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Ollamh, Ailim, Hallam, Holme, Elmet
Posted by: Thomas Ross Holme Date: July 29, 2001 at 09:52:14
  of 699

I do not claim the information in this post is the be-all and end-all of everything to be said on the subject. I make regular changes in these concepts when I learn something new. Occasionally I have to delete information that I no longer consider correct. I suppose we are all like that. It seems unnecessary to me to wait until I feel the information here is entirely perfect and unchangeable before posting. Moreover, many or most of the ideas you will find here are new, my own perceptions of our genealogical history. Call them theories if you will. I feel pretty sure about them.


       The early Christians in Britain did their best to eradicate their druid predecessors. Ancient sources clearly say that the druids of Britain possessed great libraries. Whether they were written on parchment or wood is not clearly known, nor whether they were written in ogham, or in a script more like Celtiberian or Greek. Whatever they were, they were thoroughly destroyed. Christian sources clearly tell of the burning and destruction. In the same way the druids themselves were deleted as much as possible from records. We are fortunate indeed that anything at all survived.
       We know that there were seven levels of druids. The lowest level were the Fochlach, next came the MacFuirmidh, then the Dos, the Cana, the Cli, the Anrath, and highest of all were the Ollamh. The Ollamh were the highborn druids, initially sons and daughters of royal families.
       The functions of these druids were many fold. Caesar met with them in Gaul and wrote that they studied for 20 years in Britain. The surviving old Irish texts tell us they were proud of their poetic wit. If you were in their favor they would reward you with soothing verse of praise. But if you got on their bad side they were the most caustic satirists the world had ever known and they would not be considered masters of their trade unless they were able to utterly destroy a person with the verses they would compose. For this reason they were allowed to come and stay in any home as long as they wanted. No one ever dared to ask them to leave. We may believe that all these excellent stories only speak of the more irritating druid priests who well earned such tales. Still, it may be accounted certain that they demanded respect and brooked nothing less.
They had important functions, missions. From the earliest times there would always need to be a need for wise men to meet foreign emissaries. The druids were the ones who knew foreign languages, who had understanding of other cultures, who knew the history of all past meetings with these people. If it was Carthaginians who wanted to trade for tin mined in Cornwall, the Ollamh would be the ones who would negotiate the boundaries and the treaties. If a priest of the Carthaginians wanted to perform a ceremony commemorating an agreement between peoples, the Ollamh of Britain would be there to insure their interests and to learn whatever they could about the Carthaginian’s religion. If Hannibal wanted to gather British Celts to march with him and his elephants over the Alps to fight Roman armies, it is with the Ollamh of Britain that he would have to speak. In the same way whenever the Norse or the Danes sailed through the Hebrides it would be the duty of the Ollamh to know who they were and what they were about. The fires of their encampments would witness a great sharing of sagas between the holy men of the two cultures, each trying to outdo the other in the poetry. If Greeks wanted to establish a Colony in Iberia the Ollamh would want to meet them and know them.
The Ollamh were ancient even in the time of the Tuatha de Dannan. Their religion was brought from Anatolia to the British Isles with the Danubian people who followed the herds back and forth along the Danube basin for oh untold thousands of years. These Danubians brought their language, the syllables of which may be traced back to the preSumerian cognates. They brought their megalithic buildings and rock carvings, from the culture of Catal Huyuk, they brought their carved runes found in the stone circles and ancient stone habitations of the British Islands, identical to those of the goddess culture of central Anatolia. These priests carried that ancient culture with them.
The greenstone axe was sacred in Anatolia, the sign of a priest. They searched for the stone in the British Isles and found it Lancashire and mined it and carved ceremonial axes with it and took them with them along the ancient druidic pathways—From Anglesey they sailed the short distance to the Boyne Valley. Megalithic ruins on both sides date to around 3000 BC. They carried their greenstone axes to the forests east of the ancient sacred hotsprings of Bath and built Stonehenge.
These were people who knew ships. They needed ships to go the places they needed to go, Ireland, Britain, Gaul. Megalitic ruins and spirals and sunsigns are found in all these places. These wandering people were guided by their priests who knew the geography and history of lands and peoples. The priests were not mere poets of genealogies and flattering praise to kings. They were scientists who studied the flight of birds and the weather and the stars in the sky. For if they could forecast the weather they could sail where they were going and if they could navigate the stars they could go anywhere. They also designed the ships themselves, and the sails for it was they who best knew the strengths of the various woods, and the plants which could strengthen the fabrics of the sails. They needed durable weapons that held an edge. The Ollamh were scientists who searched for the perfect combination of copper and tin. Eventually they learned that a mixture of 12% tin was excellent for their purposes. But it was the discovery of adding a small amount of lead to the mixture that made for the finest weapons quality bronze. This secret was well guarded among the druids.
