BOOK I of VOLUME I
THE CAULDRON OF FORMATION
Searles Ó Dubhain
Text and copyright by Searles O’Dubhain
Diagrams by Searles O’Dubhain
Cover Design by Searles O’Dubhain
Cover Art and Celtic Illustration by Cari Buziak,
©1996-2003 , Aon Celtic Art & Illumination
Chapter 2 Sources of Knowledge
The Greatest Druids
Stepping Upon the Path
Chapter 3 The Mind of the Druid
A Relaxed, Aware and Meditative State
The Memory of Druids
The Paintbrush of Perception
Memes as Messengers
The Three Worlds
The Tree of Life
Viewpoints and Reflections
Chapter 4 The Cailleach
A Terrible Darkness
Treasures of the Cailleach's Apron
The Hag's Chair
The Lament of the Cailleach
Ebb and Flow
Walking the Labyrinth
Chapter 5 The Stones Speak
The Brugh na Bóinne
The Stones of the Brugh
The Symbols of Brugh na Bóinne
The Point, Infinity and The Void
The Star Speech Revealed
The Powers of Stone
Humans Shaped by Stone
Chapter 6 The Elements of the Dúile
Understanding the Cosmos
The Center of the World
The Qualities of Everything
Dúilamon the Creator
Anam, the Celtic Soul
Sound as Power
The Mystery, the Song of Amergin
Chapter 7 The Cosmos and the Self
Looking Without and Looking Within
Amergin’s Cauldron of Poesy
The Three Cauldrons
Centers of Being
Turning the Cauldrons
Cauldrons as Symbols
Chapter 8 The Vision Seers
The Wisdom of the Sages
The Origins and the Ends of Manifestation
A Cauldron Meditation
Chapter 9 The Chair of Caer Sidi
Fountains and Fires
The Boundaries of Mystery
Chapter 10 Merlin and Taliesin
The Life of Merlin
Chapter 11 Cauldrons of Life
The Stone Basin of Knowth
Celebrating the Qualities of Being
The Ebb and Flow of Experience
The Nature of Form and Structure
Circles within Circles
Chapter 12 The Parts of the World
Time and Space
The Cities of Magic and The Four Directions
The Four Hallows
The Four (Five) Directions, Masters, and Qualities
Chapter 13 The Sacred Center
Gathering at the Center
Celtic Ritual Space
Other Indo-European Ways
Across Time and Space
Chapter 14 From the Setting of the Sun into its Rising
Pathways between Worlds
Journeying Within, an Ogham Meditation
The Edge of the Forest
Strings, Streams and States of Being
Continuing on the Druid Way
Appendix A UPG – Unverified Personal Gnosis
Appendix B A Generalized Approach to Analyzing Old Irish Traditions and Writings
Appendix C Basic Ogham Correspondences
Appendix D A Pronunciation Guide for Irish and Welsh Deity Names
Knowledge was expressed in Triads by the ancient Druids. The realms of existence were the three worlds of Sky, Sea and Land. The knowledge of self was expressed as the Cauldron of Poesy which consists of the Coire Goriath, Coire Érma, and Coire Soís. Knowledge was itself composed of three parts and named after the three Druids of Partholan: Fios, Eolais, and Fochmart (Knowledge of Tradition, Knowledge of Experience, and Knowledge of Inquiry). If we are seeking the knowledge of Druids or to become a Druid, then we should seek such knowledge in the ways that a Druid would seek it. We should do as they did when they took counsel before a quest or a battle. That is to say that we should seek wisdom in triadic forms. We should seek the best information that can be found in the tradition. We should observe and experiment with the ways that we actively experience the worlds. We should make inquiries into the extended nature of reality through metaphysical insight, meditation and spiritual discipline. Can we expect to do any less in our quest to understand the teachings of the Druids? Triadic knowledge is the source of wisdom. Within the triadic kennings of the Druids, we will find the secrets of the Ogham.
To uncover these secrets and to gain abilities in knowledge and wisdom that the Druids possessed will require us to go beyond ordinary education and modern ways of understanding. In our journey along the Druid way, we will build a new world of wisdom that comes from tradition, experience and inquiry. The use of this knowledge will be ours through word images, through tree kennings, through linking to the traditional tales, through techniques in seeing the world around us, by experiences that are more real than real, and by being able to stand at the same crossroads where Druids also stood, This center is the place within each of us where we can know our own inner truth. To strip away the misperceptions and burdens of conditioning and to increase our own truth in perception, we will learn new ways of focusing our energies and attentions. We will learn how to gather our awareness and intentions to direct us through obscurities to a new clarity and vision. The sum of all our learning, knowledge and wisdom will be just an Ogham's measure away as we cross reference the ancient tales, perceive new information, experience mystical kennings, and revel in wondrous descriptions, as we walk through the memory groves of the Druids and the Filidh.
Before we begin our walk along the Druid Way to discover the realms of Tree Wisdom and the Circles of Song, I’d like to introduce myself to you more completely by recounting some of my personal history:
This work represents the imbas that illuminated the darkness of my threefold ignorance, to borrow a phrase from the life of Angus Mac ind Óic. This imbas had three parents in much the same way that knowledge is the offspring of the three Druids of Partholan. Its first parent in knowledge was the child of my youthful dreams, which I struggled long and hard to master. With ever increasing control, I was able to direct the activities of my dream-time and to create worlds in which to play and learn. It was during this time of dreaming that I first became aware of Otherworldly consciousness. At times, during my dreams, I found myself being instructed and taught to the vast amusement of my “instructors.” Dreams became a struggle between my always rebellious spirit and the guidance of these other beings. It was also during this time that I experienced several accidents and illnesses which were themselves coupled with Otherworldly experiences and periods of “second sight.” During these times of sickness and travail, I would sometimes be in a separate reality, foreseeing the events of the near and distant future. A Druid must see all of reality: the dreams, the visions, and the perceptions.
My adventures in the Dreamtime soon found themselves competing with my more formal education in the public schools. I dived into my secular studies with the excitement of a kid in a candy shop. Knowledge of the world and society was very fulfilling and rewarding, yet something was missing from the hallways of secular education. This lack of completeness within secular education caused me to seek beyond the ordinary for knowledge of a more esoteric nature. It was during my research into other forms of knowledge that I discovered the rudimentary techniques of shamanism and meditation. Shamanism described the more formal ways of the Dreamtime and the Otherworld of my youthful experiences. It also showed me a way to overcome social conditioning to more fully perceive all of reality. Until then, I had resisted having conscious visions as something that was perhaps abnormal. Transcendental meditation introduced me to Yoga and ways to control the breath, the heartbeat and the mind. As I gained control of my body, mind and spirit, through meditation, I began to experiment with ways of changing reality. At the same time I was questioning the teachings of traditional religion. I was seeking truth. A Druid must know the inner self and must reconcile tradition, perception and contradiction.
No matter how strongly I reasoned, and no matter what the initial assumptions and conditions were, all attempts at deducing a purpose to reality and a central control of it were doomed to becoming circular arguments. I despaired of ever finding a true solution to this matter. My only successes were in making my circles larger and larger before they turned back upon themselves in endless loops. It was within the quietness of meditation that I encountered the second parent of this work on the Druid Way. As I lay calling out into the darkness of my mind, I folded my perceptions back, one upon one another. I collapsed my reality until it was no longer around me. It became a black sphere of being and existed completely within my mind’s eye, until I could see all parts of it simultaneously. It was then that I met my guide. A being of shining golden flecks of light came to me out of the darkness and pulled me into its center. This center of darkness is the ‘Not-World’ that is sometimes called An t-Saoil Uile or Annwn in Celtic tradition. It is the dark womb of creation that connects to all parts of reality. When one is within the Not-World, creation can occur and journeys can be accomplished to anywhere that the mind can conceive. Awareness is no longer limited by neural capacity and information is no longer limited to memory alone. The mind is re-united with its greater self and communication is a series of “knowings” rather than word sequences or symbols. Knowing replaces thinking and answers outnumber questions. The “Not-World” is the second parent of the knowledge found within this book. It taught me about the flows of imbas and connected me across time and space to the knowledge that creates. A Druid stands at the crossroads of the worlds.
