MY ORIGINAL STORIES
The stories below were all born out of the nothingness that exists inside me. As an oral storyteller I write in a style, which aims for the listener to create their own mental pictures. It is far less descriptive than stories that are intended to be read. Please do not take and use any of them without my permission. That would be a breach of copyright and the ancestral Banshee might come to visit you in the wee sma hours o' the nicht.
The bitterness in her breast bore no resemblance to the love that was once as sweet as summer honey. Her heart twisted like blackthorn branches. As savage as the thorns that lay waiting inside her well stocked larder. Waiting to do her biding, like the foolish men who fell for her cat like eyes and long dark hair. Oh, how they loved to caress her inky black curls with their dirty fingers.
I shall not lie, there was never really much goodness inside this witch, but love has the power to make even the devil vulnerable. For a fleeting moment, she was as vulnerable as her spirit familiar, a little leveret. Above the ground, dependant. Not a state of being this wild woman was accustomed too.
Love had hit her like lightning bolt. Except there was no rumble of thunder to warn of its coming. It lasted but a fleeting moment, until her lover found another woman. But its strike had scorched her soul forever. She had been the one that used and discarded. Now a woman scorned. She was deadlier than the nightshade plant, she was named after. This female Belladonna had poison for blood and was not afraid to use it.
Despite her best efforts, she could never forget the taste of love in all its forms. Its heady spell more addictive than the plants she consumed to ease the pain of heartbreak. An outsider from beyond the hedgerows, the witch had lived life as she pleased. Now, she lived for the day she would have her vengeance on the man who turned her inside out.
This desire swelled deep inside her, like a storm in the belly of the sea. Until it emerged as a curse she called after her favourite flower. Forget Me Not. A poetic curse named after a little blue flower may not sound particularly bad but believe me, it was. Remember the insanity of first love and intense heartbreak that followed. Of deeply loving someone you could never caress or possess? Well, this curse was all those things and more.
Like many of her kind, her dark powers were particularly potent during the full moon. Perhaps because magic is enhanced with strong human emotions. The kind that threaten to expose all your dark secrets for the world to see. Emotions so nauseating that you cannot hide behind a mask of normality. A time of animal howling.
On such a night, Belladonna would harness the lunacy of mortals until she had enough to extract the revenge on the man who had lied his way into her bed and cruelly tossed her aside. It took her three months to fill her apothecary with the kind of enhanced emotions that could cause a terrible seasickness on dry land. Come the spring, her garden would be full of forget me nots and the price for breaking a witch’s heart would be paid. A mental prison of pain awaited the recipient. After all, she could not forget him, so why should he be able to forget her?
It seemed fitting, that she should harvest the little blue flowers on the first day in April. Picking them when the sun reached the highest point in the sky. Carefully putting them into a clear glass bowl, etched with strange symbols. Then filling the bowl that once belonged to her grandmother with cooled boiled sea water. Before she emptied every drop of lunacy she had collected into the potion. Adding some of her lover’s hair that the witch had saved from her feather pillow. A pinch of her namesake – Belladonna - to finish the potion. A pretty name for a pretty poison.
In case you did not know, there are all kinds of curses. The forget me not curse was an intended and tended type. Created deliberately to cause harm and maintained by continual power. These kinds of curses are rare but deadly due to the amount of arcane knowledge and elemental energy it takes to fuel them. Nothing good has ever been born out of such darkness.
The witch laid an alter in the darkest corner of her cottage. Like her now empty soul, a place where no light shone. A place of animal bones and entrails, of Mugwort and madness. Being careful not to inhale as she placed the bowl amongst the dead things that adorned this alter, for she knew what it could do to the mind.
Using a piece of charcoal from her hearth, Belladonna drew the image of her lover upon the dried skin of a mountain hare. She spoke a charm in a strange tounge, that was so powerful it parted the veils between the worlds. Her spirit took flight, and she gazed upon the man whose sleeping image now invoked a fury inside her that could not be contained. It was then she whispered these words into his sleeping body.…….
“When the silence of a life without my words is unbearable – forget me not.
When autumn leaves fall like poetry from the trees as the earth decays – forget me not.
When the sky is as blue as the look of love once was in my eyes – forget me not.
When the moon kisses the sea, just as you once kissed me – forget me not.
When your cold body, craves my warm womanly flesh – forget me not.
When your bones are nought but dust in a grave – forget me not.
Oh, my love, ye are cursed to forget me not.”
