ogham

An Irish alphabet system, originally used for carving into stone, later evidently given a more mystical character.

Etymology: The Scholar's Primer gives the following:

"Ogham from Ogma was first invented in respect to its sound according to matter, however, ogum is og-uaim, perfect alliteration, which the poets applied to poetry by means of it, for by letters Gaelic is measured by the poets; the father of Ogham is Ogma, the mother of Ogham is the hand or knife of Ogma."
However, it is actually thought to derive from the PIE root *ak- "sharp", refering to the chisels used to carve the letters into the stone markers, or to the knives used to carve the letters into the wooden staves. Ogma (or the Gaulic Ogmios) are likely not derived from ogham or ogham from Ogma, but a lucky convergence of the god of eloquence and the act of writing coming together. If Ogma is derived from *ak-, he is probably not derived from ogham, which was invented after records of the god's worship.

History: Ogham is believed to have been invented sometime after the Common Era; the earliest examples seem to come from the 3rd century.

Back to "O" | Back to JCE
Home

Mary Jones 2005