Sea: Welcome to Saga Kraft: myths, fairytales, legends, stories comfort us, inspire us and heal us. Please join us as we share stories both old and new. More than anything, we are open to the story and it’s unfolding. At times it may be one story told by one person, at times it’s the same story told through three different voices. In the end, we go where the story takes us and we invite you to follow.
I’m Sea, a writer, artist, and storyteller.
Betsy: I’m Betsy, a medium and teacher of mystery traditions.
Gabriela: I’m Gabriella, an artist and practitioner of folk magic.
Saga Kraft: We are magical fairy godmothers in training. .
Gabriela: Today’s stories will be about wanting love, longing for love, having love, losing love, and everything in between. And of course, about magic. We hope you enjoy them. Sea, we would love to hear your story.
Sea: “I don’t care!” I yelled down to my mom who asked what I wanted for breakfast.
What I really wanted was to know if Abbey like liked me. I so wanted to kiss the beautiful full lips. We had been hanging out for about a year and we’d gone to the food truck together a couple of days ago. She wouldn’t finish her stir fry because it touched by pork bun, but we had fun after we switched from a low budget sci-fi to a superhero movie anyway. But I was still afraid to ask her out, and she was starting to kind of like some other loser. It was time for me to make my move.
My sister said I should ask her witchy friend Claire. I’ve known Claire since third grade and figured, at worst, I’d get a laugh out of it. My sister called her and then said it was really important that I show respect. Claire had a gift and couldn’t give up her homework time to talk to an unbeliever. I should be there at three forty five with a gift for her. She suggested a bunch of shells I had on my window.
So, Claire’s mom answered the door, double taking because she forgot to put on the new-agey scarf she promised Claire she’d wear. She quickly pulled it around her head and bowed then offered me a cookie on the way to Claire’s room. She knocked three times before opening the door and bowing.
The place was a sea of loud fabric. Claire was on her bed, cross-legged in the middle of a jungle of curtains. I was overwhelmed by the colors and the incense. It felt like an herb garden went gaseous and flowed into my sinuses. Thank God I had my inhaler. After a whiff. I sat down where Claire’s mom pointed, on a round pillow on the floor at the foot of the bed. There was a three inch string hanging from the blanket. Claire’s mom left, closing the door behind her.
Claire sat on the bed, not looking down on me. She had her eyes closed and hands together like a small child praying, but in front of her chest. She was fuller than I remembered. I nibbled the cookie.
When I’d eaten the whole thing, one crumb at a time, I cleared my throat and she whipped one finger up in a wait sign. I sighed and started pulling at the dangling thread as she dropped her hands. An eternity later the string was about twelve yards long, and Claire startled me when she spoke in an unaturally deep tone that made her voice crack.
“You have come for a spell.”
“Uuuh,” I responded.
She deployed her silencing finger.
“It is a love spell. What is the name of your beloved?” she asked, dropping her hand to her lap.
“Abbey.” I frowned. I live in fairfield, not fairy tale.
“Yes,” she announced abruptly “you shall have it. Although,” she continued “your guides want you to know that you, too, wield the power of altering destiny.
Great, I thought, I had been approved to make choices. I considered altering destiny right then and there by getting up and leaving. But I’d never hear the end of it from my sister.
“Abbey.” she announced, squeezing her eyes shut and beginning to mutter under her breath.
She held her hands like she was spinning an invisible soccer ball .Just then, Claire’s mom snuck in, winked, and silently passed me another cookie before leaving again. I wondered if she’d been listening at the door. Claire got quieter and quieter until only her lips were moving, then she stood up making the bed bounce. She threw her arms wide, smacking the curtains.
“You are bound by love.” she pronounced.
“So,” I asked “that means she’ll go out with me?”
Claire opened her eyes and glared down at me.
“Well, she will now. Put your gift on the altar and tell your friends good stuff about me.”
She pointed to the top of her radiator where a stone box and plate with half a cookie sat balanced in front of a wall hanging of a goddess. I crawled over and pulled the shells from my pocket. They would have fallen off the radiator, so I put them on the plate then crawled back to the foot of the bed.
Claire stared at me serenely for a minute before saying “We are done.”
On the way out her mom thanked me and gave me another cookie. Just then Abbey called. She wanted to do something. I needed to balance out my sugar rush, so I thought we could get burritos for dinner.