The curse was complete. Her lover died shortly after of a tormented soul. But the thing about curses fuelled by malice, is that, by their very nature, they condemn both parties to a life sentence. You see, Belladonna could never forget either. Each full moon until she died at the age of one hundred and three, she tended her alter. Gazing upon her lover’s burnt image while she wept dry tears, until the devil himself come to claim her soul.
THE FORGET ME NOT CURSE
The bones sung; the cunning woman listened to what they had to say before carefully putting them back in the pot and placing them above the lintel of the door.
Sometimes their songs were more like riddles but today their message was clear. The old woman from Glenelg was told her one-legged husband would be dead before the next lamb was born on their croft. This message confirmed what the woman expected. She rewarded the seer with a single coin and a noisy cockerel, before hastily taking her leave to plan a grand funeral for her husband.
The seer’s infamy grew with each passing week. Soon she would no longer have to take cockerels in exchange for a prophetic message. Soon it would be only silver coins. It seemed that everyone wanted to know what the future held for them. Young women wanted to know when they would have bairns. Girls, the name of their future husbands.
But the islanders of Skye might not have been so keen to reward the seer if they knew where the messages came from. For they were god fearing folk, who held many superstitions. Granted, they were happy enough to come to have their fortune told, but they would not be happy to know it was the bones of a murdered soul that was doing the telling.
Nor would they be happy seeking the services of someone who had robbed the grave of a 13-year-old child. In those days, the stealing of bones from the kirkyard would be considered an unholy act. The cunning woman, Betty Macleod from Kylerhea, would be named as a witch. In truth that was what she had become, a practitioner of the black airts.
She heard the bones sing, as she passed by the kirkyard on a hot summer’s day.
“I would not lie in his bed, so my father held a pillow over my head and now I am dead”.
Now, most people would be frightened by such an occurrence but not Betty, she had heard the dead talk before. This restless spirit was eager to tell her terrible tale. How her father had taken her life after she refused his unnatural advances. Then claimed that his oldest daughter had been taken by a sudden illness in the night. Subsequently burying her body without fuss or further ado.
Cunning by name and cunning by nature, Betty promised she would tell the girls story if the spirit would do her bidding for a year. The girl had already lain in the grave for three months and was worried that her father, a widower, would turn his attention to her younger sisters. The ghost begged the cunning woman to help her immediately, but this plea fell on death ears, so she agreed to be bound for a year in exchange for help. But not a day longer!
Betty dug up some of the girl’s bones to complete the binding pact and kept them in a pot made of red clay and rowan berries. While they were inside the enchanted container, they were quiet but when the pot was opened, the bones foretold the future with song.
“A tinker will soon ask for your hand. Refuse him if you want to own your own land”.
The prediction of death, birth and marriage was a profitable business. It would be a year tomorrow since the deal had been struck, but the cunning woman had been infected with the sickness of greed and had no intention of honouring her side of the bargain. Exhausted from another busy day of telling fortunes, Betty fell into a deep sleep.
In her dreams she was visited by her grandmother Donald. The old woman had taught her the old ways and given her a book of charms on her passing. She harshly scolded her granddaughter for misusing the gifts, before telling her to look out for a chance to put things right. When she awoke the next morning, Betty vowed to help the spirit.
A knock came to the door. It was a young woman inquiring about a love spell. The cunning woman was just about to shoo her away, when she heard the bones rattle loudly in the pot and remembered her grandmother’s words. She invited the young woman to sit by the hearth and tell her a bit more about the man she had set her heart on.
“He is a widower with two young daughters and a fair size croft down in Armadale. He did have another daughter, but she was cruelly taken by a sudden illness just over a year ago”.
Fate will have its way! Betty agreed to help the woman, saying.
“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I will give you all the ingredients for a meal that will make you irresistible to this widower. I have more than enough cockerels and I am sick of their crowing”.
She prepared the love potion and gave the young woman strict instructions that it was only her intended that should eat it. Warning her not to taste a drop if she ever wanted to marry.
As it happened the crofters favourite dish was chicken broth, it smelt delicious. He could not wait to dip his spoon into the bowl and eat every drop. Complaining that he had not had a decent meal since his wife had died. Adding, that his late daughter’s cooking was so bad, that he often thought she would be the death of him.
It was the last meal he ever tasted, for he choked on a strange-looking-chicken-bone and died at the kitchen table. The next morning, Betty Macleod from Kylerhea, buried the rest of the bones in the girl’s grave and they sung no more.
THE SINGING BONES
Magical storytelling that totally immerses you so that you fully believe that you are truly there with each of the characters in the story. (Tahir Sharif)