I work with the Celtic Ogham alphabet and the Celtic tree calendar, and I am happy to become a part of this community. My life-long love of the trees and my ancestry in the British Isles led me to find spiritual truths in these ancient teachings.
I realize that we don’t really know what the ancients’ spiritual practices were, as we have very little actual information available to us because the Celts did not write down their wisdom. Rather, they passed it on by rote memorization and word of mouth. But we do have hits of the knowledge, such as the Ogham alphabet and various scales of the different ways to write the alphabet, from early manuscripts and from the stories and folklore.
In reference to the Celtic tree calendar, there is a constant debate as to order of the letters, the dates, and the tree correspondences and even whether or not the Celts used a calendar at all. Celtic scholars say that the tree calendar was unheard of before Robert Graves wrote about it in his book The White Goddess, which was published in 1948. Although Robert Graves is seen as the one who chose the dates and the tree correspondences, even his father and other scholars warned him that this couldn’t be proven in fact.
And yet, today many modern Pagans, like myself, have adopted and integrated the calendar into their spiritual practice. Thus, the true origins are not as important to me as is the symbolic system that I have incorporated.
There are actually two versions of this calendar, although they have different dates, trees, and orders. The Beth-Luis-Nuin version begins on December 24 and is the one that Graves formulated. The Beth-Luis-Fearn version, which begins at sunset on Samhain and carries into November 1, is based on the older Celtic system of summer and winter celebrations. And many folks do not match a tree to a date but follow the teachings. I think you just has to follow your own intuition here and use the calendar that works for you or let go of the timing all together.
Because the calendar is a modern adaptation of what we know about the alphabet and its use, we cannot say which calendar is correct. If you want to figure out your birth tree, you can choose either version and choose the tree that feels more like you, or you can opt to have two birth trees. One way to look at that—you can have the support of two special trees.
No matter the origins, or which system you use, I am glad for these teachings because they honor the mystery, the Celtic world view, and encourage respect for our earth. They have allowed me to create a meaningful spiritual practice. I am just grateful for this wisdom, which allows me to stay connected to nature and my ancestors.
Our thanks to Sharlyn Hidalgo for her guest post! For more from Sharlyn, read her article “The Wisdom of the Celtic Tree Ogham.”