Page 51 - St. Patrick's Day Parade 2017
P. 51

While walking through a forest hearing the leaves rustle, Celts would easily equate trees and the forest with an omnipotent being. From that belief, we are given a powerful symbol—the Tree of Life. The most sacred tree of all was the oak, which represented the axis of mundi, the center of the world. The Celtic name for oak, daur, is the origin of the word door—the root of the oak was literally the doorway to the Otherworld, the realm of the Fae. The word Druid, the name of the Celtic Priestly class, is compounded from the words for oak and wise; a Druid was one who was “oak wise,” meaning learned in tree magic and guardian of the doorway.
Long after the Druids, the lore of trees continued as a vital part of Celtic myth and folklore. Trees guarded sacred wells and provided healing, shelter, and wisdom. Trees carried messages to the other realm and conferred blessings. In Ireland today, some trees can be seen in the countryside adorned with ribbons and pleas for favors, love, healing and prosperity. The Celtic alphabet, Ogham, was written in homage to trees with each letter of the alphabet representing a particular tree.
Named for Ogmos, the Celtic god of knowledge and communication, the Ogham (o-ehm) alphabet dates from the 4th Century. Consisting of 20 letters each named for a different tree believed sacred to the Druids, the proper name for the Ogham alphabet was Beithe Luis Fern, so named for the first three letters of the alphabet. Each letter is made up of one to five straight or angled lines incised on a straight base line. Written vertically on stone carvings and ruins and horizontally as written on parchment, Ogham is the first known written language of Ireland. Surviving examples of Ogham exist as stone carvings, usually on tombstones and road markers, and have been found all over the Celtic Isles and as far as Spain and Portugal. Ogham was carved and read from bottom to top and occasionally from right to left.
A Shillelagh (shill-lay-lee) is a cudgel or club, usually made of blackthorn wood with a leather wrist strap affixed to the handle. The name Shillelagh may have originated from the village of Shillelagh, County Wicklow, which at one time was surrounded by extensive oak forests. The Shillelagh was the weapon used in Batarireacht, traditional Irish stick fighting, prevalent in the 19th century. Shillelaghs are commonly confused with the traditional blackthorn walking sticks, as they are produced from the same wood. The blackthorn tree is dense with dark brown to black bark; stiff branches covered with spiny thorns, and grows to 10 feet in height. Blackthorn wood is lightweight, but very sturdy. Irish folklore says that blackthorn hedges are a favorite home to Fae-folk.
Photo by Samuraiantiqueworld.

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