I got there first and ordered our usual, a chili Verde with extra sour cream for me and a vegan with black beans for her. I took the overflowing plates to a table by the front window. When she got there and she squeed. She ran up and hugged my arm. She never hugs my arm. She only hugged all of me before, and that was only when something really great or super sad happened. She didn’t let go. She just kept clinging to my arm. I had to take her hand and put it on the table before her nails drew blood. And then she was in my face. She even spit a little when she told me excitedly between blinks and giggles about her day, and the night before, and the day before that. And she just kept touching me. Petting my shoulder, holding my hand even when it was covered with meaty burrito juice.
After dinner, she really wanted to go to a movie so I asked if she wanted to come over and watch a low budget scifi, and she did! She even put on lipstick when she was in the bathroom. Her full lips were shining out at me like a beacon. It felt awesome. And she was doing exactly what I would want her to do, but I had a weird, awkward feeling. Still, it was great.
We turned on a movie and sat on the couch. For the first time ever, she sat close. Her thigh was touching mine. It was warmed and soft. It didn’t really see the movie at all. There was her thigh, and her arm which brushed up against mine, skin on skin every time she reached for her juice. And her breasts were close, really close, just inches away.
Halfway through I got up to make popcorn just to cool down. Then, when we started again, she fully cuddled. She was so sexy, so warm, so exciting. And just as the film ended, she reached up and pulled me down. I came closer and closer to her beautiful full lips until she kissed me, softly at first, and then with a desperate chaos that felt like it was drawing the life out of me.
“Well, I said, jumping up “thanks for coming over.”
She looked at me like I had just killed her puppy. I sat back down and took her hands.
“I like like you.” I said “I really like like you. There is no one I can imagine like liking as much as you, but I think we should go on a real date. Could we go to a movie tomorrow.?”
“Sure.” she said, happy but confused, “Okay.” she followed up as the confusion stepped aside.
I walked her home and we had the best hug anyone has ever had. I headed back feeling proud of my choice to not sort of rape her. My choice to not sort of rape her, I thought. What did Claire say? Something about me wielding the power of destiny?
When I got home I tried searching the internet, but for what? Not love spells, not hate spells, not even anti love spells. Finally I plugged in “possible love but only with freewill” spells, but I only found new spells, or spells that broke relationships. Eventually I looked up how to write spells.
I haven’t slept yet, and I need to leave for school again in an hour, but I am finally ready. I’ll have to cut class this afternoon to take a nap so I can make it to the movie later, but I’m really happy that we have a date and I’ve lit a birthday candle. So here it goes:
“All of my love is wielded by me,and your love by you. I set us both free. We make our own choices. We still may succeed. All bindings be gone. So mote it be.
I stomped my foot to end it. It just seemed like the right thing to do. I’m surprised that I really think this will fix stuff, but I do. Still, the box says that my tiny fire will take twenty minutes to burn out, and it’s not like I have a miniature sconce.
“Diann, what do you want for breakfast?” my mom calls from the kitchen
“Oatmeal!” I shout down “Lots of it, thick enough to hold up a candle!”
Betsy: I really liked it. I liked the conscience that was there too. What do you think sparked that?
Sea: In my mind this is a teenage boy, it doesn’t have to be, and it was also really weird that I felt like I was writing from the perspective of a teenage boy as I have not been one, but he was actually a pretty mature teenage boy. Internally, not externally.
Gabriela: I really enjoyed the story, and I especially enjoyed the point of view from which it was written. It felt very, very real to me, and from what I remember of teenage boys, just that kind of excitement and also one sidedness when it came to a girl they like. Though, I feel like that is across genders in terms of teenagers. That is what happens on the hormonal level, on the emotional level. When you like someone, you like them so much that that is all you think about. They are threaded through everything in your day and night, and that was certainly clear here. But I also love that he, though, really appreciated being liked, had a feeling that something was not exactly as it should be.
Betsy: I liked the witch, too.
Sea: Yes, I did too. And I loved her mom, honestly. I loved her mom supporting her.
Gabriela: Like a mom of a teenage model or child actor, playing her part.
Really what I love about that entire moment and the house is, setting the stage for magic or certain kinds of magic to take form or take space, or place rather. Certain conditions have to be met, and I like how those conditions were present in this story. And without those conditions, the spell wouldn’t work.
Betsy: And not just the conditions, but the, the boy’s submitting to those conditions, too.
Gabriela: What he was willing to do for love, or like like at least.
Sea: Right, yeah.