The third parent of this work is the silence of the Druids themselves. They did not write their knowledge in words, nor did they trust to books for education. A Druidic student attained wisdom through verbal exchange and repetition, observation and experience; discipline and mind expansion. The existence of even one Druid was a guarantee that all Druidic knowledge was still retained and available to be taught and learned. Some think that no Druids or Druidic teachings survived the twofold onslaught of Roman legions and the later legions of well-meaning Roman Christian priests. In the case of the legions, Druids were slaughtered without quarter at Mona in 61 CE. Only those who were elsewhere survived within isolated pockets, as resistance continued in the hills of Western Britain and Scotland. Fortunately for us and for Draíocht, the Romans never invaded Ireland in force. It is there that we find the best preserved information about Druidic practices within the traditions of the Filidh. In the centuries that followed, the new wave of Christianity swept into the British Isles promising a fulfillment of spirit in this life and the next to those who would convert. The Celtic people, as a continuation of their existing spirituality embraced the spiritual message of Christianity. It was woven into their tales and traditions to the point that stories such as the “Quest for the Holy Grail” were developed and the ancient Celtic deities were granted sainthood, while Brighid was said to have fostered Christ himself into the family of the Gael. Worship and honoring of the Old Gods continued in many Celtic lands even after the conversion to Christianity was said to have succeeded. The Tuatha Dé Danann became known as fallen angels who stood apart from those of Heaven or Hell. Many of the priests who ministered to the people recognized these dual ways. Priests who could provide spiritual aid and comfort in both the new and the old ways became known as ‘Crane Clerics.’ These Crane Clerics were a continuation of Druidic ways within the body of the Church. In a sense, some of these clerics became the new Druids though they also had to serve both the Church and the ways of the people, as well as the spirit of the land. A Druid is a creature of spirit, inhabiting a physical body, with a mind that has achieved clarity of insight.
As I traced my genealogy through several wars of independence and through hundreds, then thousands, of years of antiquity, I discovered the origins of my people within their burial mounds on the Plain of Brega within the chambered cairns of Cnogba. It was here that I discovered the roots of the darkness that became O’Dubhain. The dark well of our origins seemed to be marked by the passage of the Equinoctial Sun as it passed from the eastern entrance to the west within the hill of my ancestors. In this journey of my spirit's vision beyond time and space, I beheld its many folded nature in the basin of the Nine Dúile and the dark waters of their baptism. Considering these ancient origins and images, my sense of ordinary reality continued to shift as the past unfolded within my mind’s eye. In one of these visions, I was taken to the Battle at the Ford between my ancestor Ferdia and his foster brother Cú Chulainn. That was where the stone breastplate of Ferdia was shattered by his bright brother’s three-pronged spear, the Gae Bolga. It was also within these visions and traditions that I discovered the symbolic language of the stones, from old to new. In a sense, I discovered stones that can speak, as well as stones that can cry out, and stones that can bear witness. Each of these stones is shaped by its purpose and covered with symbols. It was within these stone symbols that I once again beheld the gateways to the knowledge of bright stars and dark groves. The symbols upon the stones marched forward through the years until the first of the Celtic Wise recognized their speech. These symbols and marks became known as Fionn’s wisdom and were recorded upon stone and wood. In the Ogham, one such structure of wisdom and symbols is known as Fionn’s Ladder. It was upon such a ladder that I discovered the progressions to wisdom of the Druids and it is under the ridgepole of their house that I will attempt to define it within this book. There are many doorways to knowledge that travel beyond our ignorance. It is to these doorways that we will apply the keys of the Ogham. A Druid dares to explore beyond darkness and ignorance.
I have opened each of these doorways to knowledge with its own key and its sacred song. I have discovered new knowledge and new doorways to knowledge beyond knowledge, as well as wisdom upon wisdom. Each step has provided access to a family of steps, as each leap brings understanding to another side of knowledge. The courage to open each door must be gained from the need to seek the truth that is hidden from the world. Such work is not suited for the timid or the shy. One must be on fire with the quest for truth. The most fearsome adversary that will be met within this darkness is oneself and one’s shadow. Death’s dark eyes see truly, yet life’s warmth awaits us beyond the edge of darkness. If you are one who seeks truth beyond fear and Life beyond Death, then come step into my darkness, a world beyond fears, a Not Place of Making, an unmaking of worlds, a creation of others. The fire that lights your way must become a Seeking of Truth. Without that light, there is only darkness and fear. I am O’Dubhain. I have met myself within the outer darkness of the unknown and I have found myself within the Inner Light of Imbas. Come into the Ogham and journey beyond Fear. A Druid travels the ways of creation using the truth of knowledge as a guide to wisdom.
To the Gods
To the Ancestors
To the People
To Luna and Julia Butterfly
To All Those Who Fight
For the Life of the Forests
To the Oaks of My Childhood
To My Parents
To Druids Everywhere
I would like to thank my entire family for supporting me in a multitude of ways that are even now becoming known. I especially thank my parents Zeke and Dorothy DeVane for their patience and love. Without them I would be undone in many ways. I would also like to thank my second set of parents O.B and Eloise Cleveland for showing me that magic lives in the hearts and lives of everyone. I especially thank my wife Deborah O’Dubhain for manifesting me into her life through the guiding star of manifestation. In many ways she has been one of my greatest teachers. In a similar manner, my daughters Corinne and Lauren have shown me that youth can be the Cauldron of Age, as each of them shows me things about myself and themselves that span many lifetimes. In those lifetimes, I thank the beings who can walk between the worlds, bringing their golden light into the darkness. I thank my brothers and their families and the families that have existed these countless centuries to bring my to this point in existence. I thank those forbears who warded their own tribes and were inspired by the ancestors at Cnogba. I understand the dedication of the Red Hand and its sacrifice. I am proud of those who sought to unify the land of my ancestors and also those who fought to free the land of my birth.
There are others beyond family to thank for their examples and their inspirations. I thank Rilla Mouldin and Jehana Silverwing who insisted that I pursue a study and teaching of Celtic tradition and Ogham Divination. I also thank many a Bard and a Druid that I have met along the way in this study of learning. Some of them follow hawks within shadows, others are the Moon’s shadow on horned wings, swiftly gliding across the night. One might see through the eyes of a Bard upon a Tor, beyond illusion into spiritual realities, while others seek the gray steel of the wolf in truth and with relentless cunning. There is one who stands between the worlds and whose religious teachings span many pathways. There is another who is an Oak above kings. I especially want to thank all the Druids of the Henge of Keltria for their support and their pursuit of truth and harmony. I hope to someday teach as each of you teach, in subtle ways, as a strong upholder of the truth that stands clearly among the world’s many illusions
Welcome to your personal journey into the Cauldron of Formation. Its experience is the beginning phase of your journey along the Druid Way and your work in becoming a Druid. The wisest of Druids said that each person is born with the ability to do this formative work (though few remain open enough to the forces of creation and birth to follow the Druid Way). Fewer still remain focused on the quest to the point of obtaining its rewards of wisdom, celebration and expanded awareness. May the gods of your people give you strength in the beginning of your efforts, perseverance in the journeys along the way, and the courage to be reborn in success as a new creation while avoiding the many potential missteps that present themselves along the way.
This series of books on Ogham and the ways of Druids came into being because my teachers would not permit me to do otherwise. I was required by them to seek out and to develop the knowledge of the Druids so that Draíocht would once again be a gift of the living from the never dying. If I’d had a choice in the matter, I would have remained safely at the knee of one of my teachers to learn this wisdom the easy way. I would not have done the work and research that’s been required to learn by experimentation and investigation. Ease in learning was wishful thinking on my part. A great truth is that one part of wisdom is the experience that is gained by being immersed in a subject up to the elbows. Many times it is this hard work that pays the greatest rewards, if we will only go the extra mile in our efforts. The hard lesson is the lesson that is not forgotten. Although I have relied on the best scholarship available, I have not limited my efforts to only its narrow constraints. I have utilized the best knowledge available from tradition, from experience and through inquiry. I have also sought divine knowledge through the Ogham themselves as well as through meditation and imbas. The results have always been verified through experimentation and use. I wish to thank those who have corrected my mistakes and acknowledge that the success of this work is the effort of many. All mistakes, any misimpressions, misrepresentations or errors are my own. As this book is used in classroom as a guide to practical work, and as I receive notifications of needed corrections to the material, I will be updating and including such changes in all future editions. It is time to begin our journey to discover truth by learning from the teachings of Druids.
