Hello, I'm John Willmott, the author of the written work and much of the story poems of this Ogma's Tale of The Trees project.
I live in Co. Sligo, Ireland, 5 km from Ballinafad and 10 km from both small towns of Ballymote and Boyle. My background is varied with work and passions connected and learning from tree mythology, tree cultivation, herbalism, megalithics, stone masonry, labyrinths, astrology, music, folk drama, performing and writing, ... oh, and some chefing and catering too :-) .
With this work I am accompanied by Claire Roche, an enchanting singer harpist from Co. Dublin, who has contributed her own compositions in music and song as well as composed wonderful new unique passages in music and words that have developed Ogma's Tale Of The Trees further.
Claire has been an incredible inspiration to the expansion of this work over recent years to become a devoted partner in what the project is today.
Ancient Origins of the project
Ogma's Tale of The Trees is inspired by what may have been the creation of the ancient Ogham alphabet.
I am fascinated how sounds were originally put to symbols. I am fascinated by how this was decided and shared. How did sounds evolve to be linked into words, into sentences, then text, so that one person could understand the meaning of sounds spoken, and later written, by another human?
I have also been a lifelong lover of trees, especially their mythology and inspiration.
A local legend of where I live in Co. Sligo, tells of Ogham being first taught near here by an ancient teacher called Ogma. It is said that when he applied specific sounds to a set of 20 symbols his students were asked to memorize the symbols according to the names of native trees and shrubs.
How I first discovered this mythology
I originally learned Ogma's Tale Of The Trees on the island of Iona. This is a strange place to do so, on an island with a few native hawthorn trees and a dozen or less planted beech trees close to the parish church.
Thinking back, maybe this has a connection to Columcille, a Ghael, landing on Iona and meeting the Picts who's tradition seem to be largely around mythology inspired by trees.
I first learned Ogma's Tale of The Trees as a set of 20 symbols associated with trees and shrubs. I was shown how the key mythology of each of the 20 trees and shrubs represented 20 Keys or rites of living and learning.
On Iona, I also learned about the Four Cilles Of Instruction, which seems to have some relationship to the Four Treasures of the Tuatha De Dannan as well as to the Four Quarters of a Chaldean or Babylonian astrology chart, that is popular charting system with western style astro diviners today.
The Four Cilles I learned related to the Four Seasons of a year cycle and the Four Seasons of our life, so its just like the divination of the Four Quarters of an astrology chart.
The 20 symbols of the Ogham are split into Four Scales, that some diviners call an acime, or acimi in plural. In this project I have decided to call the four scales the Four Seasons.
Each acime, or what I call Season, has Five Symbols, meaning Five Sounds, with each of these sounds relating to a tree or shrub. Five Sounds is also a Pentatonic Scale, and this alone has quite an expanded mythology too.
It is said that language, poetry and music were once all one because the Ogham and other ancient languages were spoken as sound tones so speaking would have been like song, especially by the teachers. The near monotone we speak language today may have come from a lazier slang tone introduced by students.
Ogham as Divination?
Today, a lot of folks use their learning of the 20 Keys of Ogham, or 25 Keys in later Ogham, as a basis of divination.
There are a lot of carved wood sets, dice and divination cards out there to buy and be used to explore Ogham as a form of divination.
Origin of my Ogma's Tale Of The Trees stories
Over the years, at least 40 of them since learning the Keys of Ogma's Tale Of The Trees on Iona, I have expanded the 20 Keys of the Trees of Ogham into a series of small stories or poems, often improvised when asked.
Today these 20 small stories have expanded into 20 longer story poems that sometimes include songs, tunes and even dances and drama. Together I use them to express my an interpretation of our cycle of living.
Each story poem, I share today, is a collage of my own autobiographical memories combined with mythology that has inspired me. I also include some lines of classic poets that I enjoy and seem fitting.
Into all this is an integration of tunes, words and songs by Claire Roche and her harps, that are of her life experiences and expression that are also woven into the themes of these 20 story poems.
Ogma's Tale Of The Trees, therefore, is a personal expression of the 20 Keys of the woodland mythology that became the inspiration for creating the Ogham alphabet.
These are told and shared as Our Four Seasons. In a theatre this would probably be known as Four Acts,
- Our First Season - our Spring ... growth, our new shoots, discovering ourselves
- Our Second Season - our Summer ... blossoming, connecting
- Our Third Season - our Autumn ... our harvest, our unity
- Our Fourth Season - our Winter ... sharing, our divine service
Together they are expressed to interpret living as a cycle rather than beginning to end. Also expressed is the concept that questions are not for answering but for living within so that living is a constant exploration of wonder.
Is this Truth or Fiction?
Folks often ask me about the history and facts behind some of the things I present in this work. Though a lot of personal experiences are weaved into this, my Ogma's Tale Of The Trees is a work of fiction. However, I also believe that this fiction is also full of truths that may be hard to find in a non fictions scholarly book.
I hope you enjoy exploring and find you are both entertained and inspired by Ogma's Tale of The Trees.