Irish Grid Reference: V 4645 9966. On the top of Ballintaggart Hill, just to the southeast of the village of Ballintaggart (Baile an tSagairt) and 1½ miles southeast of Dingle, in County Kerry, Southern Ireland, there is a circular enclosure which was probably an ancient burial ground from the early Christian period; within this enclosure there are nine sandstone grave-markers – cigar-shaped recumbent stones in a circular pattern arrangement – the ninth stone laying in the middle, and all having incised carvings on them; these carvings either being Ogham-script notches or curious thin crosses, some having both. Some of the stones have Ogham inscriptions recalling the devotees of the pagan goddess, Dovinia (Duibhne) of the Corcu Duibne tribe of the Corcaguiny Peninsula. Three of the smooth recumbent stones have thin crosses carved on them. These carvings could well date back to the 5th Century AD. The site is also known as ‘Ballintaggart Nine Stones’. To reach the site: head W for ½ a mile or so along the lane from Doon-shean, then on the right-hand side, look out for the footpath up to the hill, just before the lane turns N to the racecourse and then Dingle town.
The circular enclosure on Ballintaggart Hill, which is a low hillock or knoll, measures around 30m (98 ft) in diameter and approx. 17m W-E – 92° degs X 17m S-N – 1° deg. There is a raised bank around the edge of the enclosure and a shallow ditch. Three of the stones have thin incised crosses and most have Ogham inscriptions. One stone recalls AKEVRITTI another to TRIAM MAQA MAILAGNI or ‘the three sons of Malagnos’, while on its reverse side CURCITTA. And on this stone a triple-ended incised cross. Another stone in memory of INISSIONAS, while another recalls CUNUMACCQQI AVI CORBRI or ‘Conmac grandson of Coirpre’. Another recalls NETTA LAMINACCA KOI MAQQI MUCOI DOVINIAS or ‘the nephew of Laminacca, son of the people of Dovinia’. Dovinia, Dobhinia, or Duibne, being the pagan goddess of the tribe Corcu Duibne of the Corcaguiny Peninsula. This stone also has a cross with expaned ends. Another stone has a similar inscription in memory of MAQQI IARI KOI MAQQI MUCCOI DOVVINIAS recalling the same goddess. There is also a stone recalling someone called SAVL or SAUL, grandson of DOCHAR. Two other stones in memory of: SUVALLOS MAQI DUCOURROS and MAQI DECCEOA MAQI GLASICONAS. The burial ground was apparently the site of a church but nothing remains of that now.
James Mackillop (1998) tells us that Ogham is: “The earliest form of writing in Irish in which the Latin alphabet is adapted to a series of twenty ‘letters’ of straight lines and notches carved on the edge of a piece of stone or wood. Letters are divided into four categories of five sounds. A twenty- first symbol, an upturned arrow, was used for the letter p in British inscriptions. Notches and grooves appear on one or both sides of a foundation line (druim). Designations for the letters q, v, and z, which are not used in Irish, support the now widely accepted interpretation of ogham as an expression of Irish through the Latin alphabet. The current view displaces many colourful speculations on ogham’s origin: runic alphabet of Scandinavia, Chalcidic Greek, northern Etruscan, etc.
“Ogham inscriptions date primarily from the 4th to 8th centuries and are found mainly on standing stones; evidence for inscriptions in wood exists, but examples do not survive. The greatest concentration of surviving ogham inscriptions is in southern Ireland; a 1945 survey found 121 in Kerry and 81 in Co. Cork, while others are scattered throughout Ireland, Great Britain, and the Isle of Man, with five in Cornwall, about thirty in Scotland, mainly in ‘Pictish’ areas, and more than forty in Wales. In Wales, ogham inscriptions have both Irish and Brythonic-Latin adjacent inscriptions.
“Most ogham inscriptions are very short, usually consisting of a name and a patronymic in the genitive case. They are of linguistic rather than literary interest, because they show an older state of the Irish language than found in any other written sources. Many appear to be memorials to the dead, while others mark the border between two lands. Although the knowledge of ogham was never lost in scholars (at least one 19th-cent. grave-marker uses it), the notion that ogham was employed for occult or magical purposes dogs critical commentary. As late as the 1930s the eminent archaeologist R. A. S. Macalister proposed that ogham was part of the secret language of ‘druidic freemasonry’. Sean O’ Boyle suggested (1980) that the key to explaining ogham is harp notation. The god of rhetoric and eloquence, Ogma, is an attributed creator; his name and the word appear to be philologically related”.
Before setting out to visit Ballintaggart Ogham Stones, please check websites to see whether it is open or closed to the public in these times of Covid-19, and also check National rules.
Sources / References & Related Websites:-
Mackillop, James, Dictionary Of Celtic Mythology, Oxford University Press, 1998.
Matthews, John & Caitlin, The Aquarian Guide To British And Irish Mythology, The Aquarian Press, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, 1988.
Image Ogham Stone by R.R.Brash (1879): https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CIIC_156_(Richard_Brash,_1879).png
Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.