This study in the ways of Druids has been arranged according to categories that generally approximate the functions and characteristics of the Cauldrons of Poesy. The first series of works consist of three books: Opening the Pathways The Truth of a King and the Song of the Forest Trees. These initial sections of study in the ways of Druids represent the Cauldron of Formation which is the primal aspect of our being. This cauldron is where we can each find our own beginnings. It is the place of birth and of instinctive understandings. It is a framework of how we are structured and also how we are all interconnected through tradition, experience and ways of communicating. The Cauldron of Formation establishes our physical basis within existence.
The middle part of this study will include a detailed study of Ogham and their use as a practical application of the teachings of the Druids. It is our Cauldron of Vocation. Or perhaps even more so it is a Cauldron of Motion (a journey of dedication and actions). This part of a Druid’s education is where theory and tradition are put into practice and set in motion. In the study of the tales and associations of the Ogham, we will develop a skill set and a mindset that allows us to view the world as a mandala of symbols. We will see the microcosm in the macrocosm and vice versa. The Ogham shall become our tools for viewing the worlds in which we exist. They will be our keys to Druidic memory and association. The work that we do within the Cauldron of Vocation shapes who we are into who we can become.
In the final works and books of this series, we will discover our Cauldron of Wisdom. This will be where we are uplifted from the deepest pit of any depth to the highest aspect of every heaven. This is also why it is sometimes called the Cauldron of Celebration in some of the ancient texts. The journey to fill our Cauldron of Wisdom might occur for some of us in an instant, while for others, its study might take several years of dedication and devotion. Once the work of the spirit is accomplished through a search for knowledge and a renewal of our connection to deity, we will be able to experience the ecstasy of imbas, drinking from the streams of knowledge that flow from the Well of Segais. In this awakening genesis of becoming twice born, we can celebrate the joy of being aligned with all of creation, as well as becoming a living branch of the Tree of Knowledge. It is by properly orienting and filling our minds that we will be able to experience the joys of an enlightened spirit as well as the ecstasy of a mind on fire with knowledge. Completing the work of all three cauldrons will mark a celebration of wisdom acquired, through dedication, and sustained through disciplined effort.
This book is a part of the Ogham Keys to Wisdom series which is offered as a three volume - nine books collection. The entire series of books was written as a practical, hands-on explanation of the wisdom and techniques of the Druids. It is structured according to the Irish qualities of being known as the Dúile. Each book in the series will also focus on deities and Druids associated with the work of these elements of being. The Ogham are also taught as a basic Druidic tool in divination, memory recall and poetical workings. Each volume uses scholarly references where those are available, but no attempt has been made to limit the teaching techniques to only the left-hand side of the brain, as reality is much more than the framework provided therein. The approach to the ways of the Druids that I have selected to use in these books and courses uses both sides of the brain, as well as the expanded mind that goes beyond limitation into worlds of action and creation. One must enter and become immersed in the waters of knowledge in order to learn how to swim toward wisdom. The entire series is divided into nine books, one for each of the Dúile. An effort has also been made to hold to an Ogham structure when possible. The nine book are also grouped in volumes according to the Three Cauldrons of Being (i.e., the Cauldrons of Poesy) being offered in three volumes (one for each Cauldron). The course structure, book and volumes details, as well as the elements and deities associated with them are described in greater detail below:
Ogham Keys to Wisdom is an introductory study into the ways of Druids that explores their hidden knowledge while also establishing a systematic approach to implementing that wisdom within modern Druidic practice. It does this through a nine fold investigation into the elemental qualities of everything as understood by the Celts and Druids. These nine ways are known collectively as the Dúile (elemental qualities in the collective, dúil as individual qualities). The collective work grew out of the classes and writings of Searles O’Dubhain of The Summerlands, Inc. (http://www.summerlands.com), an online community. Parts of the present work have been published in the Journal of the Henge of Keltria as well as being discussed in the alt.religion.druid newsgroup on the internet.
The wisdom of the Druids was also grouped into threes or triads. Collections of these triadic sayings have been published for the Irish and Welsh Celtic traditions by both Kuno Meyer and Rachel Bromwich. Iolo Morganwyg also produced a collection of triads that can at times be useful (though any part of Iolo’s work should be carefully considered regarding its authenticity). In the Ogham Keys to Wisdom, these collections are referenced as the Iolo, Irish or Welsh Triads. A separate Druidic concept regarding the triads of knowledge is known as “The Cauldrons of Poesy.” This information was transcribed from the original Irish by Anne Power and is known formally as legal codex MS TCD H.3.18 pp. 53a1-57b5 of Trinity College, Dublin. The original work was said to have been written by the 7th century CE Ollamh, Cenn Faeladh, with additional attributions (by him) to Ferchertne Filidh and the Druid Amergin White Knee.
In Druidic tradition, these cauldrons are known individually by many names. In this study course and work they are called The Cauldron of Formation (Coire Erma), The Cauldron of Vocation (Core Goriath) and the Cauldron of Celebration (Coire Áiged). The artwork that appears on the covers of each book in this series (as well being pictured above) is called “The Rays of Ogma.” This image of the process of awen or imbas as a light from a single source was produced by Cari Buziak of Aon-Celtic Art (http://www.aon-celtic.com). It was based on a design I’d donefrom an understanding of the three forms of Druidic knowledge as they are personified in the Ogham diagrams of the Stream Strand of Ferchertne, Fionn’s Window and the Wheel Ogham of Roigne Roscadach. Each of these has a prominent place in the schools of the Irish Filidh (Vision Poets) as well as the Ogham Tracts from the Book of Ballymote and the Book of Leinster.
This study in the use of Ogham and the details of Druidic wisdom is based upon information that has survived from earlier times in primarily Irish, Welsh and British sources. Much of this information has been overlooked and misunderstood by Celtic scholars of both the past and the present. Where new translations reveal hidden meanings in the works and words of the Druids, they have been provided. Additional insights into the Druid way are detailed from the author’s personal experiences with the Ogham, as well as with the workings that he has accomplished through following their teachings. Comparative studies in Indo-European traditions have also provided additional insights into the hidden ways of the Celts and the Druids. Modern scholarly and esoteric references are used and cited throughout the nine books of this study to broaden and deepen our understanding of the ways and wisdom of the Druids.
In Ogham Keys to Wisdom, each dúil is identified, described and discussed as the central topic of its own book and its associated course of instruction. There are nine individual books and course. The works are also grouped by cauldrons as three collections or volumes. The nine books of the Ogham Keys and their three associated volumes and cauldrons are:
Volume 1: The Cauldron of Formation
Book 1 - Opening the Pathways (The Testimony of Stone and Tradition)
Book 2 - The Truth of a King (The Lands of Self Knowledge)
Book 3 - The Song of the Trees (Poetic Knowledge and Natural Philosophy)
Volume 2: The Cauldron of Vocation
Book 1 - The Hand and the Knife (The Ways of Contention and Prosperity)
Book 2 - Sound and Form (The Middle Ways of Harmony and Creation)
Book 3 – The Bed of the Couple (Ritual Practices and Hidden Knowledge)
Volume 3: The Cauldron of Celebration
Book 1 – Facing the Sun (Voyages of Discovery, Journeys of Wonder)
Book 2 – The Cattle of Tethra (Star Knowledge and Divinatory Practices)
Book 3 – The Cró of Lugh (Ogham Wisdom in Theory and Practice)
Celtic tradition is filled with books of many colors. Among these are the Black Book of Carmarthen, the Red Book of Hergest, the Yellow Book of Lecan, the Book of the Dun Cow, the Book of the Blue Bard, the White Book of Rhydderch and the Speckled Book (the Great Book of Dun Doighre). In keeping with this tradition, a color has been associated with each book’s cover in the Ogham Keys to Wisdom. The color for stone knowledge is gray; earth knowledge is brown, and knowledge of the natural world is green. Similarly, knowledge that is experienced is blood red. Knowledge that inspires is purple. Knowledge that illuminates is blue. Higher forms of wisdom (such as knowledge of the clear light) are yellow, while knowledge of the hidden depths is black. The many forms of knowledge (that all come together as one) were considered to be either white or speckled in color.