It is probable that the Ollamh of Britain never ceased their contact with Danubian peoples from which they sprang. The Hungarian Priests wrote on wooden sticks much as the druids of Britain. Bronze was important to everyone. An ancient copper mine on the Island of Ross in Ireland was going strong as early as 3000 BC. Tin was was rare in the world. Britain had an ample supply of tin in Cornwall. The Danubian culture would appreciate trade with Britain, would need it. Lead was also important for the great strength it gave to bronze. Britain’s Ollamh following the Trent river from the Umber discovered the lead deposits in the southern Peninne hills and made use of it.
The ancient Magyar word for lead is “olom” and it is related to “on” which means tin. I believe the first cognate for Ollamh is olom, meaning lead. The Priest scientist/metallurgists who created weapons grade bronze would have been magical wise men to their people. There is a dark side. Lead poisoning would claim the lives of the lead workers, and do great harm to their children. This too would be considered a part of the magic. The business of the priests was to destroy the peoples who beset them, to destroy their generations entirely. Such were their prayers at the great fires atop the hills where their chants merged with the flames to touch the stars -- to destroy the generations of their enemy.
There are other cognates in the ancient Danubian Magyar language: “hal” means to die. “ol” means to kill. “halom” means a mound or pile. “hollo” means raven. The ravens were sacred birds...
And in the ancient sylables of Sumer, descendant of Catal Huyuk and the Danubian language, we find “hal-am” means “destroyer of generations”. For that is what a priest was supposed to do to preserve his people, destroy their enemy entirely. And the effects of working with metals like lead could not have gone unregarded.
According to Marija Gimbutas The Kurgan peoples were the great adversaries of the Danubians. The Kurgan horsemen were mighty warriers, but they were not the same religion as the Danubians. The Kurgans were patriarchal, bloodthirsty. The Danubians were matristic, and probably basically humane. Yet as antiquity rolled onward the two cultures intermingled in places and came together in battles large and small.
Hilltops were a safe place for a people, more easily defended. A hilltop surrounded by marshland, or even a small hilltop island just off the shore would be even better. These were their preferred places. The fire on the top of the hills served many purposes, baking and cooking, metal working, cremation… The hilltop fires were also a beacon. The beacon fires atop small islands served a very druidic purpose, for fog often caused druid ships to founder. An island hilltop fire would keep them safe. The druid ships sailed these rivers and seas for thousands of years. Beacon fires were sacred Ollamh fires tended by druid priests.
The priest of the greenstone axe and sacred hilltop fire were one solid idea for thousands of years. Weapons were consecrated there. Prayers spoken there. Many babies died at birth. Human life was sacred as indicated by sacred burials. But wolves dug up bodies. So the sacred body was often thrown upon the hilltop fire, given back to the Goddess. Better than the wolves getting it. Royal personages were ferried across the water to islands to be buried for the same reasons. And always the Ollamh poet-priests presided for this was an important part of their duties to their people. Some islands in particular became well known for their cemeteries, for instance Iona and Lismore. But all islands were burial grounds because of the wolves. The Ollamh traveled the width and breadth of their land serving the needs the dead.
The Island of Britain is situated between the mainland and Eire which must have created a considerable obstacle to Druids. The Fogbound coasts and sudden storms could make for a perilous journey should they choose to sail around Britain to the north or south. Druid ships coming from Gaul or the Rhine and bound for Eire would choose to either sail up the Humber and follow the rivers west and cross the Pennines and come out on the west side perhaps in the vicinity of Morecam Bay. Priests bound for the Boyne valley would then take ship again and perhaps stop at the Isle of Man directly in their path. Or they would follow the west coast south to the megalithic palaces and temples of Anglesey and take ship from there to the Boyne. This route would pass them right by the sacred mines of the green schist in Lancashire. They could load up.
The Magyar word Olom meaning the ore lead also came to refer to another sacred silver thing: the silver fir tree which came to be pronounced as Ailim by the people of Britain and Ireland. The elm tree was sacred to all peoples and even far more important to them than the lead ore which made bronze weapons so strong. For the Elm tree was a food source when all else failed. The inner bark made porridge as full of sustenance as oatmeal. And elm trees were everywhere. No matter what misfortune befell them there would be no starvation in the land as long as there were elm trees. The inner bark was also medicinal. The sails of druid ships required ropes. The bark of elm made fine cordage. Baskets were made as well, and cane furniture.
