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Ogham (Oh-ehm) is an ancient Celtic script used primarily to write the early Irish language. It is seen as the earliest version of an ancient Celtic language and the first written language of Ireland. Ogham writing first appeared around 400AD and was used up to the 7th century. Druids created this Celtic Ogham alphabet as a secret means of communication as a hand signal and written language. The Ogham script alphabet is pretty fascinating!

The Ogham script alphabet is composed of a series of carved notches, straight or diagonal lines, known as feda. These are drawn perpendicular to or intersecting a central line. The script is typically inscribed on the corners of stone monuments, such as standing stones. It generally reads upwards from bottom to top, but can read from left to right along the central line.

The origin of the word Ogham remains unclear. Origin is possibly from the Irish og-uaim, meaning point-seam, referring to the line or carve made by a sharp instrument. But it is also said that Ogham was inspired by ‘Ogma’, the God of Literature and Eloquence. It is widely believed that Ogham was used by druids, warriors and bards, as a secret language for rituals. Uneducated folk would not have been able to understand Ogham. Ogham may have been adapted from a type of sign language used by the druids stroking their fingers across their nose to make symbols.
Ogham Necklace handcrafted from Sterling Silver in Ireland, Love Ogham Silver Necklace by Ogham Treasure

In our modern day, unique pieces of wall art and jewellery are inspired by the Celtic Ogham alphabet. Handcrafted in Ireland using the same ancient techniques as the Celtic people who first carved this mysterious script.


Click here to see our range of beautiful Ogham Jewellery by Ogham Treasure currently in stock at Totally Irish Gifts



Ogham Alphabet explained

Each character of the Ogham script alphabet represents a different letter of the Old Irish alphabet. Each is formed by up 5 strokes and is identified by the number, position and direction of their stroke(s). These can be angled or perpendicular across or on either side of a continuous central line. The Ogham alphabet is grouped in letters of 5, known as an aicme. Each aicme is named after the first letter of that group. Ogham originally consisted of 20 characters, each named after a tree or plant. So there were four aicmí, i.e. three sets of 5 consonants and 1 set of 5 vowels. This increased by 5 to 25 letters and this fifth acime, or Forfeda, was used in manuscripts.

The design of the Ogham characters allowed them to be easily carved on wood or stone and the central line represents the edge of the piece of wood/stone, this central line is called a ‘Druim’, which means ridge or spine.  Ogham inscriptions were usually just personal names on boundary markings to mark ownership, territories and graves. It is generally thought that Ogham was mostly carved on wood, which did not survive the course of time, but many examples of Ogham can still be found on Celtic ruins, boundary marks and gravestones around Ireland.



What are Ogham Stones?

ogham stonesOgham stones are standing stones that are engraved with this earliest known form of writing in Ireland.

Traditional Ogham standing stones are rectangular in shape, straight and tall. The letters were written on either side with the corner becoming the central point.

Ogham stones can be found in many locations throughout Ireland, Wales and the UK. It is thought there are about 400 known ogham inscriptions on stone monuments around Ireland.

These Ogham stones were inscribed with names of wealthy and prominent local individuals or clans. They were used to indicate ownership of land. They were also used to mark burial sites to honour the deceased, usually high status individuals. Such Ogham inscriptions also often served as commemorative markers and recording genealogies.

Some Ogham standing stones are from stone circles and the remains of graves. There is a superstition that as long as the stone is still standing, no bad luck would befall them!


These Ogham Wall Plaques by O’Gowna Studios are inspired by the ancient Ogham Stones. Handcrafted in Ireland from a mix of limestone and bronze, the Ogham script alphabet is highlighted with gold leaf script. Three different wall hangings are beautiful Ogham gifts, stocked at Totally Irish Gifts and can be purchased individually or as a gift set.

'Fáilte' = 'Welcome'

‘Fáilte’ = ‘Welcome’

'Sláinte' = 'Good Health'

‘Sláinte’ = ‘Good Health’

'Grá' = 'Love'

‘Grá’ = ‘Love’












Ogham Writing

Although Ogham was primarily used for inscriptions on monuments, it is also found in manuscripts and other written materials from early medieval Ireland. Ogham was later also used in manuscripts to keep records for business and land ownership. However, surviving examples of Ogham in manuscripts are relatively rare compared to inscriptions on stone. Example manuscripts which include Ogham are the ‘Book of Ballymote’ and the ‘Book of Leinster’. These manuscripts demonstrate that Ogham script was occasionally incorporated into written texts alongside other scripts like Latin and Irish. This provides valuable insights into how the Celtic Oghgham alphabet was understood and utilized within the context of medieval Irish literature and scholarship.

