Ogham – Ireland’s ancient writing
Ogham was the first written form of Ancient Irish and is now making a revival as an art form. Here, Irish American Christopher Conway explains his passion for Ogham and why he’s helping to revive it.
When I officially launched my website OghamArt.com on October 25th 2010 I thought I had reached the apex of my decades long journey to make my mark (quite literally) in the world of Irish pride, education and business.
As I write this piece 9 months later, the opening of my site becomes a smaller part of a much greater whole.
Childhood of Irish music, Celtic knots and culture
Born in New York City, the first child of two predominantly Irish-American parents, my Irishness was a celebrated part of my upbringing. The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem were our soundtrack on long rides to Nana’s house.
Small ceramic replicas of Irish cottages, pewter and copper pieces adorned with intricate Celtic knot work and a copy of the painting “The Connemara Girl” adorned my childhood home. Summer weekends seemed to be one Irish music and cultural festival after another.
Pre-Christian Celtic traditions
In 1993, a year after graduating from college, I brought it up a notch by being the first person in my immediate family to travel to Ireland. I went to audit a class through my alma mater Sacred Heart University, which was held at Trinity College, Dublin. The course was on Pre-Christian Celtic traditions. The course offered a glimpse into the mind of the Celts largely through their myths.
There was ample time for independent study and travel over the two weeks. Having made friends with a group who had rented a car, they let me take the lead by paying for the gas and acting as navigator.
We covered 1900 miles in the two weeks and I brought them to a place I had long dreamed of seeing.
Along the way, specifically in the Southwest, I came across these interesting pillar-like stones with rough primitive carvings on them. Nearly 20 years and 10 visits later those stones have become my passion.
In the winter of 2009 my wife Colleen and I were blessed with the birth of our son Desmond. Being a winter baby, trips out with him were limited to trips to the doctor.
I decided to use his extended naps productively and revisited some of my old Irish history books. While browsing my copy of Celtic Tree Mysteries by Steve Blamires, a decade old post-it note with my name written in Ogham in my own hand fell out of the book.
The fire that picking up that small yellow piece of paper ignited has burned strong since that day. Remembering I had a cheap watercolor kit in a closet, I pulled it out and painted my name out in this ancient script.