Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft OUT NOW!

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It’s finally here: My second book, Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft, is launched today.  I’ll be reading from the book and doing a little talk at Waterstones in Leeds at 7pm tonight, so if you’re in the area please pop in. I will be joined by the cover artist, Kirsten Savage, who will be displaying more of her fantastic artwork including some never before seen pieces.

There will be mead and cake, though the cake tends to disappear quickly, so get in while you can! There will also be some Beltane themed magic for you to dabble in.

The Kindle Edition is only £2.84 at the moment, so grab yourself a bargain here!

Day Nine: Anxious

I rarely say
What I am feeling
When anxiety takes hold
For I may
Be fairly reeling
And not nearly quite so bold

And cold it is, this mind of mine.

I often smile
And teeth are grit
When anxiety is near
Because I want
To just be normal
Not a prisoner of fear

Yet here it is, this mind of mine.

I want to fall
My fists still beating
When anxiety’s inside
Rail against
My brain’s foul cheating
Feeling that I may have died

I tried, oh mind of mine.

Acts of re-enchantment

Some lovely comments about A Modern Celt here, plus two other books that I definitely want to dive into now!

Druid Life

Exotic Excursions – Anthony Nanson.

A short story collection that takes us to many locations while at the same time questioning the whole process of ‘white man goes somewhere and feels entitled to comment’. It’s clever stuff, and provocative, and turns a certain kind of colonial writing on its head in some really interesting ways. It’s got a large paranormal element, too. Shades of the X-Files when it comes to what’s ‘out there’ but delivered with far more elegant writing. I very much enjoyed it. Fellow readers who are looking for books where the excitement of genre fiction meets the depth and quality of literary writing should definitely pick up this title.

More about the book here – www.amazon.co.uk/Exotic-Excursions

A Modern Celt – Mabh Savage

A Pagan book looking at modern witchcraft practitioners who identify with Celtic traditions and exploring how that works in a modern context. It’s quite personal…

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Feeding the Birds

  
That’s the silver birch in my new back garden, and that’s a string of fat balls hanging off the stump of a recently pruned branch.

You see, I moved recently, and it was incredibly stressful. I’m still in a mind-numbing dispute with my ex-landlord, and unpacking has become a nightmarish chore that can only be done in the liminal hours between child bedtime and adult bedtime.

I was tired of boxes and the birds were singing; I decided to feed them. I had bought a huge box of fat-balls, but had no holders to put them in. Using string from my veg boxes, I fashioned several chains of the fatty avian snacks and dangled them at intervals around the garden.

The simple motions of walking up and down the sloped lawn, searching for the most bird friendly spots to hang the food, were incredibly therapeutic. The fresh air, bird song and bounce of grass beneath my toes all combined to wick away some of the stress of the past fortnight. 

It’s no great revelation that time outdoors is good for you, but it’s incredibly good for tired, foggy minds, and the act of kindness towards another species is particularly soothing. It puts life into perspective; what are money troubles compared to filling the bellies of birds getting ready to build nests?

I glanced up as I hung the last chain and saw a goldfinch in the top of the tree, waiting musically for me to leave. Feeling a sense of achievement, I smiled and obliged. 

Headingley Lit Fest: Cabaret Thirty

2016-03-11 19.50.48I was highly chuffed and deeply honoured to be involved with the wonderful Headingly Lit Fest again this year. Last year I performed at Outside In, alongside poets and musicians from all over Leeds. This year’s event was similar, with some familiar faces and some delightful, new discoveries.

The Heart Centre in Headingley is a great space for an event such as this. It somehow has a nice, warm atmosphere that dispels nerves and encourages foot tapping and clapping from the audience. I had opted for poetry only this year, as due to the recent house move I’ve not had much time to practice my guitar and currently sound like I’m playing it with large sausages strapped to my hands. However, I had penned a few pieces recently and was looking forward to showcasing them. I was much more excited to see the other talent on offer though, and got comfy with my glass of discounted wine to enjoy the show.

