The Celtic Ogham Calendar
The Celtic alphabet of Ogham is pronounced 'Oh-wam'. The exact historical origin of the alphabet has been the source of fierce arguments for many years. It is seen used in written form in Ireland from around the 5th Century AD. However, notched grooves carved into rocks seem to hint at it existing for centuries before this, in its symbolic form. Within the British Isles it is often cited as the first attempt at written communication.
The Ogham alphabet in turn has been linked to native British Trees. Sadly, as written history from this period is virtually non-existent, the historical veracity of many of the Ogham interpretations can probably never be proven. But it is known that the Druids in the late Iron Age and beyond (i.e. last century B.C. and the first/second centuries A.D.) used this system in the form of a calendar based on the cycles of the moon and the celebration of the four Solstices.
Each tree in the calendar has its own moon cycle span of 28 days and an Ogham letter symbol.
As with many semi-precious stones and crystals, each of the British native trees and shrubs in the Ogham has particular powers and benefits. We should revere and learn about our native, pioneer trees and shrubs. The Ogham Tree Wisdom/Lunar Calendar is well worth studying to truly try and understand each tree and its associated energies.
The Lunar Tree Calendar
Birch Dec 24 - Jan 20
Rowan Jan 21 - Feb 17
Ash Feb 18 - Mar 17
Alder Mar 18 - Apr 14
Willow Apr 15 - May 12
Hawthorn May 13 - Jun 9
Oak June 10 - July 7
Holly July 8 - Aug 4
Hazel Aug 5 - Sept 1
Vine (or bramble) Sept 2 - Sept 29
Ivy Sept 30 - Oct 27
Reed (or wheatstraw) Oct 28 - Nov 24
Elder Nov 25 - Dec 23
The Lunar Months
Birch (Beith), 1st Moon of the Celtic Year – (Dec 24 – Jan 20)
New start. Start of a journey. Overcoming difficulties.
Birch is one of the first trees to colonise wild areas so it is fitting that the tree is first on the Ogham calendar. It signifies beginnings. Sweeping with birch twigs is said to cleanse a space or person.
Rowan (Luis), 2nd Moon of the Celtic Year – (Jan 21 – Feb 17)
Protection. Quickening (new life).
Twigs/branches of the Rowan used to be hung over doors to protect a house and over cradles to protect a child. Twigs/wood hung over the bed are said to protect from nightmares and disturbed sleep. Rowan strengthens your positive energy to withstand negative forces.
Ash (Nion), 3rd Moon of the Celtic Year – (Feb 18 – March 17)
The world tree (Yggdrasil). Provides links and connections. Inner & outer worlds connected.
In many mythologies (including Norse) the ash represents connections – roots in the underworld, trunk in our middle earth and branches reaching to the heavens and beyond. Meditating with the Ash can help connect and understand the past.
Alder (Fearn), 4th Moon of the Celtic Year – (March 18 – April 14)
Balances male & female aspects. An oracle.
Alder lives in balance. It has a symbiotic relationship with bacteria that lives in its root nodules to help fix nitrogen. As such Alder can actually improve the soil it lives in. Living in wetter areas, its wood is also very strong and durable under water. Alder speaks of balance between strength and receptiveness to working together.
Willow (Saille), 5th Moon of the Celtic Year – (April 15 – May 12)
Flexibility, adaptability, a feminine tree. Wisdom gained from adversity.
A tree associated with the moon, its cycles and its gravitational effect on water. Its bark has been used for hundreds of years in medicine for pain relief. Its branches are soaked and softened for basket weaving. Being connected with the moon it helps keep in touch with life’s rhythms.
Hawthorn (Huath), 6th Moon of the Celtic Year – (May 13 – June 9)
Opens heart, purity, innocence, helps preparation for tasks.
Hawthorn lifts the spirits and brings love into the heart. It has been used through history as a remedy for the heart and circulation. Sprigs of hawthorn were used as protection and in wedding ceremonies to bring happiness, fertility and prosperity but it was bad luck to bring the blossoms into the house. Meditating with Hawthorn brings cleansing and unconditional love.
Oak (Duir), 7th Moon of the Celtic Year – (June 10 – July 7)
Provides strength & courage. A door to inner strength and spirituality. Provides protection.