Traditionally, the three levels of Druids and Filidh carried insignia that indicated their level of accomplishment. These were sometimes bell branches that were bronze for beginners, silver for the accomplished and gold for the Druids that had achieved the highest levels of authority. These rankings are similar to those associated with university degrees in the modern academic world (bachelors, masters and doctors degrees). In keeping with this ranking system, the Cauldrons of Poesy are also matched with the three volumes into which the books are grouped. These are associated with each of the respective forms of Druidic knowledge: bronze for formation, silver for vocation and gold for celebration.. A brief description of each Book and its associated class and course work follows.
Volume 1: The Cauldron of Formation
Book 1 – Opening the Pathways
This book investigates and reveals the Druidic practices associated with tradition and the ways in which we perceive our surroundings. It discusses the symbolic languages that are found carved in stone as well as Celtic ideas of ritual space. The concepts of the Dúile and Three Cauldrons (of Poesy) are detailed and expanded from the original texts. Additionally, the ways in which ritual space and cosmology are identified in Druidic and Celtic teachings are diagrammed and defined. The role of the Ogham as “keys to wisdom” are established and presented in highlighted boxes through the text. The tree symbol for this aspect of Druidic wisdom is the White Birch (Beithe in Irish and Ogham). The Cauldron of Formation is the basis for the knowledge of stone and ancient ways. It is the ancestral knowledge that comes out of the silver-gray past. This testimony of tradition has survived throughout the ages, even as the stones from the Cailleach’s apron.
Book 2 – The Truth of a King
Truth was the primary force in creation and prosperity according to the teachings of the Druids. It was found within the center of Celtic society in the person of the king. The king’s truth and his sacred marriage to the Goddess of Sovereignty in the ritual known as the banais rígh determined the fate and future of the people as well as the land. Several works attributed to Druids are presented and discussed to illustrate the powers of truth. Among these are Audacht Morainn (by the Druid Morann mac Main), the Precepts of Cú Chulainn, the Advice to a Prince (by Cormac mac Art), as well as the Collar of truth, the Cup of Truth and the Chant of Truth. The color of this book is earth colored for the land and its special place in the center of Celtic society. It is trimmed in bronze for its basis as a beginning in any undertaking. The Cauldron of Formation’s gift to the beginning student is a knowledge of self and of one’s roots. The Ogham keys are continued in this (and all of the books) to identify and clarify the concepts that are revealed within their leaves.
Book 3 – The Song of the Trees
No book on Druidic wisdom or Ogham can ignore the knowledge of the trees and the special role they played in Druidic practice. Sacred trees (known as Bile in Irish) are identified. Their role as the center of life for the tribe is detailed, as well as the special knowledge and qualities that each possesses. The Cad Goddeu (the Battle of the Trees) is presented along with several lesser known Bardic and Druidic works regarding tree knowledge and wisdom. The role of music in Celtic spirituality and cosmology is discussed along with the theory associating the Ogham with song and harp. The idea of “Memory Groves” is also discussed along with the time proven techniques of oral memory among Druids and scholars of the past. The role of the Ogham as a sacred alphabet and a magical language is also keyed to the trees, their songs and the images that lead to perfect recollection.
Volume 2: The Cauldron of Vocation
Book 1 – The Hand and the Knife
The hand and the knife of Ogma Sunface were considered to be the parents of the Ogham alphabet and the Druidic system of classification for knowledge and eloquence. The first two groups of Ogham are the consonants that describe the majority of the king trees. These two groups are associated with conflict and beginnings as well as victories and prosperity. As such, they are on the cutting edge of Druidic wisdom and form the basis for initial work using Ogham. The qualities, forms, lists and kennings for each of these Ogham woods is defined, detailed and discussed to develop an inventory of images for Druids in training. A body of ancient wisdom, traditions and tales is tied to each Ogham character. These tales are provided and analyzed in the “Tales to Read and Study” sections of the book so that they can serve as ready references for Druidic workings and techniques using Ogham
Book 2 – Sound and Form
This book is all about the ways that one can return to a place of balance within nature, one’s life and the affairs of the world. It does this through a study of the Ogham groups known as Aicme Muin (Group M) and Aicme Ailm (Group A). These two groups of Ogham characters are the last group of Irish consonants and the primary vowels. Muin group Ogham meanings are associated with music, poetry and the ways of harmony (through an alignment with the tides that run through life), while Ailm group Ogham are tied to the ways that Goddess power returns life to life (often through or because of the many forms of death, decay and destruction). The quest for knowledge through the twists and turnings of the vine is sometimes intoxicating, while the reality of the plains of life is often stark and seemingly unforgiving. Dealing with these two aspects of the Middle Way and achieving a balance between the extremes is the central focus of the tales and lessons connected to these two Ogham groups. The dúil associated with this activity is the wind in the world and the breath within an individual. Sound and form are the primary ways in which creation occurs and the power of spell work and chanting is realized. These functions are closely associated with the self (through naming, Irish anaimn) and the spirit or soul (which in Irish is the anam.
Book 3 – The Bed of the Couple
The Bed of the Couple is an Ogham study of the group of woods and characters known as the Forfedha (extra characters or vowels). These are the double vowels sounds known as diphthongs. Some say they were a later introduction to the Ogham yet the symbols used for them are some of the oldest known to the Irish and the Druids. These range from the solar cross and the lozenge (or diamond) that are found on and among the brughs of Ireland to the spiral and the game board of destiny (squares within squares). The function of these characters with the Ogham system is to identify the primary ritual times and festivals. They also describe and elaborate the central functions and purposes for these rituals which are known by the Irish Celtic names of Imbolc, Bealtaine, Lugnasadh and Samhain. An additional ritual known as the Feast of Age (or perhaps the Feast of Tara) was sometimes celebrated to honor the continuity of life and prosperity through the truth that was symbolized by the king and the Goddess of Sovereignty. As such, this particular ritual would be held perhaps every three years or as a jubilee for celebrating the success of the tribe through its leaders. Tales and meanings are associated with each of these Ogham woods and the festivals they symbolize. This is where one learns about the ways in which change can occur in the life of the tribe through group and individual ritual action. This information allows a Druid to mark the seasons and to create the chants and spells that are appropriate to them.
Volume 3: The Cauldron of Celebration
Book 1 – Facing the Sun
The main topics of this book are voyages into the unknown and journeys of wonder. The primary Druidic tales and techniques associated with these pathways of enlightenment and discovery are known as imrama, echtraí and imbas. Tales about the making of Druids, their experiences of revelation and the techniques that bring about illumination and enlightenment are fully investigated. Among these tales are Imram Maelduin Anseo (the Voyage of Maelduin), Echtraí Condlai (also the Adventures of Cormac mac Art) and Immacallam in Dá Thuradh (the Colloquy of the two Sages). These journeys and voyages are used to model the shape of past and future as well as the inner, underworld and Otherworldly experiences of Druidic journeymen (and women). They describe in a traditional form how these techniques were accomplished and taught in the schools of the Druids and the Filidh. The cosmologies of Sea and Sky are more fully revealed by this study as well as the plains and backdrop for divination, augury and prophecy. Facing the Sun is all about becoming immersed in the source and the light that produces the Rays of Ogma. They are the bubbles of the Sun and the Salmon of Wisdom from the Well of Segais.