In manuscripts, the ogham script alphabet consists of a series of lines or dashes across a central seam. It is an angular language with no curved characteristics, unlike today’s alphabet. While on boundary markers, Ogham is written and read from the bottom up to the top, but on manuscripts it goes from left to right across the page.


These Ogham Wall Hangings by Ogham Wish are inspired by the Ogham Writing. Handcrafted in Ireland, the Ogham script alphabet is painted on handmade paper and in a slim contemporary frame. Stocked at Totally Irish Gifts with a number of personalised options.

Ogham Name Frame

Personalised Baby Photo Frame with ancient Irish script of Ogham, handmade in Ireland by Ogham Wishes

Ogham Baby Photo Frame

Ogham Wedding Anniversary Photo Frame gift made in Ireland. Photo frame with couples' names written in Ogham on handmade paper in a slim black frame

Ogham Wedding Anniversary Photo Frame












Ogham script alphabet

Each of the original 20 charactors of the Celtic Ogham alphabet is associated with a tree or plant, which were sacred to the druids.

The slanted consonants m, g, r and z can be written or carved in eitherdirection. Originally carved ogham directions would depend on whether the carver was right or left handed but also what would fit better. If you were right handed it is safer to carve downwards away from your body \\\  or left handed ///. On surviving ogham stones around the country you can find slanted lettering in both directions on the same ogham stones.
Letter Ogham
Tree Name Tree Meaning

aicme b (first aicme)

Celtic symbol meaning for beithe B Beithe Birch Beginning, Renewal, Youth
Ogham L Celtic symbol meaning for luis L Luis Rowan Protection, Expression, Connection
Ogham f Celtic symbol meaning for fern F Fern Alder Endurance, Strength, Passion
Ogham s Celtic symbol meaning for sail S Sail Willow Imagination, Intuition, Vision
Ogham n Celtic symbol meaning for noin N Nion Ash Connection, Wisdom, Surrender

aicme h (second aicme)

Ogham H Celtic symbol meaning for huath H Huath Hawthorn Contradiction, Consequence, Relationships
Ogham d Celtic symbol meaning for duir D Duir Oak Action, Assertion, Objectivity
Ogham t Celtic symbol meaning for tinne T Tinne Holly Action, Assertion, Objectivity
Ogham c Celtic meaning for Coll C Coll Hazel Creativity, Purity, Honesty
Ogham Q Celtic symbol meaning for quert Q Quert Apple Beauty, Love, Generosity

aicme m (third aicme)

Ogham m Celtic symbol meaning for muin M Muin Vine Introspection, Relaxation, Depth
Ogham g Celtic symbol meaning for gort G Gort Ivy Determination, Change, Patience
Ogham ng Celtic symbol meaning for Ngetal NG Ngetal Reed Harmony, Health, Growth
Ogham str-z Celtic symbol meaning for straif STR (Z) Straif Blackthorn Discipline, Control, Perspective
Ogham r Celtic symbol meaning for ruis R Ruis Elder Transition, Evolution, Continuation

aicme a (fourth aicme)

a - Ogham Celtic symbol meaning for ailm A Ailm Elm Clarity, Achievement, Energy
Ogham o Celtic symbol meaning for Onn O Onn Gorse Transmutation, Resourcefulness, Exposure
Ogham u Celtic symbol meaning for Ur U Ur Heather Dreams, Romance, Feelings
Ogham e Celtic symbol meaning for Edad E Edad Poplar/Aspen Victory, Transformation, Vision
Ogham i Celtic symbol meaning for Idad I Idad Yew Transference, Passage, Illusion




Why is Ogham no longer used?

Ogham was a very early and rudimentary communication system. It was useful to convey only very simple ideas. It is thought the Celtic Ogham alphabet was followed by the Old Norse Rune. But certainly, the use of Ogham ended when Irish monks learned the Latin alphabet, which could be modified for writing Irish. Latin was introduced by the Christian missionaries, who considered Ogham and Rune to be pagan.
Today, Ogham is studied by linguists, archaeologists, and historians interested in understanding ancient Celtic civilization. The Ogham inscriptions provide valuable insights into early Irish society, language, and culture. As it is such an interesting and important part of our ancient ancestry, an Ogham present makes a really interesting and unique gift for lots of different occasions.



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