It has been reported by several authorative sources that the Celts of pre-Roman times had no writing system of their own and that they used "the letter system of the Greeks" for commerce and communication. This assumptive claim is only partly true, but because the error is deeply embedded in scholastic endeavor, it is difficult to correct. The Oxford English dictionary claims that ogam was invented by someone familiar with Latin letters sometime after the fourth century AD. This is stated as fact, but the "fact" can be proven as error in several ways. Celtic coins, provably minted in the second century AD, have ogam letters stamped upon them. Additionally, several antique volumes exist in the library of the University of Dublin that deal with ogam and attest to the true age of the writing system. It is obvious that the usage of Ogam predated the era of the Romans.
1. Book of Leinster
2. Book of Ballymote
3. Book of Lecan
All three sources either directly or indirectly attribute the existence of the Ogam alphabet to time periods prior to the advent of Roman authority thus demonstrating the error of the fourth century invention claim by Oxford scholars. In the Book of Lecan, a tract called Uraceipt nan-Eges (Primer of the Bards) contains material attributed to Celtic Druids named Ambergin and Feir-cirtue who "lived prior to the Roman era." We owe a great debt to these druids and the scholars who preserved their words. The Book of Ballymote contains the most extensive treatment of the Ogam alphabet with a section that clearly defines the numerous styles and variants. George Calder translated the archaic Gaelic into English in 1917 and his Scholars Primer is a good source for ogam identification. Most ogam writings in Europe were destroyed during the "dark ages." Acting on orders to destroy all remnants of Celtic Druidism as "works of the devil," anything identifiable as the work of a Druid was put to the hammer and obliterated or damaged beyond any recognition. This same destruction of the evidence did not take place in the Americas where numerous Celtic Ogam inscriptions exist.
One thing becomes very clear when looking through the numerious variants of scripts displayed in the Book of Ballymote. It is the patterning and organization of the system rather than a use of specific letters. Where our Latin based English alphabet uses a finite letter for each sound, ogam uses a pattern that may consist of dots, lines, bars, staves or a pattern to acomplish the same sound value. It is recognition of the organization of the pattern that makes reading ogam possible. Those who knew the script were later to be called "the Druids."
This dot pattern is a form of Ogam called Briceren. No translation has been made due to the discovery being recent.
Burrell. C. Dawson, F.E.S.
Today Swansea, California has a population of two people. It was different one hundred and twenty years ago. Swansea, then, was a lakeport with 500 people kept busy day and night turning the ore of the Cerro Gordo mines into silver bars worth $17 million. Now, the lake is dry, the smelter in ruins, and the Cerro Gordo worked out.
Going back two thousand years we find still another picture at Swansea. There is a small community of brown skinned people with straight black hair who dressed in animal skins. Their settlement is evidently on a trade route used by blonde Celts from further east. As the Celts had deities by the hundreds, it is not surprising to find a shrine there dedicated to a Celtic deity.
The shrine is a natural double basin of dolomite marble and this ogam consaine inscription containing the Gadelic language is carved on it. Reading down and then from left to right, we transliterate and then translate as follows:
D DM LG F.
With vowels inserted becomes:
Ata deimhe Lugh fi. (Gadelic language)
Our English translation is:
"Is protection Lugh from evil."
Since Gadelic sentences almost always start with verbs and we like to start sentences with nouns, we would say instead, "Lugh is protection from evil."
Notes on The Swansea Ogam by Dr. Barry Fell
From the Archives of the Dawson Library
Additional data by Roderick L. Schmidt
Burrell Dawson corresponded with Dr. Barry Fell over this translation. The discussion concerned the first word(s) of the message. Other matters pressed and Mr. Dawson did not work further on the message beyond the preparation of a rough draft of the paper presented here.
The image of the metate discloses the source of the problem, the identification of the first letter(s). The stylization of the ogam makes it difficult to interpret properly. What Mr. Dawson left off his sketch may make a better case for what he interpreted as a "D". Actually, a very stylized "D" at that. This may better be described as an Ogam symbol and possibly not a "true" letter. Customized letters and symbols representing complex ideas and constructs were often employed in ancient times. Had Mr. Dawson's sketch been better, I don't think Dr. Fell would have found the same problem, nor would his assessment remained the same with regard to the initial word(s). Sadly, their unmatched skills in ogam translation and gadelic language passed away with them.
What I found noteworthy in the communication was the fact that neither man found any problem with the identification of or meanings to the words LUGH or Fi. The read portion of the message is clear enough to recognize it as an inscription regarding the Celtic Deity, Lugh.
What is significant about Mr. Dawson's reading is that he was totally unaware of the image of Lugh (identified by Mr. Roderick Schmidt several years after Mr. Dawson's death) or the huge petromantic message spelling Lugh (also identified after the fact by Mr. Schmidt) that exists on the hillside above the location of the metate. Both of these artifacts lend creedence to the Dawson translation. Mr. Dawson's work is purely epigraphic based upon written words pecked into the stone bowl in pre-historic times.
The meaning of LUGH is discussed at length elsewhere in this paper. The word Fi (or fe), as Mr. Dawson reports as "EVIL" actually may be better interpreted to mean "EVIL ENCHANTMENTS." To the venerators of this deity, he would certainly be considered as a protector in this regard.
It has been demonstrated many times that the ancients ground items to powder for usage in ritual healing and body paint. It has been further noted that their medicinal treatments often included remedies known today to have had positive effects. Their medicine was not as happenstance as one might be led to believe. Lugh, as a healer, was certainly the proper spirit to invoke when preparing any powders. The stone itself, dolomitic marble, may be purchased today in a variety of forms today in any pharmacy.
In Baldwin's 1931 paper, he noted the inscription was "...partly ground away, perhaps by a later people." He also noted the damage done to the artifact by the nearby quarrying operations. Lamentably, no one paid the least bit of attention to his writings and the area suffered much unnecessary loss and destruction.
Baldwin does not say the metate was used for food preparation, but the usage is implied. I think there is sufficient evidence in the inscription to say that the object was used for the ritual manufacture of medicines and powders for medicinal ceremony.
The cause for the discovery and dedication is now understood to be a petromantic message discussed here.
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