Gabriela: I also loved the reality of, during teenage years, how everybody’s really involved, not just in the couples life once they’re together, but before it even happens. There are so many moving stories, and possibilities, and your friend telling you, Oh yeah he totally likes you, I have no doubt about it. And you going forward and doing something stupid based on that information, which was a lie. Maybe I’m speaking from experience. Anyway, this whole story really brought up so many of those memories for me, it made me smile the whole time.
Sea: So, shall we move on? To Gabriela’s fabulous story this evening?
Gabriela: Yes, we can move on. I really enjoyed your story. Mine is a little different, but maybe not, and it is called The Fox Wife.
The day Kyoko’s wedding was the happiest of her life. It was springtime. The cherry blossoms were blooming filling the air with the promise of sweetness Kyoko’s wedding Komono was made of exquisite silk with painted sakura branches. It was the most beautiful and expensive piece of clothing she had ever owned.
Shinji, her beloved, was a simple but hardworking and kind man. Most importantly, he adored Kyoko and was deeply devoted to her. The way he looked at her that day made her feel like the most beautiful woman in all of Japan. Even though Kyoko’s family didn’t entirely approved of the couple’s engagement, over time they saw that the two were very much in love and allowed the union.
People talked about the strange weather during the ceremony, for, even though it was sunny, it rained a little. Fox weather, they whispered, exchanging meaningful looks. But Kyoko didn’t mind. She thought it was a magical and auspicious occurrence, a blessing for her and Shinji’s lives together.
The first few years of their marriage were very happy. Shinji got a job at a factory in town, and Kyoko sewed beautiful dolls from old kimonos to make a little extra money to save and have when they would be able to grow their family.
Many years passed in this way and the couple built their lives together, but no children blessed their home. Disappointment and sadness slowly crept into their hearts, changing them and changing the love between them. For Kyoko it was mostly sadness that filled her, as she so longed to have children. Shinji’s heart, however, grew bitter and cold, and every time he looked at Kyoko he saw her sorrow and couldn’t help but blame himself for her unhappiness. He grew colder and more distanced towards his wife, and with time, cruel even.
The man Kyoko married years ago was no longer recognizable to her, and this broke her heart more than anything else. He never even looked at her anymore. The day of their wedding, when his eyes were so full of admiration for her, seemed like a long gone dream of the past. Shinji spent more and more time away from home, drinking and gambling, spending what little money they had on his addictions. He even started to visit the beds of other women, those he would meet on his night adventures away from his wife. The only time he came home was to take what few items they had of value left to sell.
Kyoko worked days, and sometimes long nights, sewing dolls she could sell at the market so she could buy food. She dreaded the times when Shinji would come home, for he yelled and swore at her as she tried to keep away from him the remaining of their household belongings. The last thing Shinji could sell was Kyoko’s wedding kimono, which was her most prized possession. She hugged the fabric to herself, trying to protect it from his greedy grasp, but Shinji pulled and pulled so hard that she fell backwards against the wall and watched him storm out of the house with the fabric. Hot tears ran down her face and a bitter angry fire burned insider. She wished she had never met Shinji. She wished they never married. She wished that she would never have to see him again so she could forget him and the unhappiness he brought her.
The next day, Kyoko headed for the market to sell more dolls she had made, hoping she would find more buyers than the day before. It was a long walk through the woods that led to town, and heavy snow had begun to fall, as it was a brisk winter day. She saw that a figure watched her from a few paces away. Due to the thick falling snow, she couldn’t really make out who the figure was. All she could see was the color of cream, orange, and hints of red in the distance, human shaped. As she got closer she found that the snow blurred what she was seeing, for who she came upon was an old crouched woman, cloaked and a thick brown shawl, a piece of long silver white hair danced around the woman’s small wrinkled face, while her black almond shaped eyes observed Kyoko curiously.
“What is it that you carry?” the old woman asked, and Kyoko, who assumed she was referring to her basket, revealed what had held.
“Dolls for sale. I hope I sell more today than yesterday.” Kyoko said with a deep sigh.
“That is not what I mean.” the old woman replied, “what burdens do you carry? They must be heavy for I can feel their pull darken these woods.” she said
surprised, Kyoko took a closer look at the old woman, slowly realizing this was no ordinary meeting. She felt that she was given an opportunity to open up, to share and to unburden herself in the presence of this inquiring stranger. Tears filled Kyoko’s eyes before she could speak. Her tale flowed out of her like an untamed river, each loss and pain she recalled swelled high like wild water around a rock, foaming and angry, or like a storm that has been hiding behind a mountain, now raging and free leaving no tree unturned. The snow whirled wildly around, responding to Kyoko’s tale.
