Meeting Mabh Savage

Posted: February 8, 2014 in Author Interviews, Author Spotlight, Book Promos
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I would like to introduce you to Mabh Savage, author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors. In Mabh’s own words:

Mabh Savage

Mabh Savage

My book, A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors is at its heart an exploration of how an ancient culture has so much impact on our modern, day to day lives. I speak to ordinary people from all walks of life, some pagan, some not, who describe events that either hark back to the tales and myths of the Celts, or speak of a spiritual connection to the Fae and those we now call Gods and Goddesses such as the Dagda, The Morrigan and Lugh. I look at how to seek a connection to your own ancestors; to understand your own place in the universe. I also look at how the stories and tales, originally passed solely by word of mouth, have survived the millennia and are still so relevant in our society of concrete and technology. We see how the wheel of the year, the cornerstone for many pagan lives, was not only the Celtic year but their understanding of how the world worked, and how tapping into that can enrich our own lives.

I’ve also written pieces for the following anthologies: Essays in Contemporary Paganism edited by Trevor Greenfield, Paganism 101 edited by Trevor Greenfield (due out 28th February) and I write regularly for Askei Kataskei, the e-zine for the Covenant of Hekate. I love to write, and it’s amazing to have the opportunities to write about things I am really passionate about. I also do rock and metal reviews for the Wyrd Ways Rock Show, as well as a bit of journalism; a departure, I’ll grant you! But lots of fun…

My book is available through Amazon and all good retailers, and if you want to ‘try before you buy’ the first chapter is up on the Moon Books Blog for you to read.

You can visit me at facebook or my blog to find out what I’m up to; I’m currently preparing for a spoken word event courtesy of The Quiet Compere and funded by the National Lottery and Arts Council, so I’m very excited about this. I’m also working on ideas for a second book which will explore in more detail the day to day life of the Celtic witch; what does a witch do, and how do they maintain their connection to nature and the universe? After a busy and fulfilling Yule Tide spending time with my fella, my 3 year old and my two bonkers cats (plus extended family and friends) I’m back at the writing and also planning a few musical events for 2014, with my duo maMa Rose.

How did you decide upon the title of your book?

The title A Modern Celt is really a horrible oxymoron! Of course there is no such thing, so I ummed and ahhed about using this anachronism as a title for a long time. The term ‘Celt’ is used to describe one or a number of peoples now dead to us, yet their influence remains strong and vital. I wanted to convey that sense of living with your ancestors, and having an understanding of them that impacted on your day to day life. Yes, times have moved on and the way we live is far, far removed from the ancient world of the Celts, yet their ideas and stories still shape a huge part of our spiritual and even our mundane existence. So while I may not be a Celt myself, as that is impossible, I truly believe in my connection to their legacy, and I’ve been fortunate enough to find a great many others who do too.

Where do you find your inspiration?

In the green. Walking in familiar places, dirt tracks, heavy bowers of branches creaking overhead. Wind in the face, laughing birds and chattering squirrels scolding as I break their peace. In solitude, in quiet moments where the world goes completely still before an idea bursts, blossoming suddenly like the first snowdrop in February. Or amidst the strains of music, words of a song reminding me of times past, or a certain melody that almost makes me trip with the strength of emotion it induces. In dreams; in fact it was a dream that inspired me to put all my ideas into a book form and get it published! I always try and write any dreams down that feel significant. 99% are nonsense, but even those give me ideas for poems or bits of fantasy or fiction. My deeper moments of meditation give way to visions and a clarity that lends itself to my writing at times. And often, simply talking and debating with friends will spark off all sorts of ideas. Indeed, my first book is absolutely brimming with the thoughts and tales of other folk! I can be caught frequently walking down the street muttering into my phone, recording something that has popped up and grabbed my attention. This may be a song lyric, an idea for a blog or a new poem. There really isn’t any particular pattern, and I just let it happen as it wills.

What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?

