An Exploration into the use of the “Hand Ogham” in Meditation

An Exploration into the use of the “Hand Ogham” in Meditation

Tully Reill
July 2007

Some time ago a dear friend of mine, knowing my interest in Ogham and my pursuits in Druidry as he does, suggested to me to use the “Hand Ogham” (as outlined in Caitlin and John Matthews “Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom” Pp 250-51, we’ll get into the placements of the Fews on the hand here shortly) as a mnemonic and study tool in my studies. He instructed me that it would also aide in my meditation on the Ogham Fews.

It certainly did aide in my meditations. It also got me thinking about other applications for this. We’ll go into a bit of what spurred my thoughts before we go onto the applications that I’ve tried.

In Cormac’s Glossary from the Yellow Book of Lecan (circa 900-1200 CE) there is a description of how a Fili (poet, seer, diviner) would ritually go about the process of obtaining Imbas Forosnai (the Knowledge that Enlightens), being wrapped in a fresh bull’s hide, falling asleep with his palms resting upon his cheeks, and the sought after information would be revealed to him. What caught my attention was the last line of the subject after it is stated that St. Patrick outlawed this practice, but “The practice of dichetal do chennaib he alone allowed, since it was not necessary to make offerings to spirits, for the revelation comes straight away from the ends of the poet’s fingers.” According to the eDIL (Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language) dichetal is a “poetical incantation or spell composed extemporaneously by the Fili and Druids of ancient Ireland”.

“…straight away from the tips of the poet’s fingers.” This set my mind in gear. We also have the accounts of Finn obtained knowledge by burning his thumb on the Salmon of Knowledge while cooking it for Finegas the Druid, sticking his thumb in his mouth and wound up obtaining all the Knowledge, as well, the account of his getting his thumb slammed in a Sidhe Mound doorway then putting it in his mouth and obtaining the Knowledge. (Personally, I think Finn was a bit accident prone). From then on, all Finn had to do was place his thumb in his mouth to divine a situation.

Now we have accounts of ancient Druids and Fili using their fingers to divine, to form prose, and to form enchantments. Why should they have all the fun? What was stopping me from using this as a meditative tool, just like the Buddhists use Mudras (ritual hand gestures) during their meditations? What if I were to overlay the Ogham meanings from The Druidry Handbook with the Hand-Ogham chart from The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom?

Only one thing lacked. The Hand-Ogham chart only used the four Aicme of the Ogham, B-L-N-F-S on the thumb and finger tips, H-D-T-C-Q on the pads of the fingers (the digital bones), M-G-Ng-Z-R on the intermediate bones, and A-O-U-E-I on the proximal bones. It didn’t include the Forfheda of Ch-Th-P-F-X as The Druidry Handbook did. Well, we started at the tips of the fingers, how about using the last joint where the fingers meet one’s palm, at the metacarpal bone? But that places Koad (Ch, Grove) way at the base of the hand on the thumb’s last joint down by the wrist, a slight bit of a stretch but still possible to an extent.

All the pieces were in place. Time to experiment!

A good friend once told me that “We do not actually ‘teach’, but we ‘share experiences’.” With that in mind, now that we have the outlay of the Ogham on the hand, I will share my experiences as to how I utilize this. If you find a different way to form the “Mudras” with your own hands, and it works well for you, wonderful! (And, please, share it with the rest of us!). There are a lot of wonderful books on the subject of Ogham. If you find one that has descriptions of the Fews that you feel more comfortable with than the ones in The Druidry Handbook, use it of course.

We’ll go through the way I form the “Mudras” for the first Aicme. From that, and the above description of their placement, it’s rather easy to tell how I form the others.

Beith-B-Birch. Place your index finger, just slightly back from its tip, directly on the tip of your thumb, middle, ring and little finger straight.

Luis-L-Rowan. Almost like Beith, but place your thumb, just slightly back from its tip, directly on the tip of your index finger. Other three fingers straight.

Nion-N-Ash. Thumb placed on tip of middle finger, other fingers straight.

Fearn-F(V)-Alder. Thumb placed on tip of ring finger, other fingers straight.

Saille-S-Willow. Thumb placed on tip of little finger, other fingers straight.

Currently, I use both hands in the same position during my meditations and practices, but I intend on trying combinations, a different Few with each hand. I’ve used different Fews for different aspects of meditation, for contemplation on the Ogham itself, and to bring the “energies” of the different Fews into my practices, such as the Sphere of Protection. When beginning my journey to the AODA’s Innergrove, I hold the Koad (Grove) Mudra.

I’ve found this to be a wonderful addition to my practices, enhancing the experiences.

There is also the potential to “combine” different Fews, using a different few on each hand and joining one’s hands together, thereby combining the unique aspects of the two. I see nearly limitless possible adaptations with this, only limited by one’s creativity and desired effect.

I look forward to continuing my own experiences with this, and hearing from others about theirs.