Oak sooths the nervous system and helps solve problems bringing calm & inner peace. The Celtic name of Duir is thought to be derived from ‘door’ and refers to its association as a doorway to inner strength.
Holly (Tinne), 8th Moon of the Celtic Year – (July 8 – Aug 4)
Symbol of everlasting life & unconditional love. Provides balance, direction & protection.
Holly is a potent symbol of positive life force. In Pagan mythology the Oak King and the Holly King do battle at both mid-winter & mid-summer. Holly provides protection against negative emotions.
Hazel (Coll), 9th Moon of the Celtic Year – (Aug 5 – Sept 1)
Fertility, wisdom, knowledge. Helps provide inspiration & inner guidance. Powerful for divining.
Hazel helps open channels to your creativity. It also helps open channels for inspiration and inner knowledge. Hazel rods are commonly used in divining.
Bramble (or vine) (Muin), 10th Moon of the Celtic Year – (Sept 2 – Sept 29)
Helps with linking & connections.
Some sources show the original Ogham alphabet linked to the vine. However this has been questioned as others have pointed out that the grape vine was probably introduced by the Romans. Other sources show that it was the bramble (being native) that was linked to this lunar month. Unfortunately, we have yet to find a bramble growth thick enough and woody enough to mount on a lathe and turn into a pen – our search continues…..
Ivy (Gort), 11th Moon of the Celtic Year – (Sept 30 – Oct 27)
Preservation. Transformation through persistence. Helps with perseverance and overcoming obstacles.
Some interpret Ivy as binding or restricting. But ivy overcomes obstacles and climbs high. Its leaves transform as they climb higher. It is rare to find ivy large enough to turn, but we do occasionally.
Wheatstraw(or Reed) (Ngetal), 12th Moon of the Celtic Year – (Oct 28 – Nov 24)
Source of life. Authority. Sovereignty.
Again, this material does not lend itself to pen making, although we are continuing to think of ways around this.
Elder (Ruis), 13th Moon of the Celtic Year – (Nov 25 – Dec 23)
Regeneration. Helps with seeing a beginning in the end.
Elder was known as the poor man’s medicine chest. Many parts of the tree including its berries, flowers and leaves were used for healing. Many ancient sites are surrounded by this tree that was revered for its usefulness. It represents the end in the beginning and the beginning in the end and so teaches us the cycle of death & rebirth.
Apple (Quert) – The Light half of the year. Mayday to Halloween
Love energies. Cleansing.
Apples were regarded as a symbol of abundance and a gift of love. It is a symbol of healing – especially of the heart.
Blackthorn (Straif) – The Dark half of the year. Halloween – to Mayday
Positive perceptions. Helps with secrets. Defensive. Protective.
Whilst there are some darker superstitions attached to Blackthorn, the tree brings cleansing & purification on both physical and emotional levels if used with compassion. It teaches that everything can have a positive outcome. The juice of the sloes was also used in medicine, especially to sooth inflammation of the mouth.
Scots Pine (Ailm) - 22 Dec - Winter solstice at the start of the year. The start of the renewal of the sun’s power.
The tall Scots Pine stands as a signpost at the beginning of the year. Guidance pointing to the future.
Gorse (Onn) – 21 March – Spring Equinox
Passion & pitfalls
The gorse has the heady scent of spring. It warns that there can sometimes appear to be a licence for self-indulgence but that self-control sometimes needs to be cultivated. This is another shrub that rarely produces timber of turnable size.
Heather (Ur) – 21 June – Summer solstice
Peace & solitude, new behaviour patterns, transformation.
Heather regenerates after fire, cleansing and clearing away for the new. Another shrub that rarely grows to the required size to turn.
Aspen/Poplar (Eadha) - 21 Sept – Autumn equinox
A tree that whispers on wind. Its shimmering leaves whisper on the breeze teaching us to stop and listen carefully to the quiet voices as sometimes they teach more than those who shout.
Yew (Ioho) – 21 Dec – Winter solstice at the end of the year. The shortest day.
Wheel of life, death & rebirth, transformation.
The yew tree has the ability for its drooping branches to touch the ground and root. Even once the original trunk decays the life of the same tree continues. New trees grow from the branches, but still part of the original. Because of its association with death & rebirth, transformations, the yew has long been associated with sacred sites – both churchyards and pre-Christian sites. Yew rods were used as Ogham sticks for divination and connecting with ancestors.