To be honest I just gave up trying to remain sane. Sane writers? Are you kidding? Seriously though, writing a book isn’t the same as writing for a hobby, or doing the odd poem, or even writing song lyrics. The intensity of it took me by surprise, and the hard work and emotional drain that work puts upon you is hard to describe to someone who hasn’t been through a similar process. I’m sure it’s similar for artists working on a particular project, or scientists working through a tough problem or a long, delicate experiment. You start this process, then somewhere, without you quite understanding how, it has taken over aspects of your life you can’t even comprehend, and everything is about where do I find another hour to write or How do I explain I can’t go to that party because I’m writing or even, sadly, can’t have sex now, writing!

Thankfully I have a very patient other half who was equally encouraging and scolding for me not taking breaks and not taking enough time for myself. I would use the argument that writing the book is doing something for myself, but that doesn’t wash when the person you are trying to convince can see the Quasimodo hunch of your back and the bags under your eyes. In hindsight, I should have taken more breaks and had longer baths! And now, although I’m working on more frequent, shorter projects which don’t require the same long, intensive hours, I do try and make time for the things in between. My biggest regret has been not picking up the guitar as often, and that’s something I hope to remedy this year. I find music very soothing, and it became very telling that my stress levels rose as my contact with the music declined. In short though, taking breaks, taking time for friends and family, and being utterly committed while the work is on-going; that’s been the key for me.

What cultural value do you see in writing and storytelling?

Writing as a whole concept is marvellous; a way to pass information and ideas to each other that will last forever, if stored correctly. Having said that, the culture I am mostly fascinated with (The Celts) had very little written down, so I would have to say that story telling is the more powerful weapon in the arsenal of history. Nearly everything we know about the Celts from medieval literature is all handed down by word of mouth until we get to the middle ages, when Christian scholars actually started to write these myths and stories down. Of course, we understand much more about these people now thanks to archaeology, but it was these stories, these wondrous tales, that sparked interest in the Celts in the first place.

A good story is not tied to any time or place. It transcends its environment and becomes a message, or an insight, or another way to learn something about another or yourself. Tales of the Morrigan tell us a great deal about what the Celts felt about magic, women, war, sex and death, and about their reverence for animals and the world around them. They also teach us great things about ourselves, about transformation, and about finding a connection to the world around you. Stories have always been a part of our culture; can you imagine a world without them? They create bonds between parent and child; they inspire imagination, creativity and wonder; they make philosophers and break religious fundamentalists and take a whole world and put it in your hands.

Do you have any creative pursuits other than writing?

Music! My poor music has been sadly neglected while the book writing/promoting has been my main focus, but it’s my first love and what I always return to. I play guitar, keyboards, Irish whistle, mandolin and several percussion instruments. I also sing and write songs, for performance with maMa Rose, and also on my own. I’m very affected by music; I find it a very emotional experience and adore finding music that makes me sad or angry- how masochistic! I think I respect the magic that somebody can put into a single song, that they can affect you so. It’s always my aim to create songs that can affect people in this way, or make them laugh, or smile.

All about A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors

A Modern CeltCeltic tradition is at the heart of many aspects of popular modern pagan paths, and this book brings those aspects together to explore the relevance of a 2000-year-old culture in modern-day society. A Modern Celt looks at the Tuatha de Danaan, who they were and their continuing relevance in the 21st century. It looks at several of the key figures and the legends surrounding them, and considers how they relate to real life, everyday events, and the power they can lend us to deal with our own problems. The wheel of the year brings Celtic festivals and a modern calendar together, and these corner posts of the year help us understand the world as something that existed long before humans arrived, and hopefully will continue to exist long after we are gone. A Modern Celt considers some of the things we do to try and preserve it, and how these can be inspired by our Celtic roots. With musings from members of Celtic paths about why they feel such a tie to their Celtic ancestry, A Modern Celt paints a picture of an ancient world, alive and thriving today.

Excerpt: The Witchcraft of Craft

The sun rises; the sun sets.

It is another day.

