The Ogham Script of Medb hErenn
Heroic & Dark Fantasy and Science Fiction Character created by Kevin L. O'Brien
n the Medb hErenn universe, the only other work, besides cenotaphs and wooden message boards, that used the Ogham script, was an Leabhar Mhéibhe, the grimoire Medb wrote in the final century of her rule in Ireland. In fact, she is credited with inventing the script. She based it on the pictogram script used by the Fomóraigh, but she linked it to the spoken sounds common to the languages of the Fomóraigh, the Heidhbernigh, the Fir Bholg, and the Tuatha Dé Danann. As such, her version of the script is not a true alphabet like modern Gaeilge, or a syllabary like Chinese, but a system of phonetic glyphs much like Egyptian hieroglyphics, where each symbol stands for a particular sound. Below is a chart showing the sounds of Irish with their script symbols. The only sound not shown is the 'y' glide associated with the slender pronunciation of certain consonants (see the pronunciation guide).
Note that while this is based on the Ogham script, it is not itself the actual real script. Also note that the sounds used are those of modern Gaeilge, but in the Medb hErenn universe, prehistoric Irish uses the same sounds. Finally, note that some of these symbols are based on a horizontal line, while others are based on a vertical line. For the real script, this was so an inscription could be written either horizontally or vertically.
There are no surviving copies of the original an Leabhar Mhéibhe written by Medb, but a seventh century monk named Cedbin Chromcruaigh, who transliterated Medb's work using Irish majuscule and minuscule and redacted it into its modern form, described his analysis of the work in his journal. Based on this we can say that Medb would map out a grid on a page, and place whatever symbol she needed on a grid line at an intersection point, thereby mixing up horizontal and vertical line symbols in the same sentence. Though she wrote in the standard Western mode (from the left side of the page to the right; from the top of the page to the bottom; from the front of the book to the back), she used no punctuation, no spacing, and no capitals. This has led some scholars, including Caoimhín Ó Briain of Garthyme University, to speculate that the purpose of the tome was not to be read silently, like a modern reference book, but to be read aloud. Cedbin also pointed out that the arrangement of the symbols suggested they were to be treated like lyrics in a song, but the copy he had had no musical notes or any other indication of what the score was, so when he "translated" it into an alphabetic script, he rewrote it in prose form, adding punctuation, spaces, and capitals.
Back to The Ireland of Medb hErenn.