May 4, 2021

The Reishi Witch, by T. C. Zeddies




Editor’s note: What a charming and unexpected fairy tale. The language is clever and really helps the reader visualize the story. You are going to love this wise and witty journey of growth.

Once in the grievous and backward days when forest wolves were still a threat, there lived a mushroom farmer of maturing age. She used to grow the mushrooms on the beams of her little house in her little village. Sadly, her neighbors were sore weirded out by the sprouting tips of white oyster fungi coming out of every part of her dwelling. The mushrooms themselves were perfectly innocuous, not to mention delicious when stewed with onions and a bit of bacon. They left a good taste in the mouth, but apparently a bad taste in the mind. Peer pressure being what it was in this insular Germanish community, she soon found herself with a surplus of mushrooms and a deficit of coppers. There was only one thing to do for a woman of her age and accomplishments, and that was to become a witch.


They’d never had a witch in this neck of the outskirts of the woods, which gave her carte blanche (or blankoschek) to choose her own attire and demeanor. She decided the ones she had were good enough, so long as she found a dwelling sufficiently numinous. And indeed, a house with mushrooms growing out of it seemed perfectly fit. She wore old clothes patched with this and that, and did like to carry a broom with her to shoo away impertinent children and insects who threatened her crop. But she soon found that when people came to a witch (and come they did), they typically wanted her to do something magical for them, like curing their warts or helping them get pregnant (or un-pregnant). She didn’t know how to do any of those things, she just liked to grow tasty mushrooms and make soup.

 

There was only one thing to do, so she did it. She swept tidy her house, bundled her things together in a little cart, locked the house up tight, nodded to the spores within the walls, and set off to find out how to be a proper witch. Few were sorry to see her go, though she worried briefly that they would steal the mushrooms from off her house while she was gone. Then again, if they hadn’t wanted to buy them from her at a fair price, would they really want to steal them from her for nothing? She didn’t know, and really it didn’t matter. Once the spores were in the beams, the dears would grow and grow for years. The villagers could eat all they wanted, and choke on it for all she cared. Well, that wasn’t true. She actually cared for her comrades, and it had hurt when they abandoned her.


But the further she walked with her cart, the freer she felt. The freer she felt, the more that she took from her cart. Soon, she left the cart itself behind, and simply walked from wood to wood. She was untouched by wolf or man, and knew from her girlhood days how to get by on her wits and the gifts of the trees.

 

She walked until the trees became mountains, and the mountains became deserts, and the deserts became vast, flat plains. Eventually, she found some new people—people she had never seen the likes of, who rode and drank from horses. They taught her a thing or two, but none of it was useful for witchcraft, or wisecraft, or whatever you wanted to call it. But they did agree to cart her across the plains to places where she might learn more.

 

And so she went, and on she went. She met people who wore beautiful robes made from caterpillar webs, and baked long bread like strings in pots. She met people who grew tiny white wheat in flooded fields, and make sticky white porridge balls with all sorts of deliciousness inside. And, of course, everywhere she went she found new fungus. Wherever she went, she took another sample of the beautiful creatures of decay with her, until her pack was filled with a hundred varieties of all kinds of mushrooms. Every one of them was for eating, though, and none would help her become a witch.


At the end of her travels, when she neared an ocean said to be as large as the wide world she had walked, she finally met a man who looked as old as she felt. She found him while she was walking in the woods looking for new varieties of mushrooms, and she saw him strangely eyeing a growth from a tree. Upon closer inspection, she saw that he was looking at a simple shelf fungus. It was as ugly as it was bitter, and she thought at first that he was unschooled in the ways of foraging.

 

But once she spoke with him, she learned that he was familiar with all the same varieties as she, if not more. He instructed her that this was a special mushroom, rumored to strengthen the soul of the eater so to make them immortal and wise. She drank tea with him, and found that through the addition of some honey, the tea lost some of its bitterness. His sweet company made up for any remaining sting of bad mushroom tea, and soon they had become travelling companions. She knew that now she could be a witch, really and truly.

 

A year and day after that, they had returned to her village, where her house had been overwhelmed by mushrooms. Indeed, the village had been scalping her wares, but that was all right; for they had come to love the taste, and all came to the aid of the old couple in resettling themselves, paying them for a years’ worth of mushroom soup.  They became known as The Wise, and through the work of their medicine, the whole town became hearty and hale.


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Note: Info on the reishi mushroom is here. We are not dispensing medical advice here—just providing a great story.


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Bio: T.C. Zeddies grew up in a few enchanted spots in Michigan, Kansas, Texas, and Pennsylvania. He lives in Pittsburgh now with his lovely wife and child—not to mention the dog and cats. He loves to do theater, and makes a decent living helping people get food and medicine.


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Image is from Oh So Nifty Vintage Graphics..


13 comments:

Kelly Jarvis said...

A lovely story! My favorite line: "There was only one thing to do for a woman of her age and accomplishments, and that was to become a witch." <3

Monique Salinas said...

Delightful!!

Andrea said...

Great story, Tim!!! Thank you. I like “when she neared an ocean said to be as large as the wide world she had walked” also the last sentence “They became know as The Wise...” ❤️

Tim Zeddies said...

Thank you, Kelly! I really enjoyed writing that line, too.

Tim Zeddies said...

Thank you, Kelly! I really enjoyed writing that line, too.

Tim Zeddies said...

Thank you, Monique! Glad to have delighted.

Tim Zeddies said...

Thank you, Andrea!

Deborah Sage said...

I loved this story!

HulderMN said...

Such a charming story!

Tim Zeddies said...

I’m so glad!

Tim Zeddies said...

Thank you!

Brigid Levi said...

Well, this is just charming! I love the whimsy of the narrative voice.

Angelika said...

Excellent story. Quite - ahem - enchanting.

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