The Forfeda - a brief introduction
The Forfeda is the fifth Aicme of the Ogham System and they were added at a later time
after Greek language came to Ireland. The people using the Ogham needed other symbols for the diphthongs and extra sounds in Greek and so the Forfeda were added.
They are also included in the Ogham Tract.
There is a lot of confusion when we enter the Forfeda, it begins already with how many letters there are for the Forfeda. Most systems have five extra letters, but we also find systems with six, or even up to thirteen extra letters. However for this series, I will focus on the five additional letters.
The confusion continues as there are many different tree associations and different meanings for the letters. In the Ogham Tract it is clear that the medieval experts didn’t agree on a meaning or listing for each tree found in the final set of letters. Robert Graves, on the other hand, did not suggest, even once, that the last five extra letters were trees at all.
Many books don't include the five additional letters, and here I want to quote Erynn Rowan Laurie who writes in her book Ogam- Weaving Word Wisdom :
"Some ogam students find that using the forfeda enriches their experience with the ogam. Many of them would never dream of doing an ogam reading without them. Others find them problematic at best. These additional letters are not found in any of the stone inscriptions, and were only rarely used in the manuscripts. While they were added one at a time at a much later date than the original ogam letters were developed, they were certainly a part of the medieval ogam tradition and are a legitimate part of the system. "
I think she puts that beautifully.
Robert Graves interpreted the Forfeda in his book "The Crane Bag and Other Disputed Subjects“, in a new way. He connects the additional letters to the Crane Bag of the Manannan, God of the Sea.
He writes :
“This crane-bag held every precious thing that Manannan possessed. The shirt of Manannan himself (which is the map of the sea showing lines of longitude and latitude like Eamhancholl), and his knife, and the shoulder strap of Goibniu, the fierce smith, together with his smith’s hook, (the P or hook symbol like Uillend) and the king of Scotland’s shears (the X, like Eabhadh) and the king of Lochlainn’s helmet, (with his face underneath, the four sided diamond like Oir),and the bones of Asil’s swine (the double lined X out to the side of the line like Iphin) A strip of the great whale’s back was also in that shapely crane-bag. When the sea was full, all the treasures were visible in it; when the fierce sea ebbed, the crane bag was empty.“
You can find more information on this at
Today the most commonly used Forfeda are:
Eabhadh - Ea for the Aspen or Poplar; or Koad - Grove that we see in many Oracle decks and was first introduced by Colin and Liz Murray. It represents all sacred places and is described as „all knowledge“.
Erynn Rowan Laurie connects this letter with the Salmon and the word ogham is :
„fair-swimming letter, best swimming letter, and her meanings are: carrier of wisdom vehicle of
inspiration, spiritual nourishment.
Danu Forest suggests the white poplar for this tree, but because we have already the aspen tree in the Ogham, and both trees are interchangeable, I personally choose a different meaning for
Or - Oi for the Spindletree, but we also find associations with the Gooseberry, Ivy, Heather, or thorn trees in general. Erynn Rowan Laurie meanings for this letter are : worth, value, and wealth and she connects it with the word ogham „most venerable substance, most venerable of materials.“
Danu Forest lists this letter also as the spindle tree and interprets it with weaving and the weaver
goddess and fate, and so does John Michael Greer.
Uilleand - Ui for the Honeysuckle or woodbine, but it is also associated with the beech tree or Ivy. Erynn Rowan Laurie lists this few as representing the Elbow, and her meanings are flexibility, change and measurement. On the other hand Liz and Colin Murray said that it represents hidden secrets - the special dance that leads into the labyrinth of inner knowledge.
John Matthews associates it with the word Ogham „woodbine the strong“ representing
Danu Forest suggests that its place in magic is related to community, relationships, and binding
diverse groups together.
Iphin - Io/Ia for the Gooseberry, but also associations with Pine, Honeysuckle, Guelder Rose are possible. Liz and Colin Murray do not ascribe the Gooseberry to Iphin in their Celtic Tree Oracle, but instead the double crossed lines are used for the Honeysuckle, and the beech tree is given the hook, or P symbol.
Danu Forest mentions that gooseberry was considered sacred to the Goddess Brigidh and
goddesses like her who oversee matters of childbirth and women’s cycle.
