Some years ago, I was given a gift of a book and card set about the Celtic tree oracle and the ancient beliefs about certain trees which could be used to see into the future.
In the Celtic Ogham, also known as the tree alphabet, each letter embodies the spirit of a tree or plant.
I don’t profess any consistent ability to do divination (the practice of seeking knowledge of the future or the unknown by supernatural means), but I have been known to use runes or cards. I have found that their “answers” offer an opportunity to consider possibilities – often ones that I would not have considered on my own.
Ogham (in Modern Irish or in Old Irish: ogam) is an Early Medieval alphabet used primarily to write the early Irish language dating back to the 4th to 6th centuries AD) and later into Old Irish language. Ogam alphabet is the Celtic equivalent of the runes and seen as a way to teach, rather than tell, us about our future. You do a cast of the cards/runes and their order and position tells a story.
It possible that the Irish scholars or druids who created the alphabet might have done so a way to pass on political, military or religious communications secretly. At the time we believe it was created, the Roman Empire ruled over southern Britain, and was a threat to Ireland.
Druidic mythology contains this 1,500-year-old oracle which uses the symbolism of the “tree letters” and their “magical” properties, characteristics and folklore.
As a boy, I felt a connection to a big apple tree that was in our backyard. I climbed it, sat in its shade to read, and ate the apples that came from it. It didn’t surprise me that the apple tree has many associations in different belief systems. I wrote about that earlier.
The apple represents the light half of the year, from May 2 until the end of October. My birthday is in late October.
Drawing the Quert (apple) card signals a choice that you need to make and commit to following. The Major Arcana card in tarot, The Lovers, correlates with Quert in divination and it is also about struggling with choices. Our immediate association with The Lovers is romantic and the choice might be romantic but not necessarily so.
When I used the tree cards recently, the holly card caught my attention. There is a large holly right outside my window. Holly is considered the male counterpart to the female Ivy. The evergreen holly tree, or “holy tree,” has thorny, prickly leaves and red berries that represent suffering, but taken with the other cards I cast, the holly can predict a fresh start, or time of renewal. A reunion also lies ahead. This almost post-pandemic time suggests a number of reunions and I also have a big high school one ahead of me.
I remember that when we planted it, it came with a little booklet that said that as a protective herb, it was believed to guard against lightning, poison, and evil spirits.
This “Tree of Sacrifice,” called Ilex as the eighth month of the Celtic Tree calendar (July 8 – August 4) is the eighth consonant of the Ogham alphabet (Tinne).
Three of the beliefs associated with holly relate to dreams – another topic I pay a lot of attention to. Dreaming of holly means you should be mindful of what is troubling you, and picking holly in your dreams means you will have a long life. If you want your dreams to come true (which can be a dangerous wish), you are supposed to silently collect nine holly leaves after midnight, on a Friday, and wrap them in a white cloth using nine knots to tie the ends together. Place this beneath your pillow and your dreams will come true.
If you want to learn more and try some divination yourself, a second book on my shelf is Ogam: The Celtic Oracle of the Trees: Understanding, Casting, and Interpreting the Ancient Druidic Alphabet which is a practical (not scholarly) guide to the ancient oracle.