Book 2 - The Cattle of Tethra
The Cattle of Tethra is the name of the second book in Volume 3: The Cauldron of Celebration. It is also another name for the multitudes of mysteries that exist within creation. This term sometimes described the fish of the sea while at other times it was used for the stars and the constellations of the sky. In an esoteric sense, it is all about the ways in which light penetrates darkness or that knowledge pierces through ignorance. Tethra is the herdsman who regulates or herds this effect within existence. Of all the forces of the Fomorii, he is the most ordered and eloquent. His sword, Orna, is capable of speech and reveals the deeds of all of its previous owners to anyone who possesses it. The hidden knowledge that is revealed is the knowledge that comes through the void supported by its own eloquence. This exists in the relationships between systems and everything that is. It is the thread that runs through, behind and out of everything. This book is a study of the knowledge that transforms and transcends. It is the knowledge from the void. It is the knowledge from the depths of space. As such, it is the star knowledge from above and the treasures of the depths of earth and sea. The Ogham is a system of knowledge that relates, quantifies and preserves this knowledge of everything. The Ogham that represents the thread running through and connecting everything is known as Uileann which is mistletoe or woodbine. Its berries are the essence of healing and revelation. In a sense, the Cattle of Tethra are the pearls of wisdom that its extracts from its life among and upon the trees.
Book 3 – The Cró of Lugh
A cró is an enclosure used to surround and protect. In Lugh’s case, it was formed by his nine foster-fathers to protect him and prevent him from going into battle at Moytura. He escaped from this enclosure because he was many-skilled or samildánach. This escape of a kind from a surrounding of men is reminiscent of chess which among Irish Druids was called fidchell or wood wisdom. It is Lugh’s mastery of wood wisdom that is the major topic in this last book in the series. That mastery is the perfection and completion of his work with Ogham. In our own mastery of Ogham we will be able to demonstrate proficiency in their many uses. Examples are given of using Ogham in divination, in encryption, in naming, in determining geasa (taboos), and in empowering esoteric workings and ritual practice. After completing the work of this last book on Ogham in its role as the keys to wisdom, Druidic students will have achieved a journeyman’s status. at that time, the future choice or direction of scholarship and specialty will be faced on the Druid way. Some of the pathways that exist at this crossroads are law, medicine, philosophy, priesthood, poetry, music and science. It is to be hoped that the Ogham Keys to Wisdom series and its study will have provided the student with the necessary keys to open the doors of their choosing (or the doors that block their way).
These works are also used as textbooks in courses that are taught on the Internet at the Summerlands, an online, Pagan, cyber community (http://www.summerlands.com). It is also used as a textbook in a larger Druidic training program. This program includes a discussion of the many Celtic tales and traditions that are linked to each Ogham. Such a system of correspondences was included in the curricula of the schools of the Druids and the Filidh. It is my opinion that the Ogham were used to instruct Druidic students in all aspects of the common knowledge or Coimgne.
Within the nine books of the Ogham Keys to Wisdom series are discussions of musical theory, symbolic language, magical pathworking, as well as several types of meditations and traditional ancient memory techniques. Any of these disciplines can be studied on its own as a guide in developing a greater level of personal skill and a deeper understanding of life in general. It is my recommendation that the greatest strength of the Druids is embraced when all of their techniques and knowledge are studied together within an integrated learning experience. This combination of separate studies is a confluence of knowledge that becomes a symbiotic tool of transformation for the willing student. In simple terms, we are what we study and once we reach a certain level of understanding our knowledge becomes like a fire in the head. It is able to burn more brightly because we have done the necessary work to build our knowledge base. We have created a bonfire of knowledge that is built upon the wood wisdom of tradition, experience and inquiry. When all of these sources of knowledge are brought together, a house of wisdom is built that is greater than the sum of its parts. A Druid is many skilled and capable, a fabric of interlocking threads and strong connections. A Druid’s cloak contains as many colors as the knowledge that it encompasses. A Druid’s quest is a strand of many pathways and passages within and beyond life, a second awakening within life itself. A Druid is the truth at the crossroads of the Worlds.
Good is the wellspring of measured speech.
Good is the home of the well of inspiration.
Good is the joining of their powers:
Strength is made durable.
It endures longer than any fortress.
It is better than any tradition.
It is our guide to wisdom,
As we free ourselves from ignorance.
Amergin White Knee in the
Cauldron of Poesy Materials (circa 13th Century BCE)
óig dar mhuir,
mile laoch líonfas ler,
barca breaga bruigfidid,
bása uile aisnedid,
áes cach dána dícheadal,
siabra dothrú saibscince,
séanfaid tráigte sithchura,
cacha treasa maidfidid.
A tale for you,
youths across ocean,
a thousand heroes will fill (web) the sea,
speckled* (magic) ships will moor here,
all death declared.
A folk each of magic incantations,
a bad doom will strike false science,
good portents will ebb peaceful bindings,
all contention will be routed.
Mug Roith in “The Siege of Knocklong”
translation by Seán Ó Tuathail
“The Excellence of Ancient Word.”
Caidi aimser ocus log ocus perso ocus tugait scribind in lebor? Ni ansa:
What are the time, place, person, and the cause of the writing of this book? Not hard to say:
The time of the writing of this book is the fifth decade of the author’s life, in the later part of the twentieth century, and during the 1935th year, after the Druids of Mona were attacked by Sueltonius Paulinius, according to the reckoning of the years of the Common Era (CE).
The places of its writing are the states of Virginia, Florida, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama within the geographical United States of America and also The Summerlands (http://www.summerlands.com/),a Celtic, Pagan, cyber community on the Internet.
The author of this work is Searles O’Dubhain, a student of Draíocht; a descendent of the chiefs of Cnogba and Barra; out of the lines of Daman and Niall; a free man of a free people.
The reason for the writing of this treatise is to recover and explain what can be known about the ways of the Druids. This writing will be accomplished from a study of what was written about the Druids, from hearing the tales preserved within folk memory, and by using the information that can be discovered about them through discerning inquiry and the techniques of Imbas.
If you are a person interested in the ways of Druids then you have found a source or doorway to that knowledge in this book. If you are a person who seeks to discover the truth that lives within you, that will illuminate knowledge and the ways of the world for you, then you have come to a source for its wellspring. If you are a person whose tree of knowledge grows upon fertile soil then you will be a welcome addition to the groves of memory that are the shared knowledge of Druids in every place and every period of time. These ways are not without trials and hazards, nor is the knowledge that they reveal a comfortable or safe knowledge (what knowledge is?).
This book is not intended for the casual reader. It is not a work for those who lack courage. It should not be studied by any who are unprepared for the work of many lives. Stop now before the veils are lifted from your eyes.
If you are one who seeks the keys to wisdom, then read on. If you can overcome your own fears, then open the Oaken Door. If you can hold the Spear of Flame without defeat, then listen to the songs of victory. If you can face the Sun without blinking, then accept the Sword of Light as your guide. You can feed the needs and wants of your life beyond death at the Undry Cauldron. Stand in the footsteps of the Stone of Destiny and hear the echoes of your future as worlds cry out your fate. It is time to ascend Cnoc Fírinne (the Hill of Truth), a high place that exists within the center of your world. The Ogham sign before you is Ebadh. It is the sign of the gathering of kindreds, souls and spirits. It is the doorway within.
The first step of your ongoing and ever living journey begins again as it always has. It is a step that once was, is now and will be constantly resumed. This choice of initiation and renewed awareness will be followed by many other steps and journeys. Some paths will lead to completion while others will be attempted only to discover new ways and lives. The charm of making is itself an invocation to be chanted in peril of success or failure. One’s lives and creations are as strong as one’s truth. You have made these choices before and are now following a remembered way. Your past, present and future answers speak to the truth of being. Gods and spirits applaud your passage. Your many lives celebrate the homecoming of a loved one. Welcome once again to the Druid way.
Becoming a Druid is a journey through life and death and onward to a rebirth in worlds seen and unseen. It is a search for truth beyond illusions. Walking the Druid way is a choice inspired by one’s eternal spirit. Its turns are open to an aware mind. Its reward is a truth that powers the universe. The answers to all of your questions are here before you yet still hidden to the uninitiated. Lives and deaths in worlds of water, air and earth must fill the chaos of the Void. A choice awaits you on the horns of fire. You are not alone along the Druid way. You’ve been this way before along with many others.
