Ogam & Native Florida Plants

Druidry and related paths look to plants and nature for wisdom, and the study of the Ogam – an ancient Irish alphabet- is a worthwhile way to this wisdom. The Ogam (or Ogham) dates to well before 300 C.E., is easily carved on wood or stone. Each letter (few) is linked with an Irish ‘tree’ (and/or plants we would now call bushes) and its symbolism. This basic rich plant symbolism of the fews has been expanded upon in recent centuries to include animal, healing, calendar, element, divination, astrological, and other associations.

 

Ogham stone at Rathass Church, Tralee, Kerry, Ireland (Wikipedia)

Studying the Ogam involves finding and knowing these plants. But as many of us don’t live in northern Europe we have to look to our own region for plants that correspond to the traditional Ogam fews. This can be as simple as finding any local tree of the same species, or a non-related plant that matches some basic features of that few. I was surprised to find many matching species for fews in the Florida region.

 

The table below shows the basic letters (including alternates), their Irish name, associated European tree, brief divinatory meaning, and a corresponding north central Florida plant. When there are many matching species for an Ogam few I generally chose one that I considered most like the original European plant. Other fews had no direct corresponding plant, and again I looked for a plant with similar features. I also tried for plants that can be reasonably easy to find, which unfortunately left out our endangered Yew and Torreya trees.

 

Some other basic Ogam information to start: Ogam is usually read from bottom to top in vertical lines. In the Beith-Luis-Nuin Ogam system there are 20 basic letters (called fews or feda), and five extra letters (called forfeda). The fews are arranged in five groups (called aicme, or aicmi for more than one group). I’ve also included 2 additional fews in common usage. Ogam spellings vary, modern associations are complex and in flux, and some debated. (For instance, Ogam calendar associations vary so widely that I choose not to include them in the first version of these pages. Now I include the use of the 13 month Celtic calendar that starts in November.) I’ve provided generally accepted information that can be a starting point to a personal understanding of the Ogam. The references used for this table and individual tree pages are listed after the table, for a more in-depth study of the Ogam itself.

 

SYMBOL  IRISH NAME ENGLISH ‘TREE’ NAME OGAM MEANING FLORIDA TREE OR PLANT
AICME OF BEITH
Beith vertical BEITH BIRCH               
(Betula alba, pendula, or pubescens)
White tree of purification, protection, & beginnings RIVER BIRCH
(Betula nigra)
Luis LUIS ROWAN OR MOUNTAIN ASH (Sorbus aucuparia) Protection, vision, gives insight BLACK CHERRY
(Prunus serotina)
Fearn FEARN ALDER                
(Alnus glutinosa)
Oracular guidance, protection of self & country HAZEL ALDER
(Alnus serrulata)
Saille SAILLE WILLOW              
(Salix fragilis, alba, viminalis, or caprea)
Feeling, intuition, fluidity WILLOW
(Salix caroliniana Michaux, eriocephala,  or floridana)
Nuin NUIN ASH               
(Fraxinus excelsior)
Tree of rebirth, passageway between inner & outer worlds. WHITE ASH
(Fraxinus americana Linnaeus)
AICME OF HUATHE 
Huathe HUATHE HAWTHORN   
(Crataegus monogyna & oxyacantha)
Patience, restriction,  protection from inner realms; door to Otherworld HAWTHORN
(Crataegus uniflora M.)
Duir DUIR OAK                
(Quercus rubur or petraea)
Solid protection, doorway to mysteries, inner strength, courage LAUREL OAK
(Quercus hemisphaerica)
WATER OAK
(Quercus nigra)
Tinne TINNE HOLLY                     
(Ilex aquifolium)
Life symbol/ reincarnation; directed balance, courage AMERICAN HOLLY
(Ilex opaca)
TOPAL HOLLY
(Ilex x attenuata Ashe)
Cull CULL HAZEL              
(Corylus avellana)
Creativity, poetry, divination & meditation AMERICAN HORNBEAM
(Carpinus caroliniana)
Quert QUERT APPLE                
(Pyrus malus or sylvestris)
Healing, love, choice SOUTHERN CRABAPPLE
(Malus angustifolia Michaeus)
AICME OF MUIN
Muin MUIN
VINE
(grape vine)
(Vitis vinifera)
Harvest, strong effort, releasing prophecy MUSCADINE GRAPE
(Vitus rotundifolia Michx.)