Erynn Rowan Laurie gives the gooseberry the attribute of „Divine influences“ and „sweetness of
Eamhancholl - Ae for the Witch hazel, the twin of the Hazel, which according to Danu Forest refers to the witch elm as the witch hazel was not indigenous to Europe. Liz und Colin Murray interpreted this letter new and they connect it with Mor - the Sea. This last letter can also stand for Phagos the beech tree, which is often associated with snakes and earth energies due its serpentine root system. It is also associated with learning, knowledge and books.
John Matthews interprets the word Ogham „sign of a weary one“ representing exhaustion. Erynn
Rowan Laurie believes that this letter can also represent illness.
I will share with you now which associations I personally use for the Forfeda, this is by no means the right way, it is just my personal preference and you can of course decide to use different tree associations. These are also the trees that I will focus on, in my later videos, and on my homepage about the Forfeda.
With the first letter Ea, CH, orK, I associate Koad or Grove
The second letter Oi stands for the spindle tree.
The third letter Ui for the Honeysuckle.
The fourth letter Io stands for the Gooseberry
The fifth letter Ph for the beech tree.
Again this is only a very brief introduction and there is so much more to discover in the Celtic myths and legends. The information given, may have already confused you a little bit, it definitely did confuse me.
Over the next weeks, I will focus on my chosen association with each letter of the Forfeda, this introduction was to show you how many possibilities there are, and I only mentioned a few of them.
Koad - Grove
Letter CH / Ea
Color : many shades of green
Lore and Legends
Koad, or the Grove is a more modern interpretation of this Ogham few, it seems that Liz and Colin Murray were the ones that introduced it in their „Celtic Tree Oracle“ for the first time.
The Grove is linked to all sacred places and is described as the „all knowledge“.
Groves were the temples of the druids, it is a gathering of trees with a clearing in the center.
When you pay attention on your next walk through the forest, you will surely be able to find such a grove. It was a place of peace and justice, a place where all knowledge came together.
A sacred grove was specifically consecrated as a temple, a place of both the material world and the spiritual world. It was a place of worship and also a place for magical work, but also for council meetings or matters of justice. In these peaceful places conflicts were addressed everyone involved had a right to speak and state their case which meant that matters were usually settled quickly and reasonably. Koad therefore represents the revelation of hidden knowledge and new deeper understanding.
John Michael Greer says of Koad that it is „a few of central balance and infinite possibility, symbolized by a grove of many trees; the presence of many factors, the possibility of freedom.“
The Grove was sacred to all Deities.
You can use Koad for group magic, or you can use it if you need to widen your perspective and you need help to be able to see all the connections within any happenings in your life.
What I personally find interesting is also the aspect of two opposing forces; the earth and sky and they merge into a unique third one. So just think for a while about how you could use this in your magical work. It can help you to create a sacred space for yourself by bringing down the energy of above and combine it with the energy from below.
You may even want to use the Grove symbol to work with the spirit of the earth itself.
If you get Koad in a reading you are reminded not to concentrate so narrowly on just one or two aspects, but to gather a wide variety of information, technologies and energies to create a whole. Be open to wisdom to achieve harmony. It indicates wisdom gained by seeing past illusions. Grove indicates all knowledge, past, present and future, and in this seeing the divine patterns, where all are linked in unity, and the resolution of conflict. You may be participating in a resolution of conflict. Grove can also suggest that misunderstandings can be ironed out, if all parties will meet, work towards this. Try to hold the energy of judgement, of life aligned to the values that are above reproach. We teach others by example. Koad advises to look at connections between events that you have not seen before. As it is a few that indicates oneness it also reminds you that the decisions you make will ripple out to others. It is possible that things may seem very complex, so make sure not to miss the forest for the trees.
Oir - Spindletree
Letter : Oi
Lore and Legends
The wood of the spindle tree is used to make spindles in weaving, hence its name.
Weaving has a special place in many legends, especially in the northern and Celtic tales, where it is associated with fate, and destiny and weaver goddesses such as the Norns in the Nordic mythology. They wove the fate of the people and cut their threads when their time was up.
The plants latin name Euonymus europaeus is related to Euonyme, the mother of the Furies, the goddesses of vengeance, who fought for law and order and punished criminals. Therefore the spindle is associated with women’s magic and skills. Other than just the connection with fate and destiny, the weaving of cloth is also related to domesticity, and thus security and peace.
The weaver goddess brings safety to women and children, she ensures abundance and creativity.
These gifts are as much due to the goddess’s ferocity as her kindness.
The Norse and Germanic Goddess Frigg is also associated with weaving, as well as the Valkyries.
