Edit: This was written early in my Celtic paganism journey, right after I’ve discovered ogham for the first time. Since then, I’ve discovered mythology and tree lore is so much more at the heart of ogham divination than the grammar of divination, but this long exercise is still an interesting reference.
I see divination using oracle cards as a skill of drawing knowledge from one’s own intuition and higher self. In this sense, divination proficiency is related to how well one has developed a language between oneself and the divination system. Intellectually, you have to understand the layers of meaning for each element and the relationship structure. Intuitively, you have to connect symbolic meanings to specific situations and verbal language. Together, that’s your personal language for interpretations.
Ogham is a complex system. The available information online is mostly about objective information, and personal experiences, the learning process, and interpretations are harder to come by. I’ve accepted that reaching any state of adeptness will take time, so I’m not in a rush. That said, it’s hard not to feel frustrated when you read the meanings of fews off of a handbook but couldn’t offer a relatable message. It’s like studying English colloquials using a dictionary. Since our own experience is the one indispensable teacher, I try to journal my readings and interpretations.
This post is about building structure to learn from myself, within the scope of daily Awen spread readings. There are so many ways to use Ogham, and following John Michael Greer’s advice, I’ve only been doing this 3-card spread asking, “What does this day hold for me?" No predictions for career or for the next year. Just a generic divination for one day. Since there are endless interpretations even in this scope, I’ve come up with 2 aspects to study from: 1) how to structure three fews into one message and 2) how to relate individual fews to actual situations.
I use The Celtic Tree Oracle developed by Colin and Liz Murray, picked up in a local store!
1. How to structure three fews into one message
The Awen spread has three fews from left to right, the left being the Ray of Knowledge, the past; the right being the Ray of Power, potentials of the future; the center being the Ray of Peace, the present. From a Druidry perspective, the Awen spread holds the concept that the present is the turning point. The past is influence and knowledge, the future is just potential, not definite. In order to reach that potential, you have to act from the present. I use ogham cards and as example, today I drew the 3 cards:
Grove/Koad – Apple/Quert – Luis/Rowan
Grove: sacred place; knowledge of all
Apple: choice of beauty; commitment to one option
Rowan: protection from enchantment
Now how do I develop an interpretation?
a) Notice different types of statements
I usually start with a sentence that states a timeline using the meaning of each ogham. “You have access to sacred knowledge, so make a clear choice to protect yourself from distracting energies." (A Chinese term, 心魔, came to me for the rowan.) Instead of divination, it sounds more like an instruction.
To make it more like a predictive “divination," I could rephrase it to: “You will face a choice today. Apply sacred knowledge of ancestors to be avoid malicious enchantment."
By shifting the narrative, we could have statements of:
So, is the main message that making a choice will solve problems? Or that I will face a choice today? Or that I have to make a choice and make up my mind? They make a difference only if specifics are pointed out. Right now, they could mean anything and everything would make sense if they didn’t happen.
b) Relate the ogham through different syntax
The relationship between the fews determines the statement. With each few presenting knowledge, action (Ray of Peace) and potential (Ray of Power), some of the simpler syntax are:
i. Adopt ACTION/ATTITUDE to reach POTENTIAL since you have KNOWLEDGE. (advice on immediate action for a goal)
ii. KNOWLEDGE will help you adopt ACTION/ATTITUDE to reach POTENTIAL. (advice on immediate action for a goal, with conscious learning effort)
iii. POTENTIAL is coming so ACT this way with this KNOWLEDGE. (prediction and advice on facing it)
iv. POTENTIAL is coming because of KNOWLEDGE/PAST and ACTION/ATTITUDE is the solution. (prediction with some known cause and advice on facing it )
v. PAST will reach POTENTIAL if you adopt ACTION/ATTITUDE (advice on immediate action to clear a past influence)
The emphasis could be on the relationship of 2 fews, like in i. or iii., or on all 3, like in ii. or iv. The former might emphasize an advice while the latter might emphasize on analyzing a situation (guidance). Of course there are more possible syntax, but these are the types that have come to me the most often (which might be insightful or limiting). Therefore:
i. Make a choice to protect yourself from bad energy. Don’t worry, you have knowledge of the sacred to do this.
ii. Apply knowledge of the sacred to make the choice saving you from bad energy.
iii. Bad energy might be interfering with you soon if you don’t make a committed choice using knowledge of the sacred.
iv. Because of your knowledge of the sacred, bad energy is interfering and you must make a clear choice.
v. Your knowledge of the sacred will protect you from bad energy if you make a committed choice.
Wow. Forcing myself to write these down explicitly helped surface what really resonates! Number iii. and v. especially gave me shivers! Now I have the lead to dig for specifics towards these two directions.
c) Determining relationships based on the few’s nature
Based on the fews’ aicme (group of fives), dots (importance of the tree in three levels, a less applied concept), their elemental inclination, there could be inherent relationships that guide how we structure the statement.
2. How to relate individual fews to actual situations
Statement is just the first of the ambiguities. Now we have a more detailed problem: what actual event does each few refer to? A daily divination is not always a guidance. Statements that are all metaphysical with no specifics are not practical. The specifics are also how historic druids have predicted and solved at least some problems, right?
However, there’s no one right way. Few definitions offer both specifics (events, objects, stories) and symbols (concepts, metaphors, life stage, as in Tarot) and these are some of the ways to decide what they refer to for one reading.
a) Use the first ideas that a few reminds you of.
b) List by Verb/action, Noun/event/object, and Concept.
List the things/events a few could refer to.
For today, I got Grove/sacred knowledge—does it mean my spiritual practice? Recent thoughts of my ancestors? The internet? Or something specific from perhaps less than 3 days ago—such as the new set of oracle cards I picked up? I can write down the specific event and objects this few reminds me of. Anything I question could be left out. Try to stay specific at this stage and within a few days timeframe.
Grove/koad: the fact that spiritual practice helps with practical issues. Two days ago I rediscovered how powerful reconnecting with my source is. Also just purchased a new set of soul purpose oracle cards.
Apple/Quert: Two days ago the soul purpose card told me to “keep my commitment," and my recent unhappiness stemmed from not committing fully.
c) The multitude of meanings.
d) The meaning within the scope of “daily reading."
3. Moving out of linear/logical thinking
The above logical structures are solely for my beginner’s learning. The long term goal is to develop intuition for respective elements and for hidden correlations. For example, the important message might be the relationship of two fews and breaking them down would have been pointless.
As I put away the cards, I realized from the graphics that both Apple Tree and Rowan are related to pentacles—the apple’s hidden center and the rowan berry’s star-shaped bottom. This, personally for me, relates to the “sacred place" of Grove. So perhaps instead of focusing on what the “choice" and “protection" are, I could interpret it as natural magic is dominating my day. Or I will find magic in the nature. Now this seems to make sense because I’ve spent almost half a day on this post 😉
As possible interpretations continue to pop up, again I leave it to intuition to leave out the ones that don’t stick. No need to talk myself into taking in a meaning; I would take what my intuition has identified as meaningful.
And that is one possible meticulous process of breaking ogham divination into mental activity-driven molecular pieces.