The Ogham


I’m a sentimental girl, an incurable romantic prone to fits of nostalgia. Because of this, I have booked four trips to Ireland looking for…I don’t know. Lost love? A little white cottage with a thatched roof in which I can dream and write? The perfect travel photograph? An actual leprechaun or a metaphorical pot of gold?

I’m the girl who wanders the beaches of the Wild Atlantic Way, collecting shells and rocks. (Choose any jacket from my closet, and you’ll find grains of sand in the pockets.) I’ll pull over every hundred yards or so in County Kerry to capture a memorable vista with my camera. Live music in pubs makes me cry because every song sung in Ireland emanates from the soul of the earth and possesses me. I can’t explain it; it’s something you have to feel.

You know what isn’t romantic to me? Souvenir shops. Mass-produced trinkets or clothing in one of Ireland’s 40 shades of green. If I have to buy it, or it came from some factory in China, I don’t want it.  In fact, I don’t even budget for souvenirs. So, it was a big deal that I bought two of them this past October.

One was not my fault. I’d fallen under the enchantment of a Spanish busker crooning out the most beautiful rendition of Hallelujah in the middle of Grafton Street, and, wiping tears from my eyes, turned over my last ten Euro to buy his CD. Now that I’m home, though, and the thrall has lifted, the CD makes me laugh because his Spanish accent reminds me of Antonio Banderas singing Livin’ La Vida Loca as Puss in Boots and nothing at all of that night in Dublin.

Druid Guy
Photo Credit: My Sister, Carole (I was too busy photographing his hands)

My second souvenir was a pewter pendant with my name stamped out in ancient Ogham script. Yes, it’s totally touristy. Locals don’t do this, but there was this guy sitting in front of Poulnabrone Dolmen in County Clare, and he had this Druid air about him, a table full of tools, and a good story about how he was an artist and got robbed while sleeping on the streets of Galway this one time… Pull at my heartstrings! Good-bye 20 Euro.


Ogham gets it’s name from Ogma, the Celtic God of Eloquence and Literature, and it was a form of writing used in Ireland between the 4th and 7th centuries.


Ogham, thought to have magical overtones, was common among the Druids. How could I resist buying a pendant with a magical language on it?

I suppose the real story is, though, that I have a soft spot for artists who are simply trying to eke out an existence. I picture them back at their meager apartments or the couches on which they surf in the homes of friends or tired relatives who wish they’d pick a real career, and I feel sorry for them. So I buy their wares and hope they can continue to create and find happiness.

Like I said, incurable romantic.

12 thoughts on “The Ogham

  1. Interesting post, Jolene. I can totally understand your obsession with Ireland, as I have similar feelings towards Denmark. Do you have Irish roots? The souvenirs: I think they are useful for evoking memories, and supporting local artists, if they are handmade. I actually like to source some souvenirs from thrift shops as opposed to tourist stores, if I buy any at all. I adore your photos of the artist’s hands, they are very poignant.

    1. Thanks, Amanda! I always feel like my photos are souvenirs, although I see the value in having an object connecting you to a place, and that pendant certainly takes me right back to County Clare, Ireland. 🙂 I actually don’t have Irish blood. I have Norwegian heritage, and would love to travel there sometime, but there’s just something about Ireland…

  2. I love your thoughts on our lovely little slice of earth. It really is a great place to live (politics aside 🙂 ) and it sometimes takes the observations of someone who is not here everyday to remind us of how lucky we are. Also, on the Ogham jewellery .. even the locals do have some. Maybe we don’t buy it from the lad at the dolmen but we do love it just as much as you did. We have a rich heritage and we are (no matter how far removed we may become) all universally proud of it, even when its gets us in a bit of trouble.

    1. I’m constantly envious of people who get to live in Ireland full time. 🙂 Thank you for your insights on the jewelry. I hadn’t seen anyone local wear anything like it, and, well, it just seemed touristy so I made an assumption. But, I’m glad that you love it as it seems to be such an interesting part of your history.

  3. I am glad you have a little treasure to act as a physical reminder of your trip. I try to always pick up some sort of souvenir of any trip I make because it is a tactile memory prompt. Opting for something hand-crafted makes it even more special because it is then as unique as your travel experience. I actually found that a lot of the art I sold was bought by tourists who wanted a memento of their trip. Even though my work was not “local” in that I am not a landscape artist and I don’t depict local scenes, they still had that unique reminder to get them thinking “Remember that place where…”

    1. There is definitely something about having some tactile evidence of a place. I was cleaning out a closet today and found several things that reminded me of past trips, which of course delayed my cleaning because I was busy reminiscing. 🙂

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