The Three Bears

I receive messages from the Gods but I don’t think I’m particularly special in this; the Gods Who wish to talk to people do so to many people frequently. I have a natural affinity for hearing Gods which is like being able to sing or draw— something anyone can do a little, some people have a talent for, and anyone who wishes to improves with practice. The hard part is being able to interpret the God-sendings into coherent, action-oriented directives and using divinatory tools is one of the ways I use to make sense of the sendings. As well, divination allows me to ask specific questions and get directed answers. Since I am Diaspora Irish I use a traditional Irish divination tool, the Ogham.

DuirI spent some years doing professional divination with a set of Ogham cards that I had developed. I developed the design on the cards, that is, not the tree significator nor the traditional kennings although I did a little substitution for North American plants instead of a few British Isles ones that don’t grow here at all.
So there I was at a ‘Psychic’ show, doing readings with ‘Ancient Irish Tree Cards’ (in all the hundreds of readings I did professionally over the years only one person actually knew what ‘Ogham’ was) and the activities director of a local retirement home came by and asked me if I would come and do a little talk about Irishness at the home on Saint Patrick’s Day. I’m open to talking, but on the day of the presentation I drove up to the home and thought, ‘Whew!! This is a pretty upscale nursing home– I’m not sure I feel comfortable with this….’
Soldiering on (in solidarity) I was escorted into the library and given an easel

(I started with a recitation of an adaption of ‘Saint Patrick’s Breastplate’:

Here in this fateful hour,
I place all Heaven with its power,
And the sun with its brightness,
And the snow with its whiteness,
And the fire with all the strength it hath,
And the lightning with its rapid wrath,
And the wind with its swiftness along its path,
And the sea with its deepness,
And the rocks with their steepness,
And the Earth with its starkness
All these I place
By the Gods’ almighty help and grace
Between myself and the powers of darkness.

with large-sized copies of appropriate cards for each invocation).

After that I was talking about the imagery in the various pictures and told the story of why the wren is the king of birds.

One old geezer who had clearly spent a long long lifetime of never being opposed in anything nor ever spending a moment of his time in doubt of his essential self-worth decided that now was the ideal instant for him to step up to his favourite pastime of pestering:

“This is just MAKE-BELIEVE!” he said querulously.

“These are legends, yes” I responded, “But they explicate essential truths in a fantastical format.”

“Faugh!” he said, “Fairy tales!”

Bear childThen I lost my Socialist temper (as the sparks fly upward) and countered,

“Look at the back-story of ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’, for example:
Goldilocks thinks of herself as a cut above the disadvantaged people living in a little cottage in the forest.


‘They are not like me’ she says, ‘They do not feel things the same way— they are just bears.’


So she feels quite comfortable eating their porridge, breaking their chairs, and using their beds. When the ‘bears’ come home and find her asleep, what is the essential truth, the moral of the story, that is the teaching lesson here?”

The Querulous Geezer was thrown off balance by the indirection and not having me straightforwardly complain that he is causing trouble or being impolite and has no answer nor does any other of the audience…

“If you take all that they have from the poor they will rise up against you and eat you.

And then one of the Nize Little Old Ladies changed the subject.

When I told the story at dinner that night, my son laughed and said,

So you’re not invited back for next year?”

It has become common usage in my family to identify what might on today’s Internet elicit ‘check your privilege’ as ‘they think we’re just bears’. It is the first move in the action that the Capitalists-in-Power use to disempower and enslave— the creation of Otherness.

On the one hand, Otherness is a completely fallacious concept— in the broad overview we are barely different from chimpanzees; the tiny differences of pigmentation, of religious belief, of sexuality are vanishingly small against the universal human need for inclusion and the push of curiosity.

On the other hand, what individual people signify as important to themselves is so wildly variable as to preclude assumptions altogether. Everyone is slightly Other— having different likes and dislikes, believing different things sacred, valuing different behaviours.