You’ve found this pathway before, perhaps in this life and certainly in others, just as you’ve found it now. Your spirit awakens to the call of the Druid way. Others journey with you and some stand by the way side as guides and supporters. Take the first step of your journey again old friend and join with us here at the beginning of the pathway The distances grow smaller as we each become more accomplished in our efforts and understandings. We’ve gathered at the doorway to greet you. The portal opens wide for those who have been chosen. The mark of the ways will be upon your forehead. The sign of contention will acclaim your efforts and the gaming board of destiny will tally your measures even as the years weave threads on the spindle of time. Let us build a frame for our wisdom and our knowledge of illumination, even as we hear the heartbeat of the journey fade to silence around us. Let us dream the dream of the bull’s heart and hide and become the cascade of the waterfall. Together, let’s step away from the chaos of transient life and into the center of silence of eternity where the expectation of impending change ripples down our spines and the golden light gathers to show us the way.
Enter within and place your first steps in the footprints of giants.
There are some who say that the Druid way is lost forever; obscured through the shroud of time and a forgotten oral history. These people think that the advent of Christianity was like a military conquest with the invading forces slaughtering the natives who resisted the onslaught. The victors were considered to have obliterated the ways of the Druids in their new and complete takeover and all evidence of Druidic practices and traditions were cut away from the new traditions of ways of the Irish. Was this really the case or is the history of Druidism and Christianity quite a different story? Was it really an either/or situation or was it more of a blending between the two religions that occurred. If such a blending occurred, then would the mix have been uniform throughout the many documented layers of early Irish society. The answers to questions like these may well provide us with an approach that recovers what survived and derives understanding of what did not survive by considering the things that may have been replacements.
Irish culture did not develop or exist in a vacuum, even if it was isolated or buffered by its insular nature. Early Ireland certainly had cultural and economic ties with Alba and Britain as well as the civilizations on the Continent. By and large, these civilizations were either: Roman, Celtic or Norse (if one considers only foreign influences) or they were perhaps holdovers from far earlier times in the Irish past. These native survivals could have even been what was preserved in an oral tradition or they could have been what the imagination made of the remnants of earlier civilizations (much as we do when viewing ancient stone works, mounds and other structures today). Cultures are living breathing creatures. They are dynamically alive or they are inert and dead. Living cultures are much like families with a lineage of forbearers and ancestors whose influences shape us and make us uniquely who we are. Static and unchanging cultures do not adapt to the challenges of survival in Nature’s selection of the fittest.
The will to live and to remain viable despite attacks and wars on the culture is an Irish trait that is still alive today. It is marked by the words of the Irish folk song that ”one can crush the Irish but cannot keep their spirits down.” It is through the truth of the spirit, the experience of a stream of continuity and the preservation of almost a soul knowledge of tradition, that we can recover rather than reconstruct what has been lost of the Druid way in Ireland and rather than reconstructing these practices, when can recover and adapt a living breathing tradition that still exists in the writings, art, languages, tales and people of modern day Ireland. The culture itself is a family of concepts that has evolved over time from its ancestors and grandparents into the adults and children of present day life. In an internal consideration of one’s soul and an external reflection on the materials that remain, one can truly bring the fire back to life where its coals have been smoored by the care of its people in the hearth of remembrance. Druids themselves were said to have considered that the source of knowledge was in the mind though they also left alive the possibility that knowledge also remained physically present in the body.
This knowledge was perhaps passed from generation to generation and from parents to children; almost instinctively, awaiting only a trigger to call it forth. Perhaps this evocation of the esoteric spirit within us is one of the purposes of stones and landscapes from the monumental past? The huge investment of a culture in sweat and toil, time and energy, of building the impossible dream is or was worth the effort if it serves to center our quest for the ancient ways and the truth that is against the world. The idea that truth and rightness survives despite transient and expedient influences in day to day living is the heart of the religions and beliefs of Druids everywhere. It is an idea that has survived down through the ages from a time when life was a battle against ice and cold; the starkness of kill or be killed. It is still at the center of the finest and most refined work of art or craft of beauty today. It is the essence of life that becomes the fire that warms the blood of a culture even after having been housed within cold dwelling or imprisoned under tons of dirt and stone over the years. The idea of a truth that will not be denied is a power that can defeat any wrongness, however attractive it may seem. So it is with great confidence that we can look for the lost ways of the Druids within ourselves as well as within the body of our lands where we and our people have survived. These lands and lives are places where battle, prosperity, harmony, knowledge and destiny make up the center of the world.
The Druid way is a pathway that is often sought but which is seldom found. The knowledge of the Druids, their studies and system of training have long been hidden from the public view. The subject matter it contains is beyond the ordinary and is difficult at best to attain even after long years of study and practice. The rewards to one's nature and awareness from studying Druidry and Draíocht are beyond a common understanding and often open pathways beyond the ordinary ebb of day to day life within everyday existence. This alone makes the study and following of the Druid way a worthwhile effort and an amazing achievement when it is perfected. Before attempting the work of opening these pathways of the self and the bridges between the worlds, one should first gain a better understanding of what a Druid is and what Druids actually do.
A Druid is traditionally a wise person within Celtic culture who has studied the ancient tales and learned their philosophies; who has mastered certain techniques of memory. observation and awareness; a person with skill in using sound, sight, smell, touch and taste, a student of law, Nature and science; a leader of Celtic ritual, a teacher of Celtic tradition, a guardian of Celtic values; a poet, a scientist, a lawyer, a priest, a philosopher; and a strong upholder of truth, honor and spirituality. Being a Druid is becoming and being a person within Celtic culture who seeks the highest ideals and realizations of physical life, mental awareness and spiritual guidance. In short, a Druid is a preserving shrine of Celtic culture in memory, in Nature and in its laws.
Being a Druid is many things and not simply a title. It is not easily done, said or accomplished. Being a Druid is a highly placed goal and ideal within Celtic spirituality. Druid spirituality is an ongoing process of seeking, understanding and advancing on a never ending quest. It means that one is always setting a high standard and a good example of service, behavior and learning. Druids were members of the Celtic Nemed class because their truth and knowledge were so greatly revered. They earned this respect through dedicated effort and hard work. Being a Druid was not given to them as a gift of privilege and it was also not inherited as a title through family connections. Druids had to pass the tests that all Druids face on the Druid way. These are the tests that come from tradition. Challenge through experience and withstand the inquiries and questioning of others.
Being a Druid is also a melding of the knowledge that comes from information into a wisdom that comes from a heightened awareness, evaluation, and understanding of the universe. Being a Druid is an honoring of ancestors and ancient ways. It is being a guide in the ways of the world. It is being a seeker into worlds that are unknown. Being a Druid is a pathway within Celtic culture that includes past, present and future. It is a doorway into realms of being that are ordinary and extraordinary. It is a goal that includes self realization and universal connection. In short, being a Druid is a life of lives, a death of deaths and a surpassing of beginnings and endings.
Druids are said to teach and believe:
Truth is the force that creates and empowers all of existence.
Truth is the central core of our being.
There is a continuity of life between this world and the next. Each person is born with a purpose to fulfill and a role to play in life.
Each life and action has certain prerogatives and prohibitions associated with it that determine what is known as "right action." When we act in harmony with these prerogatives and do not violate any of their associated prohibitions, then we promote prosperity for ourselves and the people around us.
Certain states of being and dedication can cause a person to experience a connection to greater knowledge and the deities. To achieve these states of being, it is necessary to separate the conscious mind and spirit from outside and extraneous influences through the use of specific meditative techniques, invocations and mantric chants.
These philosophical concepts and their associated practical techniques imply certain things about the way in which cosmology is shaped and deity is characterized among Druids. They also represent an intersection of Celtic cultural practices with the beliefs and practices of other Indo-European traditions. Beyond this, they can serve as a basis and a guide for every individual who seeks the Druid way.
