On Wednesdays, I’ll be exploring one of the original 20 Ogham letters and the trees associated with them. If you want to catch up on last week’s, follow the “Ogham” tag at the bottom of this post, or see the link HERE.
As always, I’ll be using my wonderful set of Ogham fews made from the correct corresponding wood by Green Woman Crafts, and two books: The Druidry Handbook by John Michael Greer, and the Collins Tree Guide by Owen Johnson and David More, as well as the Woodland Trust website.
This week, let’s look at the fifth letter in the second aicme, the tenth letter overall:
Ceirt (or Quert), pronounced “Kweirt”, which corresponds to the sound “kw” or in modern usage the letter Q.
“A few of delight, celebration and choice” (Greer)
While Ceirt has been compared with the Runic letter Peorð, associated with the Pear tree, most Druidic Ogham correspondences places Ceirt with Apple.
There are over 7,500 varieties of apple, Malus x domestica, or in the wild Malus pumila, with specific cultivars grown for eating, cooking and cider. The trees are small, and tend to be under 10m high. Leaves are dark green and typically oval in shape with serrated edges. Apple trees are known for their beautiful blossom, which tends to be white or light pink, and blooms in May-June. The fruit, of course is instantly recognisable!
Apples are not only an important food source for us humans, but also for wildlife. Birds and mammals such as badgers feed on fallen fruits, and bullfinches are often seen eating the buds. The blackbird, known in Druidry as Druid Dubh, enjoys bushier apple trees as a nesting site.
As you may expect, apples feature prominently in the mythology of several cultures. In Norse legends, the goddess Idunn provides apples of youth to the Aesir to keep them young and strong forever, and in Germanic Pagan burials, apples have been found among the grave goods, perhaps to ensure health in the next world, or as the “apples of Hel” referred to in an 11th century poem.
In Greek myth, Herakles was tasked to pick the golden apples from the Tree of Life that grew in the garden of the Hesperides; and in another tale Eris, goddess of discord, caused chaos by throwing an apple inscribed “for the most beautiful one” into a crowd at the wedding of Peleus. The apple was claimed by Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, and Paris of Troy was chosen to select which of the three goddesses was in fact the most beautiful and so deserving of the apple. The ensuing strife was, it is said, the ultimate cause of the Trojan War.
In Christian mythology, of course, the apple is the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge in the book of Genesis, which the serpent persuades Eve to eat.
The eating of apples, far from being a sin, has clear health benefits, as the fruit is rich in nutrients and phytochemicals, which preliminary research suggests may be preventative against the development of certain cancers. As the 19th century saying suggests, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”.
I have been lucky enough to live near orchards all my life, and some of my fondest early memories are of scrumping granny smith apples from a local farm. As an adult, cider is one of my favourite drinks on a hot summer’s day, and a fresh apple still my favourite fruit. Apple is also the wood from which my “Witch’s Runes” were made, which I use regularly in divination (more on that in another post).
In divination, Ceirt can signify happiness, healing and recovery, awakenings and new experiences, an unexpected gift, the rewards of success, an opportunity to live more fully.