The most ancient Celtic legends attend the Elm tree. It was believed that fairies loved the Elm and lived beneath their leaves, and it is from the name of the tree that the word elves is derived. And the Elm was associated with the Mother of all things. Kipling echoed an ancient lyric when he cautioned “Ailim be the lady’s tree, burn it not or cursed ye’ll be…”
In Norse mythology the first woman, Embla, came from the Great Elm, or the Mother of All in the form of the Elm. The first man, Askr, came from the Ash tree. The German city of Ulm comes from Elm. Ancient stories say the city was founded by women warriers who worshipped the Mother of Creation.
In ancient days there were no perfectionists specifying which vowel went with which word. The people of one culture said Ailim, another said Ulm, another said Elm. The cognate was the same. The veneration of the Elm tree was so widespread that it was one of the words which far-wandering travelers would have no trouble understanding despite the different vowel sounds that had developed in their cultures. In Gaul there lived a people called the Lemovices which means people of the elm. The priests of the Lemovices were of course the druids, and therefore we may be sure that the Lemovices also existed in Britain.
The druids who followed the Humber inland to the Pennine hills would found elm trees everywhere. Any habitations or towns they would create would be among the elms, or Ailems, in the land which was latter to be known as the English shire of Derby, a magical land that even possessed a sacred warm springs. Druids loved warm springs.
They were wood workers as well as sailors. Once they were ashore, if a storm came up they could tip their boats over and have a dry home in which to live. Or they could build a wooden home that was as tight as a ship. And so they did. As early as 5000 BC longhouses of wood were being built in Germany and Poland and all around the Baltic. The first structures of Stonehenge were wooden. After five millenniums of usage these great halls would have a lot of tales, a lot of chants chanted, genealogies remembered, lessons taught within them. The home is the center of human existence. The druid priests were essential to their people. The fire that warmed their wooden halls they called “al”. These people of ancient Derbyshire would also need a town in which to smelt their lead for export or for use in their own making of Bronze. So, the ancient town of Leeds came into existence.
This is the situation in which Caesar found Britain when he arrived in 55 and 54 B.C. making Rome’s first contact with the the inhabitants of the land, fighting the great battles which caused great slaughter on both sides, all of which are so well remembered thanks to Caesars own personal accounts. When Caesar left the islands the Gaelic speaking Celts returned to their lives. The forces of Rome returned to Britain 97 years later defeating the forces of Caratacus. Claudius received the surrender of eleven British Kings and conquered the remainder firmly establishing Rome in Britain. The Gaelic language retreated to Scotland in the north, Wales in the West, and Ireland across the Irish Sea. What language remained in Britain became an amalgamation of the old Gaelic, combined with Latin, as well as that of the invading Saxon, Angles, and Danes.
       After the Romans left Britain there were another three hundred years of language changes before our oldest surviving remnants of the language were written down, about 700 AD and when that did occur it was not in any sort of perfect knowledge of what exact vowel went where. The monks sounded out each Old English word phonetically as best they could and used the often poorly suited Latin alphabet to write the words down. One thing to remember at this point is that the Romans had the letter H in the beginnings of many of their words. But there is no letter H in the beginning of Gaelic words unless the words are foreign. Knowing this fact, we may now look at many old English words to see what their cognates were in Gaelic.
       The druid libraries had been utterly destroyed throughout the land. Any tablets written upon wood had surely disintegrated.       Christian priests had formed the habit of employing lesser druid priests as secretaries. There was after all great similarity between the two. Except that the druids laughed at the thought that the Christians considered their god to be the more compassionate of the two. There is little mention of the Ollamh. One gets the feeling they have either all been killed, or they are in deep hiding.
       The word Ollamh does not exist in the Old English word lists. There had been no Ollamh in Britain for centuries. But perhaps there were some words which harken to the ancient wise poets, with their cunning and sarcastic tongues.
       There is “oll” , which means “contempt, scorn, insult”.
       And there is “olehtung”, which means “flattery, indulgence”.
--elm derivatives--
       We find the word ailem is now “ulmtreow” for elm tree
heall means hall, palace, temple, or law-court
And heallþegn means hall of wood or wood of hall.