BRAMBLE (Blackberry)
(Rubus Fruticosa)
Prophesy, teaching, surfacing of intuition SAND BLACKBERRY
(Rubus cuneifolius)
Gort GORT IVY
(Hedera helix)
Spiral of self, tenacity, indirect progress VIRGINA CREEPER
(Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
Ngethal NGETAL
BROOM           
(Cytisus scoparius)
Cleansing, healing, restores harmony SWEETBROOM
(Scoparia dulcis)
REED                 
(Phragmites australis)
Meaning and purpose to journey, direction SWITCHCANE 
(Arundinaria gigantea)
FERN               
(Pteridium aquilinum)
Clearing to restore harmony BRACKEN FERN 
(Pteridium aquilinum)
Straif STRAIF BLACKTHORN    
(Prunus spinosa)
Necessity, karma, fate with hope, protection HOG or FLATWOODS PLUM
(Prunus umbellata E.)
Ruis RUIS ELDER          
(Sambucus nigra)
Regeneration, cycle of rebirth, change and transformation. ELDERBERRY
(Sambucus nigra Canadensis)
AICME OF AILM
Ailm AILM SCOTS PINE      
(Pinus sylvestris)
Purification, long sight, foresight LONGLEAF PINE               
(Pinus palustris Mill.)
SLASH PINE            
(Pinus elliottii Engelm.)
SILVER FIR         
(Abies alba)
Clear view to the future, perspective, foresight LOBLOLLY PINE        
(Pinus taeda Linnaeus)
ELM                    
(Ulmus glabra)
Twist of intuition, bridge between lives; ‘elven tree’ WINGED ELM          
(Ulmus alata M.)
Ohn OHN (or ONN) FRUZE, GORSE   
(Ulex europaneus)
Attraction & possibility; Harvesting sweet or valuable things. SICKLEPOD             
(Senna obtusifolia)
Ur UR (or URA)
HEATHER             
(Calluna vulgaris)
Creation; gateway to spirit world HAIRY WICKY         
(Kalmia hirsuta Walt.)
Eabha EABHA (or EADHA) ASPEN           
(Populus tremula)
Courage & perserverence; Protects by shielding & resisting, gift from winds SWEETGUM  
(Liquidamber styraciflua L.)
Ioho IOHO (or IDHO) YEW                    
(Taxus baccata)
Rebirth, eternal cycle, transformation BALD CYPRESS  
(Taxodium distichum)
ACIME OF EABHADH (THE ORIGINAL FORFEDA- vowel diphthongs)
Eabhadh EABHADH (or EBAD) ASPEN               
(and/or a grove containing all trees)
(Populus tremula)
Central balance & infinite possibility SWEETGUM   
(Liquidamber styraciflua L.)
Oir OIR SPINDLE          
(Euonymus europaeus)
Fate, sudden change, & the unexpected AMERICAN STRAWBERRYBUSH (Euonymus americanus L.)
Uilleand UILLEAND HONEYSUCKLE    
(Lonicera periclymenum)
Way to Inner secrets and path to search for self CORAL HONEYSUCKLE
(Lonicera sempervirens L.)
Iphen IPHEN GOOSEBERRY    
(Ribes uva-crispa)
Fruitful generations HIGHBUSH BLUEBERRY
(Vaccinium corymbosum)
Eamancholl EAMANCHOLL (or PHAGOS) BEECH                
(Fagus sylvatica)
Past widsom revealed; use past experience AMERICAN BEECH  
(Fagus grandifolia)
OTHER FORFEDA
 Peith  PEITH SWAMP ELDER       (Viburnum opulus) The horizon, creation RUSTY BLACKHAW              (Viburnum rifidulum)
 the Unspeakable the UNSPEAKABLE (or blank) MISTLETOE        
(Viscum album)
Fertility, healing, sacrifice  MISTLETOE  
(Phoradendron leucarpum)
REFERENCES

OGAM

The Druidry Handbook: Spiritual Practice Rooted in the Living Earth by John Michael Greer (2006)

Tree Wisdom: The Definitive Guidebook to the Myth, Folklore, and Healing Power of Trees by Jacqueline Memory Paterson (1996)

Celtic Tree Mysteries: Practical Druid Magic & Divination (Llewellyn’s Celtic Wisdom) by Steve Blamires (2002)

The Celtic Tree Oracle: A System of Divination (link is to available 2014 edition) by Liz and Colin Murray (1991)

Celtic Wisdom Sticks: Ancient Ogam Symbols Offer Guidance for Today
by Caitlin Matthews (2001)

Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom (link is to available 2014 edition), by Erynn Rowan Laurie

Ogam article on Wikipedia

 

PLANTS

The Shrubs and Woody Vines of Florida: A Reference and Field Guide (Reference and Field Guides) by Gil Nelson (1996)

The Trees of Florida by Gil Nelson (2010)

Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants

Floridata Plant Profile List 

University of Florida Herbarium (FLAS)

USDA Plants Database

School of Forest Resources & Conservation IFAS, University of Florida Forest Trees (and Plants) catalog

North Dakota Tree Information Center 

University of Texas, Austin- Wildflower Center

USDA Fire Effects Information- Plants

University of Michigan, Deerborn Ethnobotany Database

 

PLANT MEDICINAL INFORMATION

Medical Herbalism: The Science Principles and Practices Of Herbal Medicine by David Hoffmann (2003)

Botanical.com, A Modern Herbal (tends to only have European species, and limited American species listed)

For reports of uses by American Indians (by plant species)- University of Michigan, Deerborn Ethnobotany Database

HerbMed (search and get results of scientific articles on herbs)

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, NIH

Special thanks to:

The staffs at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens and Morningside Nature Center in Gainesville, FL

Julio Reis for his Ogham Symbols (2006)

Tree & Plant Photos:

by Dana Wiyninger