In German mythology Frau Holle has also a connection to weaving, and in the Celtic world, Brigantia may also have been considered a weaver goddess, overseeing the sovereignty of Britain and its people.
Sandra Kynes writes in her book „Whispers from the Woods“ that Spindle is a symbol of magic in the Norse Pagan tradition. Another name for the constellation Orion was “Freya’s Spindle”.
Spinning was patient work, and if the woman was skilled and dedicated, she could spin and weave enough for her family and to trade with others, bringing her high status in the clan, and therefore also provides surviving.
Through hard work, the spindle transform one thing into another.
When you research the spindle tree for magical uses, not much will come up, so I am not sure about the magical uses of the plant itself. However when I think about it as the Ogham sigil, I would connect this few with any kinds of long-lasting spells.
You could also use it to bring back joy and a sense of pride while fulfilling your obligations.
It may help you to finally complete difficult tasks to the best of your abilities.
It could also be used for spinning and weaving spells that bring people together.
All parts, especially the fruits and seeds, are poisonous.
This herb is not recommended for home use, even though it has some healing properties if taken in the right doses, but other plants are much more suitable.
If you get spindle in reading you are reminded to finish obligations and tasks or your life cannot move forward.
Fulfill your obligations, not for reward but because you must, honor demands it and the greatest happiness will be yours.
It could also indicate a sudden realization that gives you the right and obligation to question authority, however remember to do what's right for those who enjoy the hospitality of your hearth and home.
Develop your consciousness of the right relationship with others in the community and tribe. Oir can also indicate work within the home, know that your work is very important, and you can take pride in your accomplishments. Your skills are needed by your family and maybe even by your community and your abilities have the potential to boost your status.
It could also indicate that you need more patience, know the change is just around the corner but you also must allow things to happen in their own time. Focus first on your duties before you move on with other activities.
It can also indicate a positive change.
Honeysuckle - Uilleand
Letter : Ui
Lore and Legend
We do not find the honeysuckle often mentioned in old myths and folklore.
However it is said that in Scotland, village witches reportedly used woodbine, or honeysuckle, in magical healing rituals, passing the sick patients through a wreath of woodbine nine times, and then cutting it into nine pieces and burning it.
Honeysuckle is also associated with courtship in Scotland, where young men would carry a stick of honeysuckle for good luck in love. It was also said to be good to draw good luck into the home and protect from malicious faeries, on the other hand it is a well beloved plants of the faeries.
Honeysuckle vines are extremely hardy and difficult to kill once established in a garden. This attribute contributes to the honeysuckle’s meaning of devotion and lasting bonds.
Erynn Rowan Laurie associates this few with the elbow and her meanings are flexibility, change, and measurement. Other stories from Celtic folklore suggest that the honeysuckle has a role in sheltering and protecting.
It is said if you grow honeysuckle in your garden, it will protect it from evil. However most varieties of Honeysuckle are mildly toxic. While it’s generally safe to consume the nectar and flowers, do not eat the berries or leaves. Honeysuckle is potentially poisonous to dogs and other pets. Some varieties of Honeysuckle are considered invasive and can threaten wildlife, so do your research before planting.You can use it in sleep sachets to induce dreams of love and passion. It is also said that if you bring the flowers into the house a wedding will follow within a year. You can burn honeysuckle as an incense to attract prosperity and financial blessings. Otherwise it is also mentioned that honeysuckle can help you to clear your mind and strengthen your psychic powers. You can also burn it as an incense to sharpen your intuition. It is also known as the ‘love bind’ - symbolizing a lover’s embrace in its clinging growing habits.
Honeysuckle is especially liked by Faeries, and like the Fae themselves, Honeysuckle thrives in liminal spaces, preferring fences and half-shade.
Honeysuckle is also used for all manner of “sweetening” spells. Its specialties are workings to enhance love and sexuality.
Honeysuckle flowers could also be used in spells designed to determine the true worth of a person or thing.
And here is a spell from Llewellyn Spell a Day:
Gather a few blossoms of the honeysuckle and a few green leaves. Carry them with you or tuck the flowers into a tiny vase and keep it in your home or at your desk at work.
Here is a verse to enchant the flowers.
Woodbine, surround me with your grounding energy,
Protect and guard my psychic sensitivity.
By the sweet scent of the honeysuckle's, blossoms and leaves,
I am shielded from draining tactics and energy thieves.
Allow the flowers to work their magic until they begin to fade. Then neatly return them to nature.
And again please remember that the berries of the honeysuckle are poisonous.