The woman listened without much expression on her face, except for the strange fire that sparkled in her eyes. She stood quietly for some time, moving slightly against the wind that was whistling around them.
“What is it that you want?” she asked plainly
“I want to live in peace. I want to forget about the happiness I once felt, for it is tearing my heart to bits.” Kyoko answered
“Easy enough.” the old woman said, “And what will you give me an exchange?”
Without hesitation, Kyoko reached into her basket of dolls and pulled out the best one she had, one made of the remnants of Shinji’s well worn silk shirt, which she was able to save in parts to sew with. The old woman stretched out one milky white, long, and ??? Looking hand, to take the doll, which she held to her nose and sniffed deeply.
“This will do.” she said, took one more look at Kyoko, turned around, and walked off the path and deep into the forest.
Kyoko watched as the figure blurred with the snow and changed in the distance, glimpses of cream, orange, and red dancing through the trees and eventually disappearing.
That day at the market kyoko sold more dolls than she had ever before. She was able to stock up on rice, dried fish, spices, and even tea. She walked home with her spirits renewed, even as the snow fell heavily on her path. When she got home she started a fire, heated up some tea, and with a full belly she slept better than she had in years. In the morning, she had forgotten all about Shinji, their wedding day, and everything thereafter.
She spent her time sewing beautiful dolls, which became so popular that she sold out every time, and brought her enough income to afford good food, tea, and everything she needed to make a comfortable home. Days and months went by. Kyoko lived by herself happily and in peace.
One day a factory worker came knocking on her door. He said he was worried about her husband who had gone missing months ago after he was seen departing into the woods with a beautiful young woman.
“You must be mistaken for, I’m not married.” Kyoko told the man, who turned pale at her response
“But you are married, and have been married for years. To Shinji. I know, for I was at your wedding and saw you with my own eyes, your beautiful sakura painted Kimono…” the man said, and added sadly with his head hanging low, “I saw Shinji sell it one night before he disappeared. I am so sorry.”
Kyoko shook her head in great confusion denying her marriage to this Shinji.
“Magic must be at play.” the man said, seeing Kyoko’s strange confusion, and promised to return.
After he left Kyoko lit some incense for him hoping that he would find his way home safely, for surely he was not of sound mind making up such nonsense.
The next day the man returned along with other people from town, and asked Kyoko to come along with them to look for Shinji.
Well, this was most unusual. These good meaning people were so certain to what they believed that Kyoko came along for the search. And something had stirred in her whenever she thought about the sakura kimono the man had described the day before.
The search went on for hours. People brought torches and bells and called out Shinji’s named loudly as they walked through the forest, but they found nothing. They searched the next day and the day after. Nothing still.
The night of the third day, after everybody had left, Kyoko stood by herself in the doorway of her house, feeling a pull of an old memory tug at her heart. She thought of the sakura kimono, which seemed so real and vivid to her. A long lost feeling danced in her heart slowly like the whirling snow around her.
Shinji, she thought, Shinji. As if allowing herself to recall something that was lost. “Shinji” she said out loud, and louder still, “Shinji Shinji” she called out, and kept calling into the night.
A scratching sound emerged from under the house and then a thin tired looking man crawled out from under the front porch, grasping for air. He was dressed in rags and his hair was covered in dust, fir, and dirt. He looked around, looked at himself, confused and bewildered.
“Shinji.” Kyoko whispered, her eyes wide in shock
“Kyoko, my beloved Kyoko. Please forgive me.” The man said
He grabbed onto her skirts and wept like a child. After some time consoling him, she looked under the house where her husband just crawled out of. There, in the dark and dirt, half a dozen foxes stirred in their sleep.
Once inside, bathed, and fed, Shinji continued to cry and ask for forgiveness. He looked at her with such sorrow and deep love that she remembered fully. The man she married so long ago. He told her that the night after he sold her wedding clothes beautiful young woman wearing a cream, orange, and red kimono approached him and lured him to a beautiful house deep in the woods. The house,and the woman were so enticing that he never wanted to leave. He fell deeply madly in love with this woman and they had children and lived happily together in this beautiful house for what it seemed like years. This whole time, he realized, he has been living with foxes right underneath his own house.
Kyoko listened to his story and remembered the old woman with a porcelain smooth hand she met in the woods. Feeling the fire of anger dim in her heart as she took pity on Shinji, she felt love return to her, and he looked at her with such devotion and promise.
