Irish Genius
Some Spared Stones of Ireland

irish prehistoric tombs:





stone circles

(rock art)


stone forts, crannógs & souterrains

ogam-stones &

& cross-slabs

enigmas of the irish crosses


& the phallic continuum

satan in the groin


the earth-mother's

east of brittany:
megaliths of western and southern france









Aghascrebagh, county Tyrone

When ogam writing was introduced (probably to Ireland from Wales, though perhaps it was the other way round, or yet again simultaneous) just before Christianity arrived, some long-standing stones were used for inscriptions which were mostly memorials of named people. The word 'ogam' is derived from Oigmiú, the smith-god who became the script-god. Another aspect of the smith-god is Nuadú of the silver arm (and horned helmet) whose statue (formerly in Armagh Cathedral) is a motif of this site.

He is shown holding his prosthesis. His maiming recalls that of Hephaistos, the smith-god of the Greeks.

Ogam, essentially notches, was admirably designed for carving by adze or axe on beams and large chunks of wood as well as by chisel or even axe on stone. The alphabet was designed in four groups of five letters, thus:

(V can also be read as F)

Detail of one of several stones at Dunloe, county Kerry

A typical inscription has the name of the person to be remembered, plus MAQI MUCOI ('son of the people of'), followed by the name of an ancestor or divinity.

click for more

Coláiste Íde, Burnham, county Kerry

Drumlohan, county Waterford
click on the picture to see another Waterford stone

Few are now entirely legible, due to weathering and other damage. The letters on the above stone have been enhanced by charcoal, which (unlike chalk) very quickly washes away.

Ogam-stone formerly in a private garden in Donard, county Wicklow.
Now on the village green, the inscription is almost illegible.

As with standing-stones, an ogam-inscribed stone can be quite small. One, at Aghascrebagh in county Tyrone is only 1.5 metres high,

Lugnagappul, county Kerry

Lugnagappul, county Kerry

while three in the Field of Blood (Parc na Foladh) at Lugnagappul on the Dingle Peninsula, are less than one metre high. As with standing-stones and other prehistoric monuments, white quartzite pebbles are at their base.

Following the uniquely peaceful Christianisation of Ireland, it was not long before Christian crosses appeared on ogam stones. The Dingle Penininsula has dozens of cross-pillars and cross-inscribed ogam stones, of all shapes and sizes.

Ballinvoher, county Kerry

Ballintaggart, county Kerry

Arraglen, county Kerry - with quartzite pebbles

click for larger photo

Maumanorig, county Kerry
click for a larger picture

Cross-inscribed ogam stones are usually associated with Celtic monasteries which, before the Westernisation of the Coptic-inspired Irish church (which was not completed until long after the Normans were invited over), were run by hereditary abbots.

Ratass, county Kerry

Perforated, ogam-inscribed pillarstone,
with crude cross in front of 12th century church, Kilmalkedar, county Kerry

In Killaloe Cathedral (county Clare) there is a bilingual stone bearing a dedication to a Norse warlord in Old Norse runes and ogam,

while at the great monastery of Clonmacnois one of the many gravestones or pillow-stones for deceased monks bears the name Colman in both ogam and modern characters.


Ogam faded out after the arrival of Christianity, and pillar-stones became more elaborately carved with cruciform and cycliform designs. These are discussed on the page entitled
Cross-pillars and Cross-slabs

Kilfountan, county Kerry


back to part one



visit a specialised
which includes a stone bearing identical inscriptions in Ogam and in Viking runes.

top of page