| The alphabet that the Celts used was called Ogham,
and it was the belief of the Celts
that Ogham was a gift directly from the Gods. Specifically, it was the God Ogimos
who invented it and brought it to the Celts. Possibly it is this name that is the origin
of the word. The Ogham alphabet was designed to be used with the Old Irish Language.
By using Ogham, the Celtic people were able to record names of people in their native
language. The primary uses for Ogham were for the marking of gravestones and to
show land ownership boundaries. There are other uses of Ogham as well mentioned
in texts, manuscripts, and Irish folklore. The Ogham alphabet is an alphabet of 20
letters, divided into four groups of five letter characters. The proper name for the
Ogham alphabet was Beithe "Luis" Fern, so named for the first three letters of the
alphabet. It was represented by inscribing grooves either to the left or right of a stem
line or by crossing the line. The exact order of the alphabet is unknown. However, when
a 14th century manuscript was uncovered it assigned the following order and value to
This manuscript (known as the Book of Ballymote) is vital to the understanding of
Ogham. It has been said that this book does for Ogham what the Rosetta stone does
for the Egyptian Heiroglyphics.
Today Ogham can be found throughout Ireland, Wales, England, Scotland, the Orkney
Islands, and the Shetland Islands. As mentioned above, one of the main functions of
Ogham was that it was used to inscribe names onto grave markers. These grave markers
come in the form of stones that range in height from three feet to nine feet tall and
approximately one to one and a half feet wide. There are 369 of these stones known to
exist today. Thirty four percent of these stones were found on ecclesiastical site locations.
These ecclesiastical sites, known as killeens, consist of small enclosures whose
boundaries are made by field walls and usually contain the remains of a small church.