In every tradition there is an outer and an inner knowledge. The two are different yet the same. They serve many worlds in their own way. While work is accomplished in the world of form and limit, one would be wise to observe the forms and to distinguish the limits. When one works in esoteric realms, there are no such forms or limits to what can be done. This is not to say that the knowledge that is unlimited or that the many formed realities should be ignored. It is to say that there is a separation between worlds and a continuity of tradition that connects one form to another within this reality. Limited and unlimited as well as form and the formless connect at a secret inner crossroads within each of us. All worlds exist both within and without our everyday consciousness,
So it is that Druids serve within Celtic culture because the two pathways and traditions are parts of one another. How they connect to *all that is* must be seen through a different lens and experienced in other states of being. Form is not ornament, nor is a reliance on and reverence for tradition and culture limiting to esoteric efforts. There are disciplines and duties that are a part of the outer knowledge that are important to the world and its inhabitants, just as there are states of being and awareness in other worlds and existing within the inner wisdom that have no known limits or physical forms.
Being a Druid is a part of Celtic culture as surely as being a Celt is following ideals and values that have been identified by Druids. Such things are as they should be. They are as they are defined to be. They are as they have come into creation to be. That is what a Druid is and these ways are what Druids do. If you seek to become a Druid and follow the Druid way then the doorway in front of you must be opened so that you may begin your journey
To walk the Druid way, one must walk as a Druid would walk. One must learn as a Druid learns. One must see what is here and now, while also seeing what is not there (but has been there). One must swim in uncharted waters to walk as a Druid. One must fly on the smoke of the fire. One must carry the woods for the fires of spirit and one must sing in the face of danger. Every letter of every word we think and say has meanings in a web of creation. Each of these meanings will be given by one’s teacher or one’s self. Each letter affects the others around it. Sound and form flow together, sometimes overlapping as powers play a dance of creation.
Tradition has recorded the journeys of other Druids living and working before us. Their stories will speed our journey if we learn from them. The framework of existence has been shaped to suit our minds through their countless discoveries. These discoveries and actions by other Druids have created the worlds in which we ourselves live and act. We stand on their shoulders and perceive a land through the Druid way. We sail into the unknown seas with charts and tales of their adventures, our own awaiting us. We ascend to the skies through our own vision quests, on waves of sound and smoke, as well as through darkness and the essences of Nature. The Moon ways and Sun ships go forth into the unknown, yet they return in mind, words, tales and songs.
The ability to use a word to create beauty is a gift that we will be given through our own work at the altar of order. The channels that control chaos need to be established within our psyches through dedication. Attention and discipline. At the Battle of Moyrath (Cath Magh Raith). Cennfaeladh suffered a wound to his ability to forget that preserved the ancient knowledge for us. From that time on, he remembered everything that he studied, saw or thought. In the beginning of our own studies and efforts, we will also establish the means of memory even as we give up our own forgetting. This will be our first sacrifice to the gods of wisdom as an offering in search of the blessings of knowledge.
Cennfaeladh’s gift of memory preserves the knowledge of the Druids and the ancients. It was first preserved in mind and then recorded on wood with the hand and knife of Ogma. The words have been copied and recopied by scribes, on the hides of cattle and through papers made from the pulp of trees and plants. Today we see it again as lightness and darkness on the veils and screens between worlds that some call computer monitors. Two of Cennfaeladh’s surviving works are The Book of Acaill and the Scholars Primer (Auraicept na n-Eces). This knowledge can be chanted or sung to our ears and hearts. It can be carved and handled with our hands. It can be worn as a cloth upon our prophecies or it can be a draught that we drink in times of ecstasy. There are nine ways that worlds can be built and there are nine doorways for the soul to enter. All of this is taught in the schools of the Druids. The work of this wisdom can be painful, yet its rewards are boundless and beyond all price. Those ways and Cenn Faeladh’s memories are what we will be studying in the Ogham Keys to Wisdom series.
Twenty years some have spent in the work (or is it the joy) of seeking along the Druid way. Sit and pause at this way station to rest while you consider how best to spend your energies. You will have many lifetimes to shorten the work even as wisdom grows both without us and within us. No matter how large the task becomes, resolve and dedication can become larger still. There is no ending without a beginning and a continuing in the circles that some call being.
Enough of mysteries! Now it is time for the lessons to begin. Your journey has begun on the Druid way. It started as you read the page before you at the entrance to this work and it continues with each step that you are taking as foot follows foot, as measured word connects with words. Let’s walk the way as Druids would walk it and learn as Druids have learned. Worlds of creation await us, worlds of discovery and lives of lifetimes. The sign posts are written in Ogham, preserving knowledge from those who would profane the way.
The knowledge and wisdom of Druids can be found through a dedicated search for truth and extensive study of their materials that survive through the work of scribes and Filidh which have outlasted efforts to suppress them. It is perfected through work and insight. It becomes an ongoing voyage of adventure into realms of awareness. Druidic knowledge is a part of Nature and life itself. It is a knowledge that requires personal involvement and dedication. It is a life that devotes itself to truth through exploration and risk taking. It is showing up in the present to "be here now" and it is a mark of mastery in achievement. Acquiring this knowledge and mastery in the past took many years of study and practice. The process today is much the same. In a very real sense, becoming a Druid is the work of a lifetime and lifetimes. It is a process of ongoing rebirth into all forms of wisdom and the mysteries that lay beyond ordinary reality, while at the same time it is the work of ministering to one's community, world and spirit. The Ogham keys await.
Much that the Druids taught was through their secret language and alphabet, the Ogham. Ogham was taught to every Druid in their schools. It was used to access and to encode vast amounts of information that was preserved and hidden from those that were deemed to be unlearned and ignorant. The secret nature of Ogham and the present lack of understanding about its many capabilities has fostered and perpetuated the myth that Druidic knowledge was lost. In a way, that is true. This knowledge was lost to the mundane world that had not been initiated and trained in the Ogham mysteries. This same knowledge was encrypted and preserved for any Druid to use who could see the world through Ogham and kenning.
Some say that the Ogham is merely an alphabet invented to write in Irish. Others analyze the forms of Irish in which Ogham was written to determine its origins. There is much debate about this and many different opinions. Students of the Ogham will discover in the beginning of their studies concerning the Ogham that this is one of its main properties: to inspire many different ideas about its origins, uses and properties. One should not be surprised that the Ogham is not just one thing, nor that it fits nicely into a single theory of language or cultural use. The truth of this is to be found in the many uses to which Ogham has been put over the ages and the many conjectured uses and abilities that have been assigned to it in that time. Simply put, every culture that has used or known the Ogham has used it in many different ways and not just in one way alone.
Ogham was indeed used as an alphabet by the earliest literate Irish scholars. We have examples in stone that have survived from a person in Ireland that exists before Old Irish was formed or used. The language of this usage is known as Primitive Irish or even Ogham Irish. It is the Irish that the Irish spoke before they spoke Old, Middle or Modern Irish. It is very old and contains concepts in its structure and forms that tells us most of what we know about the Irish of the earliest times. Only archaeology tells us more (though there are Latin writings that coexist with Ogham usage that have some things to say about Ireland and the Irish). As an early alphabet and language of Irish, Ogham also has some of the magical and esoteric characteristics associated with it that many early alphabets possess. It is considered to be a gift of the gods or the wise. It is said to be able to describe things in a symbolic way. One may even be able to manipulate the Ogham symbols in ways that associate with the items each describes in single characters and words. As words and characters, Ogham may also have musical notes and tones associated with it. In its forms and structures it may be used to measure words, music and concepts. In its organization it describes numerical order and possibly even geometrical spaces and objects. As such Ogham has many of the things associated with it that are also linked to both cosmology and cosmogony in a culture.
Scholars of Ogham in various academic disciplines are uncomfortable with the multifaceted nature of Ogham, so one of the first things many of them generally do is to investigate and negate the uses of Ogham that may have occurred outside of their area of expertise. The linguists will attempt to discount the magical uses of Ogham. Many Celticists will attempt to link Ogham to some other language of Culture like Latin and even to the early Christian church. Use of Ogham mentioned in the insular literature will be said to be merely to a generic use of language and alphabet. Any quirkiness in Ogham usage or meaning that departs from a Latin origin will be assigned to an imperfect or uneducated usage by early Irish monks and poets. Later magical or esoteric uses will be said to be a similar misunderstanding of Medieval people far removed from the original culture or even further afield the magical and esoteric uses of modern folks with Ogham will be said to have been invented out of whole cloth entirely and be without basis in the Primitive Irish culture from which it sprang.
