass Church in Tralee, Co. Kerry. ( Jaqian/CC BY SA 3.0 )
Top Image: Ogham sticks ( A Walk Around Britain / Flickr )
Ager, Simon. "Ogham" Ogham Alphabet . Omniglot, 2016. Web. 09 July 2016. http://www.omniglot.com/writing/ogham.htm
Giaimo, Cara. "Preserving Ireland's Ancient, Mysterious Tree-Based Alphabet." Atlas Obscura . Atlas Obscura, 19 May 2016. Web. 09 July 2016. http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/preserving-irelands-ancient-mysterious-treebased-alphabet
Joelle. "Celtic Tree Calendar - Ogham Alphabet." Celtic Paths . Joelle's Sacred Grove, 1998. Web. 09 July 2016. http://www.joellessacredgrove.com/Celtic/tree.html