Upside Down and Backwards

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve stepped up my ogham studies, and I’ve really been enjoying the work.

I’ve had a copy of Steve Blamires’s Celtic Tree Mysteries for quite awhile now, and I picked up a copy of Erynn Rowan Laurie’s Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom last week with some hard-earned Amazon points. I had planned to start studying ogham back in March when my Gaelic class ended, but one thing led to another, and nothing happened.

Now, though, I’m getting into it.

I’ve been working through the Blamires book chapter by chapter, studying my ogham staves as I read about them. I don’t know if you remember, but I have a pretty awesome set of staves, handcrafted by a woman in England out of the appropriate types of wood. They’re beautiful:


But I noticed something odd as I was studying them: Blamires’s descriptions of the trees’ barks did not match with what the staves looked like. I finally started wondering if perhaps the perpendicular line (separate from the rune itself) actually indicated the bottom of the stave. I’d assumed that it was a sort of “underline,” but if I was wrong, well, I had the staves backward and was studying hawthorn for birch and vice versa.

(Confession: Without leaves, I’m not that great with the tree identification.)

So I emailed the woman who made the staves and found out that, yes, I have been upside down and backward the whole time. That’s a year with this set that I’ve spent completely misunderstanding them.

*headdesk headdesk headdesk*

I could call this a metaphor for my spiritual studies, that I spend time doing things that actually accomplish nothing, that I”ve been upside down and backwards with my approach to druidry. I often say I “feel bad” about this or that: I feel bad I don’t do daily devotionals, I feel bad that I’m studying the ogham in depth before finishing the DP, I feel bad I still haven’t finished the DP, I feel bad that I started my grove’s druid moon celebrations but I can’t make the next two, I feel bad that my bridesmaids don’t know they’re attending a druid wedding, I feel bad that I’m perpetually distracted by one tangent or another.

That’s a load of poop, though. I have made tons of progress, leaps and bounds, and the feeling bad is just guilt at not accomplishing as much as I’d like. The thing about guilt is that it’s a completely wasted emotion: you don’t accomplish the thing you feel you should, and you don’t enjoy the thing you’re doing in its place. If I want to change something, I should just change it, and if I don’t want to change it, I should accept my own decision and not waste energy feeling guilty about it.

One of the ogham chapters talks about letting things go, releasing the things and negative emotions that hold us back. I think it’s time for me to let go of “feeling bad.” Yes, I’ve been upside down and backward for a year now, but I also had the wherewithal to seek out an answer to my question and correct the problem. And that’s something to be proud of.