The whole of the Ogham is much greater than any of its parts and the knowledge that it contains and reveals is far beyond what any single-minded pursuit of its secrets along a narrow disciplined study in a single field. To understand Ogham and its impact on the people that invented and used it, one must become an archaeologist of languages and a linguist of anthropology. One must associate meanings across disciplines with skill and faculty to master its entirety. Simply put, to discover the Druid origins and secrets of Ogham ne must approach it in a multifaceted immersion of many skills and a mastery of every discipline to which Ogham can apply. One cannot assume that truth will be self-evident to all of one’s associates and adversaries in such an approach. Every usage or application will have to be documented and explained against a backdrop that is firmly established for other skills, practices and disciplines. This research will have to stand alone (or together with) many different approaches to knowledge and study. It is not a simple task at which to succeed and many will be lost to its answers and discoveries.
The origins of Ogham are hidden deeply within the secrets and mysteries of the Druids but some things about the Ogham are simple to discover:
The documented usages of Ogham are for counting, making lists, teaching through kennings, encrypting information, establishing and carving memorials, writing legal texts, performing magic, divining that which is hidden, writing to others and as memory aids to the vast storehouses and groves of knowledge preserved by the Druids.
Ogham as an alphabet was equated in early Irish documents to the Latin and Hebrew alphabets through Cennfaeladh’s Auraicept na n-Éces. The work contains a description of Ogham usage in the Schools of the Filidh of Ireland. This text was written down circa 1400 CE but its origins are attributed to a written source circa 650 CE in Ireland and a still earlier oral tradition that goes back at least a 1000 years before that in Ireland. It's similarity to Latin letter usage and grammar most likely comes from the synchronization efforts of the Filidh with outside knowledge and through the application of Ogham side by side with Christian inscriptions after some (but not all) of them embraced Christianity.
A clue about the Irish origins of Ogham can be seen in what Eoin MacNeill tells us about some of the traditions of Irish “firsts.” The sequence is in reverse order since it is a pedigree.
... from a pedigree of the kings of Cashel:
Luguid Lagne, by whom spears and glass were first made in Ireland.
Imliuch, by whom forts were first dug out of earth in Ireland.
Road Rothchend (wheel-head), by whom historical compositions and poetry were first made in Tara.
Rigarlid, by whom chariots were first made in Ireland.
Failhe Ilchorach, by whom pillar-stones were first erected.
Cetchumnech, by whom commemorations in ogham were first made in Ireland.
Aed Derg, by whom fessa and forfessa were first made in Ireland. (The words seem to mean knowledge and superknowledge, but their technical meaning is unknown to me.)
Mainmairec, by whom gold and silver were first bought in Ireland.
Oithecht, by whom gold and silver were first discovered.
It can be seen that Irish Celtic traditions say that writing in Ogham predates the use of chariots and the composition of poetry in Tara. That places writing in Ireland (according to tradition) at a very early age (perhaps first or late second millennia BCE).
It can be seen that Irish Celtic traditions say that writing in Ogham predates the use of chariots and the composition of poetry in Tara. That places writing in Ireland (according to tradition) at a very early age (first or late second millennia BCE).
The origins of Ogham as a language are most probably in Ireland of 2000 years ago. The origins of Ogham as a script go back 30,000 years BP (before present) through its relationship to tally markings. The origins of Ogham as an alphabet go back at least 1700 years BP as evidenced by memorial stones. Some inscriptions that could be Ogham go back maybe a 1000 years before that. This dating would seem to be supported through some linguistic analyses (most notably that of Toby Griffen of Southern Illinois University)., These same sources suggest that Ogham is very ancient and perhaps even influenced the development of the early Greek alphabet.
This series of books developed out of a course and study about the use of Ogham among the Druids and Filidh of Ireland. The Druids acquired their knowledge and wisdom through many years of study, memorization and practice. Their education was accomplished through a memorization of tales, traditions, customs and laws, as well as through a sorting and indexing of concepts, kennings and attributes in Ogham. Druidic memory and workings were accomplished through Ogham along with a synchronization of tales and techniques from the past to their immediate and present-day dilemmas and workings.
In studying the Ogham and the tales, we must also understand the Druidic ideas of being, their awareness of existence, and the power of truth. Being is described and equated for the individual through qualities known in Irish as Dúile. Existence is conceived as being determined by the orientation and alignment of its three microcosmic and macrocosmic parts called An Trí Coirí. The Irish Druidic concept of truth as the central power of the universe is known as An Fírinne.
For the Dúile, we shall standardize on lists of nine for body and cosmos in this series of works: stone, land, nature, wind, sea, moon, sun, stars and sky. Our study of Druidic knowledge shall also be presented in a corresponding nine books with themes that reflect one of the Dúile. Where it is possible the Ogham and the tales will be used to understand, remember and explain every concept that is encountered in the ongoing work that is done by the students. The relationships between the cauldrons and the fundamental qualities of being from the texts known as the “Cauldon of Poesy” will be presented, explained and used in a similar manner. The importance of truth to everything in existence will be first presented in this work but will be more fully studied in the next book of this series The Truth of a King. An Fírinne is the source of a Druid’s power. It cries out in the saying “The Truth against the World!”
The old ways of the Druids are said to be lost in the opinion of many, however, opinion is not fact nor even necessarily true. The knowledge of the Druids is obscured from being easily discovered (as was their intention). That is as it should be. That was their intention in the first place. Even in the earliest of times, when more Druids roamed the land, the idea was to make the Druid way difficult to find for the unlearned. This knowledge was to be learned through dedication, discipline and devotion. That is also how it is to be found today.
There are several places to look for the knowledge of the Druids, each with its level of success and efficiency:
The tales that will be presented and studied come from the traditions of Ulster; the stories of Finn and the Fianna; in the literature reporting the Invasion Cycles; within the tales of the Tuatha Dé Danann and from the preserved works of Irish Druids and Filidh. Many of these sources and references exist in the public domain from the collected works of the 19th and 20th century. Where it is necessary, inaccuracies have been identified and clarifications have been made. Every attempt is made to provide the original Irish versions when they are available and to enhance the lessons to be learned. At times, other Celtic traditions and tales are consulted to fill any gaps in the available information. At the extremes of this effort, Indo-European and Vedic traditions have also been considered. Knowledge that has been uncovered through archaeology and excavation as well as through linguistics and mythological studies is also included. Our journey through the wisdom of the past and the surviving practices of the present will take us on many pathways before we return to follow the Druid Way itself.
 According to Charles Graves in “On the Ogam Bethluisnin” Hermathena, Vol. 3, 1879, “The ancient Irish laws, commonly called The Brehon Laws, contain many allusions to the use of the Ogam character. They speak of Ogam cut on stones, or indestructible rocks, as evidence of the purchase or ownership of land. The stones thus inscribed are said to have been sought in mounds.”
“The inscribed stone is called a monument or memorial of the Seanchaidhe, who was a professional antiquary or historian, charged with duties such as are attached to the office of a notary or registrar. It is also called the memorial or monument of the tribe. “”
The inscription itself is called fair writing, and is distinguished from the kind of writing found in books. Such monuments were set up between two territories or estates as boundary stones; and seem to have contained the name of the owner of the land, of which the pillar-stone (Gallan) marked the limit. Gallan, or Dallan, is still a living word in the counties of Kerry and Cork, and is applied at the present day to pillar-stones which exhibit Ogam characters; and Mason, in his ’Parochial Survey of Ireland,’ vol. iii. p. 611, note, observes that ’The stones inscribed with the Ogam character, and occasionally met with through the country, are generally supposed to have been landmarks.’ “
 As has been so ably presented by Myles Dillon in Celts and Aryans, Survivals of Indo-European Speech and Society, pp. 125-142.
 This is found in the Notes section to A Short History of Celtic Philosophy by Herbert Moore, 1920.