I am submitting this review of a wonderful book as part of my own work in using it in my studies with the Henge of Keltria and my own studies of the Ogham. I hope this review is as helpful to you as the book has been to me.
This is a very deep book, considered as part of a Celtic Wisdom series offered by the publisher. And while I don't' particularly like how this publisher works, the books of old are still gems to be kept and held for the information they contain. This book is one such example. And while I say this is part of series, it could be construed to be a total lesson unto itself if the person reading it chooses to undertake the study chapter by chapter, as lessons, rather than chapters of pure reading.
This book is not about the healing aspects of trees, at least not like herbal books discuss. This book is about the use of the trees as methods of divination, understanding and the ways to utilize this information to glean bits of the world around us and beyond what we can see in the everyday. Some are taught that the Ogham is a writing system and others a calendar. Neither of these is correct and this book does help to dispel that myth.
This book discusses the Ogham, or as it is sometimes commonly know - the Tree Alphabet, working to dispel the myths surrounding the magical uses versus the historical uses of the Ogham. It begins in the first chapter with a nice discussion of Ogham's history and its historical significance. There is discussion of the various forms Ogham has been found in, its relationship to the alphabet and then on into its presence in the lore of the Irish and Scots-Gaelic peoples. The author next goes into a very brief presentation of why the Ogham could not be used as a tree calendar, very brief. The author ends the first part of the book by explaining, in detail or so it seems to a beginner, how the Ogham was developed. This is related to lore and language as well as symbolism. I can see where a working knowledge of the use of the language could be of a greater benefit than not knowing any of it.
I feel part two is the most fun part of this text. The author begins with lessons on the "levels" of the trees, or their status and station of rank. There is an exercise to begin with and a lovely tree ritual to perform as you go further and is to be done with each tree that is discussed. I think that is part of what makes this book an excellent introduction and envelopment into Ogham, you actually do the work and make it a part of your learning as it should be. It begins at Birch and goes to Yew. Sort of an A to Z of trees if you will. But this is not all trees, but only the ones of the Ogham. And while this is a concise listing and reading, it is by no means a beginner's guide, so to speak. It is and can be quite challenging! I have read it over half a dozen time in the years I have owned this tome and yet I still feel so beginner and find it hard to actually remember all that is contained. Like an onion, each reading reveals a new layer of understanding.
The third part goes into the combining of the trees as seen in lore and story. There are myths and stories given and then discussed to help the reader see where and how the Ogham played a part in life of our ancestors. This helps the reader of today begin to see the hidden tidbits of information given within the myths and tales themselves. Not everything is merely as it reads. Again the reader is given a new exercise series to complete, again with each tree. But this time the reader must learn and connect with the tree to find out its connection and relationship with the four basic elements. This helps the reader to understand themselves even better as well.
In the next chapter there is the discussion of the Frenzy of Mad Sweeney, a very challenging read to determine what is being said. I would call this a deep lesson in how to understand the hidden meanings. An excellent and challenging lesson in deed. The personal workings are shifted now from the outside connection, to bringing it indoors. A person again goes through all the trees one at a time but while inside, thus opening your home working area to these same energies, in essence bringing this energy into your home and thus into more or all aspects of your life depending on your employment. This section ends with a brief explanation as to why "other" trees are not included, and a very simple and clear explanation it is. It does not discourage one from venturing into this other realm of trees, but advises one to do so once you have a deeper understanding of how the traditional Ogham works and was intended to work. This work continues with a very brief and basic introduction to the use of Ogham as a divination form.The book ends with an excellent bibliography and discography. It also includes a listing of journals and resources for further study.
I found this book an excellent and one of the more accurate writings on Ogham, what it is and what it isn't. It doesn't mislead and tell of it being a purely magical system as so many other books do, but it does educate the reader to the true background and history of Ogham as the basis for a number of difference systems we see used today and all attributed to ancient roots. Truth against the world, if you will. I would recommend and have required it as foundation reading for students of the Ogham as well as Druidic studies. I have read it a number of times yet still feel like a novice when I reread it. It continues to offer me more and more and I highly recommend it.