The modern Celtic Tree Calendar was devised by Robert Graves in his book, “The White Goddess”, and is based on his re-interpretation of the Ogham alphabet. It has been widely criticized as a fabrication by many Celtic scholars, as it does not coincide with earlier Celtic calendars. While there is no evidence of ancient Celts or Druids using a calendar that even resembled this one, it’s origins are irrelevant, as it has become a valuable spiritual, liturgical and magical tool for some modern NeoPagans who identify with the ancient Celts. Celtic Reconstructionist Pagans reject it utterly as a complete fabrication with no historic basis. Others embrace it as a tool to enhance their magic, their spirituality and their connection with nature, and to help give structure to their rituals.
A Celtic tree calendar was first presented in the 19th century by Edward Davies, based on research of the Ogygia and the Book of Ballymote, further developed by Robert Graves in his book The White Goddess, and further developed by OBOD founder Ross Nichols. The calendar has 13 months of 28 days and an extra day chosen as the “year and a day” day. It begins with the Winter Solstice, in contrast to the tradition of Samhain as the Celtic New Year. Despite it’s origins, it still provides a beautiful framework for the study of tree lore and the Ogham. It has been embraced by many druids and Celtic pagans worldwide who consider it an inspired work.
There is a fine line between fabrication and inspiration. Fabrication implies an intent to deceive while inspiration is a creative idea imparted by divine influence. Unfamiliar concepts are often unfairly regarded as fabricated or invalid simply because they are new. Inspired works do not always come with footnotes and references to back them up. If we really, truly believe that Witchcraft is a living mystical tradition, then it stands to reason that it’s followers will receive divine inspiration to help them along the path and draw them deeper into it’s ways. This information will not always be of the “previously published” variety. Those who ask “where are you getting this information” and demand to know the book, chapter and page might be disappointed. Here we delve into the murky waters of personal gnosis. Interpreting information received through personal gnosis can be a slippery slope. Because something is true for you does not necessarily make it true for everyone, but there are times when this information is shared with others. The trick is in balancing the new information with what you already feel and believe. Sometimes there are no references to compare the new information with. For example, two of my favorite teachers have published books that contain information they received from communications with plants and spirit guides. Because these are teachers I highly admire and respect, I am inclined to take their experiences as valid ones. It is important to consider the source, and look within to see if it agrees with what you feel in your own heart. If it doesn’t, don’t use it, but at the same time do not immediately disregard it because you’ve “never heard that before”.
While both are believed to be inspired by earlier works, the Celtic Tree Calendar is nearly two decades older than the Wiccan Rede, another inspired work considered sacred to followers of Wicca. In the House of Blackthorn, students may choose the wood for their wands according to the tree that corresponds to their birthday. Some find that they feel a connection to a different tree altogether, and this is acceptable as well.
Below is an image that displays the dates and trees of the Celtic Tree Calendar. Note that Samhain and the Winter Solstice have specific trees associated with them. Which tree is your birthday associated with?