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The first performer, Kari Medalla, was an absolute delight. With a gorgeous, blue acoustic Fender and an even lovelier, mellow voice with just the tiniest touch of gravel, Kari treated us to a very smooth cover of Tracy Chapman’s classic, Fast Car. She followed this up with a beautiful Spanish song, the title of which I can’t remember.

Following Kari was Becky Leeming, a poet studying in Leeds. Her poems contained some striking, beautiful seasonal imagery:

We bathed in moonlight

The spring light washed our sins away.

Very promising indeed.

Our second2016-03-11 19.58.18 poet was John Darley, who has been published and this does not surprise me at all. This is a poet I would like to read; his performance was great, don’t get me wrong! But his words weave together so delightfully it would be a joy to see them written down. One memorable title was Cathode Ray. I’m probably parapharasing here, but something along the lines of

There is static in the sky and shouts of clouds on the pavement.

John creates a sharp staccato of words that pierce the brain, but you are glad of it. A happy trepanning. 2016-03-11 20.04.24.jpg

The feeling so far has been pretty downbeat, but Lewis King rescues us from all that depression. Anyone who can start their set with a limerick is alright in my book. There then followed an amazing tale of a journey to the centre of the hoover. I won’t spoil it for you as no doubt it will be published one day, but this was a lovely piece of dark humour; and not just because there were no lights in the vacuum bag. My favourite part of Lewis’s act had to be the 6 word stories though:

No! Your child is cursed instead! Classic.

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Samantha Crossfield takes us on a tube journey, each short story an internal monologue of a different passenger, one thought linking to the next. There seems to be a theme of being able to explore the flaws of others whilst ‘tripping over’ your own, and also of deep introspection. I could imagine the rickety sounds of the tube as a background track, and lights flashing and dimmed to immerse the audience even further.An interesting idea which could easily be built upon to make a full stage show if Samantha so desired.

Sophie Joelle reads us the first chapter of her t2016-03-11 20.17.56eenage fiction story. I’m sad to say I can’t remember the title, as this is one I will definitely be looking out for. Our whole table agreed we would have liked to have heard more. From the first few lines, Sophie grabs you with brilliant character development and believable dialogue; something I often find lacking in much ‘teenage’ fiction (yes, I read Hunger Games). The conflicting and corresponding tensions of sport and romance come to life, and I still wonder if the protagonist keeps the girl… I hope to find out one day!

Now on2016-03-11 20.25.09 to some more music.

Billy Humphries plays a few songs on acoustic guitar, and despite citing severe nerves, makes them sound rather beautiful. His guitar playing has a distinct, smooth sound and his vocals are sure and nowhere near as wobbly as he seemed to be in himself! One song proclaimed that the only one that could keep me high is you, another sang the praises of a certain Mary-Jane. A possible theme?

I hope it’s not another two and a half years before Billy plays again. He clearly has a talent and I 2016-03-11 20.42.57was pleased to see it showcased last Friday.

As I said before, there were some performers on the bill who I had played alongside last year, and was excited to see again. The next performer was the one I had been most excited about: Owen Spafford, on the violin. This young man, easily the youngest performer at Cabaret Thirty, is just astounding. And it isn’t because of his age. If he was 30, 60 or 160, I would still be as impressed by his jigs and reels, and his effortless mastering of the fiddle. This is where the foot tapping and clapping really came into their own, with a showcase of folk music from ancient to modern times. I hope this guy keeps this up, purely for the selfish reason I love hearing him play!

I think I was up next. I was OK.

2016-03-11 20.45.55Ethan Lowe enchanted and slightly dismayed us with a modern creation myth inspired by Michio Kaku.

Before there were days, a being came into existence.