The plant is used to treat sore throats, colds, flue, tonsillitis, bronchitis, pneumonia.
Honeysuckle flower extracts are strongly active against several bacteria causing respiratory problems. But again due its toxicity, other plants would be safer to use.
As a vibrational essence it can help those who feel that their best days are behind them and that there is little to look forward to, and as a consequence they prefer to dwell on past happinesses (or past misfortunes). In a more minor key, homesickness and nostalgia are also Honeysuckle states.
Nostalgia can arise due to loss of youth, health, beauty or the loss of a significant emotional relationship.
The remedy helps us to learn from and recall the past without needing to relive it, so that we can progress into the present and take joy from today and tomorrow and becomes also capable of seeing possible sources of satisfaction in present day to day life.
Honeysuckle is also wonderful for opening the heart centre and making us available to the unconditional love of Divinity.
Honeysuckle is the flower of unspoken desire, hidden needs, secret wants, but it also represents our goals of finding our true Self, so if you get it in a reading you are reminded to allow yourself the freedom to pursue your desire. If you've got hopes or dreams that are unattained, now is your time to start considering whether they remain just dreams, or become reality. Don't deny yourself the chance to enjoy life, as long as you stay true to your values and your beliefs. We best learn with joy instead of denying ourselves the pleasures of life. It may also indicate that mysteries which seem to be hidden may not be as hard to delve into as you think, maybe you are just too distracted to see them and the background noise of your life is hindering you in your quest to find your true self. Now it is time to sort out what is truth. You may need to have a look at the influences of the subtle and seemingly insignificant messages that are surrounding you. Now could be a time where secrets will be revealed. You are able to recognize patterns and things may fall into place. Stay focused on your goals and you can reach your most hidden desires.
Iphin - Gooseberry
Lore and Legends
The Gooseberry is referred to as „the sweetest of woods“.
This is again a plant that is not often found in folklore and Celtic myth, but it has a strong connection with the faeries.
Erynn Rowan Laurie gives it the attributes of „Divine influences“ and also „sweetness of life“.
Pennick connects this plant to the „dance of life“ and to the „mystic Crane Dance performed upon labyrinths throughout Europe, and to the crane-skin medicine bag which ancient shamans used to hold their sacred power objects.“
Gooseberry traditionally has been used in childbirth and for menstrual problems. For this reason, gooseberry was considered sacred to the goddess Brighid and goddesses like her who oversee matters of childbirth and women's cycles such as Arianrhod.
Today we mostly use gooseberry as a food, like in sauces, tarts, and pies.
The gooseberry has uses in all sorts of magical healing charms and spells.
Gooseberry thorns were believed to have the power to rid a person of specific unwanted sorrows. A folk remedy for a wart was to prick it with a gooseberry thorn passed through a gold wedding ring.
It was also an old Irish belief that you could get rid of a sty from your eyelid by pointing nine gooseberry thorns at the sty, chanting „away“ nine times, and tossing a tenth thorn over your shoulder.
The berries are an excellent source of vitamin C and the gooseberry also purifies the blood.
The juice was formerly said to 'cure all inflammations. In the green berries it is sub-acid and is corrective of decomposing foods, such as mackerel or goose. An infusion taken before the monthly period will be found a useful tonic for growing girls. Gooseberry consists of huge variety of minerals and vitamins which is quite useful in the treatment of menstrual cramps
Regular consumption of Gooseberry juice along with honey is quite beneficial for improving eyesight. Gooseberry helps the body absorb calcium in a positive way.
As a vibrational essence it is helpful if you are lacking confidence to engage new opportunities. It transforms fear into engaging in life. Gooseberry helps you stay open and engaged while facing fear. It is also good for relieving psychological stress during menopause. It may be helpful for sense of guilt and incompleteness with the inability to have children or to nurture. It is a great essence for people with low self-esteem.
When you get Iphin in a reading it suggests clarity of vision, and alleviation of guilt.
If it may indicate feelings of guilt know that they need to be put aside now, or it indicates unresolved conflicts that need closure.
When this symbol appears, it may also be a hint that you're not seeing things as clearly as you should be. Put aside emotions and look at things from an intellectual standpoint–in other words, don't let the heart rule over the brain, but use logic at this time.
Know that now is a good time to step out of your comfort zone, this card indicates abundance and success. Don't allow fear to prevent abundance coming your way. If you allow success to enter your life you will be at the point where you have enough to meet your own needs and to share with others.