On the gripping hand all of our prejudices, our cultural mores, our languages, and the mind-set each language creates, are learned and can be re-learned at need when we are exposed to some other culture or decide that the biases of our ancestors or starting culture no longer applies. What always applies is the First Law:

Don’t be a Douche’.

No one is so Other as to justify being treated as less than ourselves.


Judith O’Grady

judithJudith is an elderly Druid (Elders are trees, neh?) living on a tiny urban farm in Ottawa, Canada. She speaks respectfully to the Spirits, shares her home and environs with insects and animals, and fervently preaches un-grassing yards and repurposing trash (aka ‘found-object art’).

Her piece, “Call To The Cold Gods” appears in A Beautiful Resistance–Everything We Already Are.

8 thoughts on “The Three Bears

  1. The sentiment is lovely but I didn’t really get past using Ogham for divination. it’s an interesting idea. I’d love to know how it works.

    You probably know this already but the center line on which the Ogham is written represents a corner. Most of it survives on stone now but it was probably more regular to use a piece of wood. If you wanted to pass a message, you could square off handy twig or branch and cut your message into it. This could be used to convey quite a complex message, in much the same way knotted string was used in south America and probably for the same reason, the northern european climate is so damp that paper type materials don’t survive well.

    What would you think about cutting the letters into the appropriate wood and casting them for divination?


    1. Hey Quinn,

      If you were to use only the major arcana in a tarot deck, you’d have a similar system to Ogahm-card divination. Two decks I’d reccomend are The Green Man Tree Oracle by John Matthews and Will Worthington (both “official” Druids), and the Celtic Tree Oracle by Liz & Colin Murray and Vanessa Card. You’ve got roughly as many cards as are in the major arcana; each tree is associated with a certain archetype… as I’m sure you know, each Ogahm inscription was more than just a literal symbol for a specific tree, but it also conveyed the esoteric/intuitive lore and significance associated with each individual type of tree (e.g. Oak = protection and strength, Birch = beginnings, rebirth; Willow = lunar/feminine energies, night vision; etc.), and it was in this poetic language that information would be passed between Druid initiates, they even had a sign language for it, but yes, mostly it was communicated by carvings. So by putting a picture of each tree on different cards, you interpret the meaning based on the archetype. Like Greenwisewoman, I too suffer from a serious numerical deficiency, and since I think in pictures, the Tree Cards make far more intuitive sense to me than more traditional forms of geomancy.


  2. It’s hard for me to be concise at the best of times and I have written an entire small book about Ogham. But I’ll try to be brief.
    Briefly, yes. One could carve ogham symbols into sticks (fews) and use them as a divination device as well as an alphabet.
    But I am profoundly disnumeric (can’t remember the times tables, add and subtract on my fingers, have difficulty with analog clocks, trouble with right and left…..) and my number perception is only three. This means that I see the symbol for Nuin, Ceirt, and Ioho as ‘a group of three and a group of two’ rather then ‘5’ and that inhibits the gestalt.
    And in my practice, gestalt is what I’m doing. I don’t extract the message from the symbology, the kennings (I use kennings because many people including myself know what it means rather than the perfectly good word for that in Irish which I don’t know), and the variety of associations, but instead from holding the gestalt meaning in my mind and seeing what aspect of it the Gods indicate.
    So I use pictures, as well as the alphabetical value and the various Oghams (but not the Ogham of Pigs, I’m not that familiar with pigs) but what I’m doing is briefly tracing and listening.


  3. “On the one hand, Otherness is a completely fallacious concept— in the broad overview we are barely different from chimpanzees; the tiny differences of pigmentation, of religious belief, of sexuality are vanishingly small against the universal human need for inclusion and the push of curiosity.”

    Powerfully stated!

    Now I want to hug Kingdom Animalia and the rest of the fam, as well as you and all the “just bears”. ❤ (And even the poor disenchanted cantakerous Goldilocks.)


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