As much an exploration of human nature as it is an imaginative and creative story, this piece was highly enjoyable

Ethan’s next piece, Wooden Night, carried a completely different tone and provoked a few laughs and a few groans. We talked about it on the way home though Ethan, just so you know. A Halloween tale with a twist.

This particular event was very special to me, as it’s the first time I had heard my sister, Kirsten Savage, perform live with her Bouzouki. The bouzouki is a greek instrument oft played in Ireland in place of the mandolin. Kirsten has clearly taken the 2016-03-11 20.55.01instrument and made it her own, with a mixture of folk, rock and original riffs and motifs that blend into a unique style and melody that complement her gorgeous voice perfectly. Kirsten’s songs have a quality reminiscent of opera; beautifully tragic, dynamic and extremely dramatic for one vocalist with an acoustic instrument.

The night concluded with a couple of songs sung by a lady called Jenny, who was not on the programme and borrowed Kari’s guitar. She was a welcome addition though, singing first a Brazilian song, then a Dutch one (albeit in English). Kari ended the evening for us with a Japanese song that was absolute gorgeous. I think it was called Goodbye Days, and was a classic J-Pop ballad with those odd English words thrown in every now and then.

If Cabaret Thirty is a sign of things to come, then we are very lucky indeed, as Leeds is growing and promoting some very fine talent indeed. Long may it continue.

Why am I a Celtic witch?

What does that mean, and how is it different from any other type of witchcraft?

Well let‘s look IMG_4589at the ‘witch’ part first; when I say I am a witch, I‘m saying I harness the energies around and within me to instigate change. Mahatma Ghandi said: ‘Be the change we wish to see in the world.’

Much of witchcraft is this; using our inherent power as a sentient being to be a force for transformation. Anyone can do this with training, and the will and patience to gain a deeper understanding of the universe around them. You don‘t need to be religious, although many witches do follow a religious path, such as Wicca or another polytheistic faith. For me, witchcraft is more about having faith in yourself and your own skill, although
I also accept the existence of other-worldly beings and forces.

On to the Celtic part: I am deeply influenced by my Celtic ancestry, and walk a path side by side with the Tuatha Dé Danann; the great folk who were one of the many races that invaded Ireland. Lebor Gabála Érenn, the Book of the Taking of Ireland, is an 11th century text describing eight periods throughout Ireland’s ‘history’ (the book’s contents are of more mythological interest rather than indisputable fact) including the
rise and fall of the Tuatha Dé Danann. The text tells us that they came to Ireland on dark clouds, and that they viewed their men of arts as gods, and knew the incantations of druids. It is sung in the text that they are ‘without a covenant of religion’; indeed it seems that while they accept the reality of larger-than-life heroes and magical transformation, they revere none as being above or beyond them. Everything is worldly and everything is within
reach.

This is why I feel my craft belongs to a Celtic source more than any other. I am stubborn to the point of foot stamping and petulance, yet patient enough to wait longer than most would in a tense situation. I will fight when necessary and be quiet when not. I know when presentation is important, and when subtlety is key. I accept that part of me is divine, and acknowledge that divinity within others, but I am not cowed by it. I know when to
use my craft, and when elbow grease and hard work will give me a better result.

Excerpt from Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft. Pre-Order here

On Witchcraft…

…everything is achievable if you employ common sense and ambition. The first step to completing a task, is believing that you can do it. That’s not enough, of course; you must work hard, plan where necessary and garner help when one person is not enough. But if you believe something is impossible, then it will become so. It is very easy to talk yourself out of something because it has become difficult. It is also easy to allow others to talk you out of something because, in their perception, you are attempting the impossible. Trust your instincts. Go with your gut. Above all, have faith that you would not feel your task was achievable without good reason. Belief in oneself is not airy-fairy or new age; it is confidence and it is necessary for all witchcraft. If you dither, you will not achieve your desired outcome. If you are foot-sure you will surely succeed.

Excerpt from Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft by Mabh Savage, due out 29th April 2016. Pre Order here.