Ogma, God of the Ancient Irish
I see Ogma as a God of all the Iron Age ‘Celtic’ peoples who lived in Ireland from (say) 500AD. Like all the Gods of this age he is very multifaceted and multi-skilled. You can learn about the Gods of the ancient Irish Druids in a rich and authentic way and develop your personal connection to them in my Druid Course of the ancient Irish: www.druidforestschool.com
One of the first requirements I have to relate to a God and receive his or her gifts is to get ‘clear appearance’ of the deity you are contacting.
Sadly as far as I know no image of Ogma survives to communicate himself to us. So for that reason we have to build our own ‘clear appearance’ if we are to begin to learn the important and divine principles Ogma communicates to us.
I feel Ogma embodies the following qualities:
2. Physical and warrior prowess
4. The impetus for the consolidation or codification of the Ogham alphabet arising from its very ancient and specifically Irish sources.
A. Ogma God of Inspiration:
Ogma is essentially a God of inspiration. He is thus associated with the Sun in his rays of inspiration and thus he timelessly inspires poetry and bards and he created the Ogham alphabet. But he is also a warrior: we need physical strength and the ability to defend ourselves if we are to be able to realize our inspiration: the Fire in the Head, the Cauldron of Poesy.
B. Gaulish Ogmios:
Ogma is one with the Celtic Gaulish god, Ogmios, and he was to some extent eclipsed by the later arrival into Ireland from Gaul of the worship of Llugh.
C. Ogma the Warrior:
Ogma was a warrior too. He was preeminent in Martial Arts.
As a most important principle, we all need to be able to defend our sovereignty.
D. Ogma skilled in Crafts:
And he was also skilled in crafts. We all need skill and inventiveness and ability at crafts. Inspired words are part of leadership.
E. Manuscript Sources:
Sadly almost nothing of the splendour of the Irish Celtic Gods, nor their cults and worship, survive. What can we pick up from the Medieval manuscripts?
1. Ogma fights in the first battle of Mag Tuired, when the Tuatha Dé return from their exile and travels and take Ireland from the control of the Fir Bolg.
2. Under the reign of the half Formorian ‘Bres the Beautiful’, who succeeded Nuada as King following Nuada lost his arm in battle, the Tuatha Dé are reduced to servitude, and Ogma is forced to carry firewood. This reference to Ogma carrying firewood is an echo of Ogma’s association with the Ogham Alphabet. It is telling us that knowledge and language were discarded rather than valued under Bres’ rule?
3. Ogma is also depicted as a warrior. Ogma is the only one of the Tuatha Dé who keeps up his warrior practice and proves his athletic and martial prowess in contests before the king. And when Bres is overthrown and Nuada is restored in Bres’ place, Ogma is his champion.
4. I think there is also a record of a new God replacing an old, as so often has happened in the history of humanity. Ogma’s position and status is threatened by the arrival of Llugh at the court at the time when the Tuatha Dé need to arise from their oppression under Bres.
Ogma challenges Llugh by lifting a great flagstone, which normally required eighty oxen to move it, and hurling it out of Tara, but Lugh answers the challenge by hurling it back.
But Ogma and Llugh are linked. When Nuada hands over command of the Tuatha Dé to Llugh, to fight the Formorians at the 2nd Battle of Mag Tuired, Ogma becomes Lugh’s champion, and Ogma promises to repel the Formorian king, Indech, and his bodyguard, and to defeat a third of the enemy.
5. The main titles given the god Ogma in Ireland are Ciarmait (Honey-tongued), Trenfher (Strongman) and Grian-aineach (Sun-faced). The first two reference his eloquence and power, the third his association with sunlight – perhaps also to his sunny disposition. Ogma is a god who weaves language, a patron of the Filidh (Gaelic poets-seers).
Ogma is of course mainly identified as the inventor of Ogham which is an alphabet of definite Irish provenance whose letters or Fews are gateways to perception linked to many correspondences, most significantly to the spirit and energies of tree.
Each letter explores and expresses states of spiritual consciousness. I think that their highest exploration embodies the different trees and Otherworlds. They are visionary keys.
They are also a talismanic means of spellwork and binding. Birch, Yew and Oak are the first three recorded Ogham letter associations, each with visionary, divinatory or magical uses such as binding: see below.
The earliest written Ogham inscription was said in the medieval manuscripts to be in the form of seven strokes on Birch wood by Ogma to warn Llugh that Llugh must protect his wife with Birch if her seven-fold abduction to the faerie realms would be prevented. This clearly shows Ogham being used as part of psychic visionariness.
A second use of Ogham was when the Druid Dallan made four rods of yew and inscribed Ogham on them in his attempt to seek a woman who the Yew rods revealed had been taken to one of the faerie Otherworlds. This shows divinatory and intuitive use of Ogham.
A third use of Ogham was when Cuchulainn magically blocked the advancing army of Queen Maedbh by carving Ogham Fews on an Oak tree that he had felled as a magical binding.