Kyoko and Shinji lived a long and happy life together after that night, but they never forgot Shinji’s illusion palace under the house, or his fox wife.
Sea: I totally loved it. I was really, really curious as to why she chose to forget the good, rather than the bad. I mean, I can see how either one is problematic, but, if I were going to pick one right off, it might be the bad, which is also bad because then you get to relearn why it’s bad.
Gabriela: I think she just wanted to forget it all. It was how good it was, and the sorrow of losing that, that really splintered her spirit so much. I think, also, what she and Shinji had was really rare in some ways. Being able to marry, they chose each other. They had to fight for their love, which was true love. And then to have that broken would be even more of a betrayal than if the marriage was simply okay. It was a great marriage and then it went horrible.
Sea: Right. Were the foxes his children? I must know if he fathered foxes!
Gabriela: Perhaps, perhaps. I like to think so. I like to think there’s more to the fox tale than just this part.
Sea: Yeah. Right. I kind of want to hear the fox side now. And I love that she made a living off of her dolls. That sounds very beautiful.
Betsy: Yeah, I liked the blessing that the fox wife gave to her in that way. I wonder, though, about her coming back into the loving relationship, but not being able to forget the whole story and what that was like.
Gabriela: I think that story was a reminder to Kyoko that she had choice. And also they remembered together so that Shinji could learn from his mistakes, knowing that there were consequences of those mistakes and that Kyoko was connected to a greater power that could bring those consequences around if he misbehaved. At least that’s how I see it, but also it was very happy to be back with her and realized how deeply he loved her and how he had forgotten who he was.
Sea: So do you think that was good for her in the long run? Meeting the fox?
Gabriela: Absolutely. I do. And I feel like the fox… the weather at the wedding was also another signifier that this was not an ordinary marriage and that there were different forces at play.
Betsy: So did you see her as being a relative of the foxes in some way? Or under the protection of them?
Gabriela: I see her as being under the protection of the foxes and also, with her calling out in despair and sorrow through her tears, really cursing the moment she met him. Creating a rift and a possibility for an opening for that connection that she had met in the the fox, in the woods, for she had walked through those woods many times. It was probably observed. My sense is that the foxes were very much aware or the fox was very much aware, of what was going on, but wouldn’t act on her own until invited. And that sorrow and that heartache and that calling out was the invitation that the fox responded to.
Betsy: It’s a beautiful story. I have to say, I have a nagging feeling that she would have been equally as happy without him.
Gabriela: Indeed. If it wasn’t for the friend coming over to the house looking for his buddy, she would have, but then there would have been a problem with the foxes underneath the house. So I don’t know which would have been a bigger issue. The husband or the foxes under the house.
Sea: Right. The foxes saved her from her husband and then she had to save the foxes from her husband.
Gabriela: Exactly, yeah.
Sea: Well, it was very beautiful. Thank you. And as always, beautifully written. I enjoyed it very much. And I really don’t know enough Japanese tales, in my own opinion. I’ve been looking into some more, but I do not know enough. I need more.
Gabriela: They are beautiful and very complex and really rich. And they don’t always have a good ending, but they’re always very interesting. So I’m more than happy to blend them in with my other usual Slavic tales. There’s certainly a wilderness and a magic to them that’s very unique.
Betsy: Maybe that’s what I’m feeling in my vague unsettled feeling about the way it ended, but there is an alternate ending that could have been there too.
Gabriela: The story that this came from, or that I look to for reference, there is the fox wife, definitely, and there is the man who lives underneath the house, his own house, but there is no wife. That’s part of the creating of that consequence. It just happens on its own. And there seems to be no consequence for him and his wife is happy when he returns, even though he’s been living underneath the house. So, I have to say, I like this version a little better. That there’s a little bit more heart and feeling of remorse on the husband’s side where in the other stories it’s just something that happens as if that’s something that happens regularly, which is interesting.
Sea: So this has a feeling of repair.
Gabriela: Yeah. I think both our stories are in some ways very real, even though they’re full of magic and magical beings, but I think the longing for love makes people do all kinds of things. Wanting to keep it or wanting to forget about it. It’s such a tender place in us that we would look beyond the ordinary to find or reclaim what’s ours.
Sea: Well, thank you. It’s very beautiful.
Thank you, Sea, your’s was as well. And to our listeners, may love be easy in your lives. May it be beautiful, bountiful, and easy
And special thanks to the fantastic Zoë Magik for her phenomenal editing skills.