Another path to tread,

To leave footprints in the dirt.

Or to pass unnoticed.

Counting only seconds

Only minutes

Held not within the turn of the earth

But trapped within the turn of the clock.

When sirens speak

To start your day

With clamour abhorrent

While you still lay

Clinging to dreams and wishes and fear;

Then rise and wake and listen.

Not because the alarm tells you to;

Not because it is routine;

Not because you follow another

But simply so at the end of another day

You may turn behind

And see with pride

The footprints left firmly marked

Where you have walked.

How many of us do this; walk each day knowing we have made an impact in some small way? And how do we empower ourselves to do that? Well, most of us do it by having a particular skill. Not a magical skill; not in the most common understanding of the word “magic”, but a normal, everyday skill that we hone until it is ours, and ours alone. What do I mean by this? Well, I have a friend who does beautiful jewellery. Every time I see her post a picture online of one of her new creations, I know that whatever else has happened that day, she will go to bed knowing she has created something beautiful that will bring someone, even if it’s only herself, a piece of happiness. I have another friend who studies fragrances, smells and cleaning products to make the most amazing toiletries. She truly is an alchemist, and again, even though she has been crafting for a long time, I know she is always trying to improve and create new items, so the passion to stretch herself keeps her inspired.

So why is this magic? Well firstly, for me, it’s the unique nature of the craft. The crafter takes a fairly generic skill to start with, and then makes it their own, so that anyone who sees the work will know it was by them and no one else. This is a kind of self-created immortality which is fascinating and incredible; a way that whatever happens, these crafters, these artisans will live on in the memories of those who indulge in their beautiful works. I know weavers and engineers; archers and tree surgeons; reiki masters and painters. Not all of these skills are about creating something to have and to hold, but they are all about honing a skill. This skill is honed to a point that, not only can one make a living from it, but by making your own living, you are bringing something positive to the world you live in. The Celts are renowned for their impact on the history of art and crafts, and there are many beautiful examples of work from as far back as the Bronze Age, which all seem to have one thing in common- as well as the items and tools they made being practical, they are all beautiful as well. It seemed particularly important to the Celts that what they made not only showed an understanding of the tool, but displayed the artisan’s skill and personality by being ornate and beautiful beyond what was required.

I mentioned witchcraft earlier and that term is ambiguous at best, but I use it to refer to a collection of skills that will ultimately be used to change the world around you in small ways to make it a more positive place. All the skills above, if used with this intent in mind, could be classed as a kind of witchcraft. My own personal witchcraft includes the writing of poetry, song and music, and it is a magic; the power of a well-played or well written song is undeniable. I have yet to meet anyone who is completely unaffected by music at some level, and that level is always emotional or psychological. I don’t assume to be a master, indeed, I view myself as a novice because my focus changes too often; I have gone from being a keyboardist and songwriter in a very light hearted guitar band, to a front woman in a much heavier rock band, to playing folk and blues acoustically in a duo with a wonderful soul singer. While all these are still on the cards, I am in the process of recording some older songs in my own style, while also researching traditional folk music, with the help of others interested in the same types of songs. I’ve reworked a few of the folk songs into a more modern style, and have also recently created some devotional music and poetry for my ritual work. My point is thus: music is a part of my life. Whatever I am doing, music surrounds me. If I am not creating, I am listening. This for me is a very deep connection to my Celtic heritage. There are so many examples of music in Celtic and Celtic influenced literature, and the music nearly always has magical connotations. I don’t think my playing has the power to put armies to sleep (in fact I hope it doesn’t!) but I do think that every time I sing a song that makes someone’s hair stand on end, or makes them smile, or sniff back a tear, then I have achieved a little piece of magic that would make my Celtic ancestors proud. That is why no matter what else is going on in my life, I will always make time for music. That is my magic, and melody is the voice I use to speak my spells.

  1. pipsay says:

    That was a really interesting and informative interview. Wide range of your crafts can truly be called MAGIC. pippa


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