Phagos - Beech
Colors: Orange Brown
Lore and Legends
Beech has connections to many deities associated with trees, for example Ogma, the Celtic warrior god of the Tuatha De Dannan, who is credited with inventing the Ogham. Beech is also connected with Hermes/Mercury, Odin, or Chronos. We can see clear themes emerging: the beech associated with divination tools, learning, wisdom, and other kinds of messages.
Beech is linked with time, wisdom and knowledge but especially written wisdom, as the Beech was used in thin slices to write upon and form the very first books. This is supported by the fact that beeches were called 'Boc' by the Anglo-Saxons, which later became book. Even today the Swedish word 'Bok' means both book and beech and in German 'Buch' means book and 'Buche' means Beech.
In Britain it is often associated with snakes and earth energies due its serpentine root system. You can find a beautiful example of this in Avebury, where the serpentine roots of beech trees encircle much of the henge or ceremonial ditch. This leads to the beech having Underworld connections.
The medieval Welsh poem „The battle of the Trees“ by the Bard Taliesien, refers to the beech as a tree which „prospers through spells and litanies“, showing its close association with magic and magical lore.
The Celts used the nut of this tree to fodder the sacred swine. In Norse tradition writing tablets from the beech were made for the runes, this was strong magic for working with the Nordic runes.In Westphalia, Germany, in the 18th century, it was believed that babies were picked out of a hollow beech tree (rather than delivered by the stork). It holds on to its dead leaves throughout the winter, dropping them in spring shortly before the new leaves grow.
Beech is said to be excellent for any spells concerning prosperity or plenty and to increase the capacity for learning. Carving the words of a wish into a beech stick will make your wish come true (if it is meant to be.) Bury the sick into the ground to manifest as the wood decays and gets reabsorbed into the Mother Earth. You can use beech when you work with ancestors, old wisdom or if you do magical research. It is said that beech wands are a great conductor for the transfer of energies, but do not hold energies very well, but beech wands will open stronger lines of communication with the deities and spirits based on the high transfer of energies. Carry small pieces of beech bark in your pocket for luck and success. It is also said that if you place a powder of beech wood in your right shoe it will lead you toward your fortune.
Water from the hollow of a beech tree is excellent for spell work, blessing, healing skin complaints, as well as gaining goddess’s beauty.
It is also said that spells and magical work get a boost when done under a beech tree.
Much of the Beech was used for skin disorders; the tar was used in an old remedy for eczema and other skin conditions. A poultice made from the leaves helped to heal scabs, and water collected from the hollows of ancient beeches was thought to heal many skin complaints, and stuff your mattress with beech leaves to speed up the healing process. Bark preparation was used to help reduce fever. Beechnuts have served as food for humans and animals. In aromatherapy, the essence of beech helps to boost confidence and hope. The Flower remedy enhances sympathy tolerance, compassion and gentleness. As a vibrational essence Beech is used against mental rigidity, fault finding, intolerance, arrogance and lack of sympathy.
Beech was described by Dr Bach as the remedy for people who 'feel the need to see more good and beauty in all that surrounds them.
People in a Beech state are intolerant of difference. They lack of compassion and understanding of the circumstances and paths that other people are given, and fail to see that they too are working towards perfection in their own ways.
Sometimes Beech intolerance is manifested as outbursts of irritability: the remedy helps to encourage tolerance and understanding, and as this happens so the irritability also fades.
If you get Phagos in a reading it may indicate the need to revive old memories that will bring about much needed understanding. Do not neglect the past and learn from history as it is rich in experience. Heed the echoes within your mind, respect and listen to the inner voices and you cannot go wrong as they hold the wisdom to make the necessary changes . Do not discount the past as old fashioned and remember that experiences gained come with a price. The beech tree also reminds us of the importance of learning and of the need to preserve our knowledge in writing for the benefit of generations to come. Just as lovers carve their names into the trunk of the beech so their love will grow with the tree, so must we continue to record our wisdom and understanding for future benefit. Rooted in the knowledge of the ancients and sustained by the ideas of the present, we will continue to reach for the stars. Phagos may indicate an opportunity to gain knowledge from the past that may come in form of an old book or the wisdom of somebody with great life experience. Draw upon your own past experiences and be open to guidance from your elders.
Books : Celtic Tree Magic by Danu Forest, Voice of the Trees by Mickie Mueller, Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom by Erynn Rowan Laurie.
Online : www.druidry.org, www.thegoddesstree.com, www.thriveonnews.com, www.livinglibraryblog.com