Ogham of the Week ~ Ngetal (Reed)

Thin and slender is the reed. He stands in clumps at the edge of the river and between his feet hides the swift pike awaiting an unsuspecting minnow to come his way. In his thin-ness the reed resembles arrows that fly, silver tipped, up into the unknown air to land at the very source that one had searched for all these years. firing arrows off into the unknown is an expression of the desire to search out basic truths. If you loose off without direction, the place of landing will be random. If firing off is carried out with the correct conviction, determination and sense of purpose, then the act becomes secondary to the event that comes both before and after the moment.

Ngetal indicates that you are aware of the great outside that surrounds us all. You are capable of finding order where others find only chaos. Your results are as sure as the intentions with which you started. You progress by continually keeping your aim in sight. Reed gives you the capacity to make spiritual weapons, just as the bowman has first to make his bow, then has to make the arrows and tip them with a point. The flights, or feathers, at the base of the arrow give direction and prevent the arrow twisting and changing direction in flight.

In the same way, with Reed, you are able to find direction and to give meaning and purpose to your journey. Once the journey has been embarked upon, then surprise encounters and upsets are only to be expected. The skills to overcome these short-lived troubles are as important and essential as making the journey in the first place. The Reed gives you that all-important skill and direction.

Ngetal does not actually mean ‘reed’ although it has been assigned to it. There is no word in Irish that begins with ng. However, Ngetal may be a corruption of getal, ‘wounding or the act of wounding, or cetal, meaning ‘charm’. The Word Oghams associated with the letter are related to the practice of medicine, so we could assume that a physician’s charm is meant here. The connection between reed and a physician’s chant or charm is very strong.

Reeds were used for thatching roofs and there were professional reed gatherers too, hence their classification as losa fedo ‘bushes of the wood’ based on their economic importance. But reeds are also linked strongly with medicine and healing, especially to administer medicines. The physician would use the reed as a straw to blow powdered herbs onto the back of the throat of a sick person, and it has medicinal uses in its own right.

In the Word Ogham of Morainn mac Moin, reed is descibed as luth legha, ‘a physician’s strength or cry’. The Word Ogham of Mic ind Oic calls it tosach n-echto ‘beginning of murder’ (from the Briatharogam Con Culainn). Each of these meanings points to the role of reed as a physicians tool as well as the practice of making arrow shafts, which probably explains the Word Ogham ‘beginning of murder’.

The Celtic Goddess most associated with the reed is the great goddess Brigid (also known as Bride, Brigantia, Brigadu, Bricta). She is a triple goddess, one of three sisters named Brigid. Her spheres of influence are poetry, smithcraft and healing. Patroness of druids and most especially Bards but also especially associated with healing wells and springs. Brighid’s Crosses are equal armed crosses are traditionally made from reeds.

Keywords: direction of purpose, growth, healing, will, protection
Element ~ air, earth, water
Spellwork & Ritual ~ expanded awareness, journeys to other realms, soul retrieval, harmony rituals, protection for home, balancing energy

Sources:
The Celtic Tree Oracle by Liz & Colin Murray
A Druids Herbal of Sacred Tree Medicine by Ellen Evert Hopman
Whispers from the Woods by Sandra Kynes

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