Construction of the Ogham

Ogham writing is unique in that it is a vertical method of writing, starting from the bottom-up. Letters are constructed on a vertical baseline. There are five groups of five letters, each consisting of hash marks on either side of the baseline. Think of the baseline as the trunk of a tree, and the hash marks as its branches (see figure below):

The original ogham alphabet, consisting of 20 letters, was known as the feda. It was arranged in groups of five letters each. These groups were called aicmí (the singular is aicme). The word aicme means “family.” Each aicme is named after its first letter. The first aicme is Aicme Beithe, the second is Aicme h’Úatha, and so on. Five additional letters were later added because in the original ogham there weren’t enough letters to cover all possible spellings of some Irish words. This fifth aicme is known as the forfeda, or Aicme Koad, for the first character of the aicme.
The Book of Ballymote (Leabhar Bhaile an Mhóta in Irish Gaelic), written circa the 14th century, contains a section known as the Ogham Tract, which explains the ogham in greater detail.
A mandala can be constructed using the letters of the ogham. This mandala consists of five concentric circles upon which the letters are inscribed. This mandala is called the Feige Find. The word “feige” means “ridge pole” or “roof tree.” If you imagine yourself lying on your back and looking up at the ceiling of an ancient Celtic roundhouse, you may get an idea of the origin of this name. You may also see it as lying at the base of a tree and looking up at the branches. Each letter on the Feige Find represents a branch, and each branch represents a tree of the ogham. So in a way, the Feige Find is a “tree of trees.”
The Tree of Life, or the World Tree, is a concept shared in the mythologies of many cultures. The Tree of Life is found in the Bible, in many Native American mythologies, in Hinduism, in the Kabala, in Buddhism, in Norse mythology, in Celtic mythology, and in many other cultures worldwide. The Irish called the Tree of Life the crann bethadh (pronounced “KRAWN BA-huh”).
The general idea of the World Tree, or Tree of Life, is that it is a giant tree at the center of the Earth. It is the axis upon which the world turns. It also unites the three realms of the Chthonic (The Underworld), Middle Earth (where humans and animals dwell), and the Heavens. The roots of the World Tree go deep into the underground, and its branches reach high into the heavens. So the World Tree is present in all three realms at once. As such it is a symbol of shamanism and vision questing.
The World Tree, or the Tree of Life, is also seen as the source of all life energy. It is the origin of the nwyfre, the life force which radiates from its branches and roots, giving life to all creatures. Since it is the source of all life, it is a “tree of trees” as well, providing the life energy for all the other trees of the world. These trees in turn provide food, shelter and habitat for all other living creatures.
The Feige Find is a graphic representation of the concept of the Tree of Life. It contains the five aicmi of five letters of the ogham, in five circles. Each of the letters of the ogham also represents a plant. Thirteen of the letters represent the moons of the Druid year. The circles of the Feige Find can also be interpreted as the path of the stars as they make their nightly and yearly circuits across the sky.
The layout of the Feige Find incorporates the number five throughout. There are five circles, and five groups of five letters. The fivefold nature of the Feige Find can represent the Five Kingdoms of ancient Ireland, or the five phases of life (infancy, adolescence, adulthood, middle age, and old age), or the five elements of earth, air, fire, water and void (quintessence), or the five directions (north, south, east, west and center), or the five types of knowledge (Knowledge of Nature, Knowledge of Mind, Knowledge of Spirit, Knowledge of Magic, Knowledge of Being), or any number of other fivefold interpretations. Bards-in-training in the Order of the Druid also learn five types of breath control to aid them in seeking inspiration and in properly modulating their voices for the recitation of poetry and prose.
All of these fives and their meanings are incorporated into Fionn’s Window. There is a wealth of symbolic meaning to be gleaned from meditating on this mandala, and there are no right or wrong answers as to the meanings each individual takes away from it. As long as the answers you find when contemplating the Feige Find have meaning to you, its purpose has been served.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *