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ogham, ogam, or ogum (all: ŏgˈəm, ōˈəm), ancient Celtic alphabet of one of the Irish runic languages. It was used by the druids and abandoned after the first few centuries of the Christian era. The ogham runes remain only in gravestone inscriptions found mostly in W Ireland and also in England, Scotland, and the Shetland Islands. The origin of ogham is uncertain; it contained 25 letters formed of straight lines and may have been adapted from a sign language. A treatise on ogham, The Book of Ballymote (15 cent.), confirms that it was a secret, ritualistic language.


See R. A. Macalister, The Secret Languages of Ireland (1937).

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Ogham stone, Sperrin Mountains, County Tyrone. Courtesy Allen Kennedy/Fortean Picture Library.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The oldest form of Goidelic writing used by the Celts and found in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Devon, and the Isle of Man. The majority of examples have been found in Kerry and Cork counties of Ireland. The oldest of these inscriptions were composed of notches carved onto the edge of an upright stone.

The system would seem to be founded on the Latin alphabet. Some stones have bilingual inscriptions, which have helped in their translation. The main key, however, was found in a treatise on Oghamic writing contained in the fourteenthcentury Book of Ballymote.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a phonetic writing system used by the Celts and Picts of the British Isles (see Figure 1). It is known from fourth-century inscriptions in Old Irish (Ireland, Scotland, Western Brittany, and the Isle of Man) and in Pictish (inscriptions from Scotland, the Shetland Islands, and the Orkney Islands, which have not yet been deciphered). Ogham was displaced from regular usage by the Latin alphabet but survived in Ireland as a cryptographic device until the 17th century.

Figure 1. Ogham system

The core of an ogham inscription was a line (which could also be the edge or corner of a stone slab or a wooden object) on which dots were marked, with groups of dots representing the vowel sounds; groups of lines leading to one or both sides of the vertical line indicated consonants. A letter consists of a combination of one to five identical lines or dots. Additional letters of a more complex shape were introduced into the ogham system at a later date. The origin of ogham is unknown.


Ferguson, S. Ogham Inscriptions in Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Edinburgh, 1887.
Macalister, R. A. S. Studies in Irish Epigraphy, vols. 1–3. London, 1897–1907.
Vendryes, J. “L’Écriture ogamique et ses origines.” Etudes celtiques, 1939, vol. 4.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The edge is marked with a series of ancient carvings, each group representing a letter of the ogham alphabet .
For Meribah, 1970, named for the biblical site where Moses created water by striking a rock, O'Doherty brushed the wood edges with a bright sea blue and etched the word meribah in ogham in the aluminum twice: It appears running from top to bottom on the left-hand band and from bottom to top on the right-hand side, so that transliteration is possible no matter which side is hung facing upward.
Ogham gleanings from an Irish manuscript in the Swiss city of St Gallen.
Practicing Druid witch and Celtic shaman Danu Forest presents Celtic Tree Magic: Ogham Lore and Druid Mysteries, a guide to the ogham tradition of Celtic spiritual practice.
Parts of the sculpture are inscribed in Ogham Script, which is known as the alphabet of the Pictish people.
The key to the rude Ogham inscriptions, found in various parts of Ireland, and in which no distinction of words could at first be traced, was, by a strict application of this principle, recovered.
The "Note to the Reader" presents the Ogham "Tree Alphabet," a central backdrop for the story, and McQuerry invites the reader to decipher Ogham messages she leaves on the bottom of pages.
Celt Experience Brewery Ogham Ash, 10.5% ABV, 330ml bottle, available at Cardiff Country Fair this Saturday and Sunday Celt Experience Brewery was established in Caerphilly in 2007 and currently exports worldwide to places as far away as Japan and South Africa.
Gemma is in Persian on my left wrist and Ronan on my right inner forearm in an ancient Celtic alphabet called Ogham."
Enda's school, the president fumed at the "disgraceful jobbery" of the Gaelic League in mobilizing supporters to back de Valera, especially when the city organization was led by naught but "a minor post office clerk." And like opposition to the Hill of Tara excavations in 1899, another Gaelic League-led campaign to halt Windle's removal of ancient Ogham stones to university premises in 1913 marked the clash of an antiquarian ethic with the emerging voice of a nationalist and demotic public opinion.
licence." Then there's the Sudbury Valley School established in Frami ogham, Mass, in 1968; and Windsor House School operating in North Vancouver since 1971 Toronto has Alpha Elementary School, established in 1972, and Alpha II Senior and Secondary School which opened its doors in 2006.