Where shall we start? A brief description? A history lesson? Let's go...
Ogham writing is an ancient form of writing found on rocks and standing stones throughout Ireland (mainly in Munster), but also in parts of the UK. Most examples are inscriptions of names to mark territories or as memorial grave stones.
The Ogham alphabet has 20 letters (though in some later examples there are a few additional letters). Each letter consists of a notch, or series of notches, along a central spine.
The spine acts rather like the line on a sheet of lined paper. The spine organises the individual letters so that they don't wander all over the place (look at a young child's early writing attempts and you'll see that wandering text has a beauty of its own but it's not always easy to read!). The central spine in Ogham writing often ran along the corner of a rock or stone, so the spine wasn't necessarily a perfectly straight line.
What do Ogham letters look like? Here are some examples...
Ogham is read from bottom to top. On some examples it reads from the bottom of a rock, right over the top and down the other side. Don't you think that's rather wonderful? I love the idea of a line of man-made writing following a line created by the forces of nature.
Perhaps this helps to explain why carvers of Ogham started at the bottom of the rock. If they started at the top and worked down, they'd have nowhere to go when they reached the bottom (except back to the top!). Maybe there is some other practical reason why, if you're carving Ogham into rock, it makes more sense to start at the bottom.
Here's the Irish word for friend (cara) in Ogham:
Download a free one-page summary of the Ogham alphabet here
Ogham writing originated in Ireland around the 4th century. It's quite likely that it was used even earlier but because it was likely used on objects that have since decomposed (like wood), no direct evidence remains (at least, none that has been found so far). Ogham writing was in use until at least the 9th century, and hopped over from Ireland to parts of Wales, Scotland and England.
There are different theories about the origins of Ogham (check out Wikipedia) but the simplest, and the most convenient for a short blog post like this, is that the Irish god Ogma invented it.
Ogham writing is beautiful. If you saw it on a standing stone and you didn't know what it was, you'd stop for a closer look. You'd wonder what it was. You might even wonder whether it was due to some unusual natural process or whether the hand of man was involved.
We love the way Ogham writing looks because:
At elevencorners we create geometric designs to represent and celebrate dates or places. Ogham writing already has a beautiful geometric appearance so, since we're based in Ireland, it's only natural that we designed some Ogham wall art. You can see the elevencorners geometric art page here.
We love that you can have a piece of Ogham art on your wall and people will ask about it simply because of how it looks. The fact that the wall art might also have a very personal meaning is a fantastic added bonus.
What's not to love?
In a single piece of art you can combine the traditional origins of Ogham, a contemporary design and a personal meaning.
Read about the Ogham alphabet and how to convert your name into Ogham here