Heallic means high, elevated, exalted, lofty, sublime, deep, profound, intense

--Ollamh/Druid ship and seafaring derivatives--

Holmaern = ship
Holmeg = of the sea
Holmwylm = billows
Holmþracu = restless sea
Holm = sea, wave, ocean, water, island, (usually in river or creek)
To this we might add the Norse word holmr which has often been claimed as the source of the Holme name. The Norse word holmr actually has the two dots over the o. Holmr means island. And the Saxon word holm means hill.
When we think of the centuries that went by with the wolves prowling the land seeking bodies that had not been buried deeply enough, or without enough stones piled on top to keep the wolves from their booty, and when we think of the ollamh rowing in the boats out to the islands to bury the bodies safely, and the beacon fires atop the hills, as well as the communities built upon hills with Ollamh tended fires in their centers, we understand how it came to pass that the words holmr and holm came to be the words for island and hill. Even hill is a cognate of Ollamh.
       Owl is a cognate of Ollamh. Owls were sacred.
The Norse word “Uglem” means “Owl’s home” and is also surely a cognate of Ollamh. And there is an ancient sacred Scandanavian island named Holme as well.
The word ollamh in Gaelic now means a learned man, or doctor. Rare is there any mention of the seven levels of druids of antiquity. The druids are long gone. The Christian priests did there job well in removing them from our understanding and knowledge. There are memories in the roots of the Gaelic words though:
“oilead” is a college.
“ola” is oil, an ointment, a medicine
“Eol” in Gaelic means knowledge;
(“Is eol dhomh” means “I know”.
“Chan eol do’n amhlair e” means “the brutish man knoweth not.”)

There is one last thing we should speak of here and that is the land at the end of the Humber on the east coast of Britain which contains within it now the shire of Derby as well as the western part of Nottinghamshire. If you look on a map you might say this area was once the heart of England, for it is located just north of center.
After the Romans left Britain the people who remained had a battle on their hands keeping alive and keeping free. One might perceive that there were many who had been forced into hiding for generations who were now free to move about and perhaps return to ancient lands. And so it was that history tells us about an aboriginal culture of Britains that took hold of this exact area, perhaps the descendants of the Lemovices, the people of the elm, for the name of this small but mighty Kingdom was called Elmet.
Elm + et. Elm needs no definition. But “et”? In old English “etelond” means “pastureland”. So Elm + et + land could mean the pastureland of the people of the Elms. There were sure plenty of Elms.
They reclaimed the lead mines which the Romans had stolen. They created metal foundries and manufactured armour. They put walls around their cities. Elmet became a bastion for the ancient Britains. They were surrounded by invaders who desired their annihilation. The Danes from the North, the Saxons from the South. Many were the valiant men and women who came to Elmet. There are some who believe Elmet was Camelot and their reasoning seems sound to me. Elmet existed from about 420 AD until about 800 AD. And the ancient halamlet, I mean hamlet, of Halam? Why it was right there in Elmet (without any foreign H in front of it.).
       I have written this paper because I have heard it said that the surname Hallam is entirely separate in its origins from the surnames of Holme or Helm. This may be so for the past eleven hundred years or so, especially to people who were well educated and knew the difference between the sound of the vowel o and the sound of the Vowel a including when it was spoken by a German, or a Swede, or a Weshman, or a Scot, because they all pronounced their vowels a little differently. Of course very few people could even spell their names in those early centuries. So it was difficult to know exactly what name they were saying. The decision had to be made by the scribe who wrote information down in the books, for marriages, births, deeds. Different scribes spelled names different ways. Did the name Hallam come into existance magically out of the blue at some time in the ninth century? Or the name Holme? Or the name Helm? No. They are an ancient tree.
       My mother is a McNaughton, descended from the clan chiefs. She is kind of set in her ways. A few years ago when I presented her with a genealogy of her ancestors going back over a thousand years she looked right away at her 5th great grandfather John MacNauchtan and she became indignant and exclaimed “McNauchtan! Who ever heard of a spelling like that? That’s not how we spell our name! I certainly don’t have any ancestors named that!” There was no talking to her about it. She had made up her mind. Lots of people are like that. There is only one spelling of their name and that is all there is to it. I think we all have relatives like that.
       Maybe I just look further back in time, but I have no trouble seeing Halam and Holme and Helm as the same family, though I have chosen to take the most ancient form for myself.
Lest anyone misunderstand, my research is original. No one previously has connected the Ollamh with the surnames of Holme or Hallam, or Helm, etc, nor with the Kingdom of Elmet. I encourage everyone to make use of my material. However, all original material contained herein is copyright and property of the author. It may be quoted only with an attribution to the author.


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