Archive for Indigenous Magic

PodCastle 763: INDIGENOUS MAGIC – Dying Rivers and Broken Hearts

Show Notes

Rated PG-13

Dying Rivers and Broken Hearts

by Gabriella Buba


Manila, Philippines, 1936


Maria-Lucia had failed.

In her hand, a freshly struck agimat burned. The copper amulet pressed with the image of the Virgin Mary was hot with the power the coven had gathered from the full moon. Golden light streamed between her clenched fingers.

All eyes were on her, as her first meeting as leader of the Mallari witches after the death of her husband came to a close. The full moon sank into the black waters of Manila bay.

Pasig, the sea-dragon of Manila Bay, had not come to renew her pact with the Mallari Witches, nor to accept Maria-Lucia as their new leader. The dragon went by many names. She was a bakunawa to the sailors from Cebu. In Manila she was a laho, the moon chaser.

“Is it because of me?” Maria silently asked her witch-heart Lucia, “Because I’m not truly a Mallari Witch — only married-in?”

Lucia, normally euphoric after soaking up moonlight and magic with her coven, was hesitant. “I don’t know. She’s come to our call before, why not now?”

(Continue Reading…)

PodCastle 761: INDIGENOUS MAGIC – The Bone Pickers

Show Notes

Rated PG

The Bone Pickers

by Kelsey Hutton


My last day picking buffalo bones, stooping and flinging and splintering tibia among the tall grass, was the day I lost the smell of freshly tanned leather.

The buffalo gave us so many gifts, but the finished hides were my favourite. Rich and musky-smelling, hair scraped off, with only the hide left — I remember one side was always slightly glossier than the other. Soft, supple, broken in. Ready for a skilled seamstress to transform into intricately embroidered moccasins, leggings, vests, a thousand beautiful things.

Or, there were the great shaggy buffalo robes my parents used to roll us children up in at night, tucked safely into our corner of the cabin to sleep. Those were large enough I could lie down in the middle, fan my arms and legs out like a great grey owl descending on its prey, and still not touch the edges. First thing in the morning, or last thing at night, I remember closing my eyes and inhaling huge swelling lungfuls of the scent left behind by the great animals, lii bufloo, who lived alongside us. Whose lives were twined so intimately with ours.

And of course, there were the herds themselves. As many as there were seeds in the spring, as there were stones in the riverbed. On the first day of the fall hunt, we could follow their smell more surely even than their hoofbeats. Kneeling beside a freshly killed cow, grown fat on sweet summer clover, I would bury my fingers deep in her shaggy ruff. Curled up in the warmth still emanating from her massive form, I breathed in my thanks.

These were the things I still let myself remember, around and in between the spitting-grease-hot memories of my parents, my brothers, my sisters. Those ones I never touched.

(Continue Reading…)

PodCastle 760: INDIGENOUS MAGIC – The Tree Whisperer

Show Notes

Rated PG-13

The Tree Whisperer

by Oluwatomiwa Ajeigbe


The trees are getting restless. I walk down the beaten forest path, trying my best to ignore their murmurs, but they are too many and their words crowd my mind.

The green will perish . . .

You must warn the people . . .

Call down the wrath of Ileh . . .

I do not reply to any of them. They will only slow me down if I do, and I must be back in the village before nightfall. I duck under a low-hanging branch and crawl till I emerge in a clearing. At the far end stands a tall iroko tree, the oldest in the forest and the leader of the trees: Auzyvre, the tree that was planted by Ileh herself.


Auzyvre’s voice is deeper than the voices of the other trees, and immediately as they speak, the entire forest falls quiet. They wave their leaves gently, even though there is no wind. Somewhere in their tall branches, a bird sings an ode to the ending day. I incline my head respectfully when I reach their base and a fresh green leaf falls to my feet, a sign of approval and acceptance.

“Auzyvre. I come with news,” I say.

I can feel the other trees tensing, their branches quivering with anticipation. Auzyvre betrays no emotion like the others, but I can tell that they’re expectant as well.

What news do you bring from the world of men?

“Tarim won’t send the foreigners away,” I say.

The trees howl in disappointment. Yellowed leaves fall to the ground all around me. Their branches shake aggressively and I can feel the ground rumbling a little as some of them move their roots, threatening to rip them out of the earth in their anger.

Enough! Enough!

Auzyvre’s voice cuts through the din, and gradually the trees quiet down. When the last yellow leaf has fallen and the earth has stopped trembling, Auzyvre speaks again.

Kola, you know what will happen if the foreigners do not leave. You know what we must do.

I know. I know what they must do. People will be hurt, or worse. They have done it before, but I cannot let them do it again. The last time the trees acted, innocent people died. This time, if anyone should suffer at all, it should be the ones who have betrayed the earth only. (Continue Reading…)

PodCastle 759: INDIGENOUS MAGIC – Anu and the Vetala

Show Notes


Anu and the Vetala

by Srikripa Krishna Prasad


The marble-tile floor of King Vikramaditya’s throne room is cold against Anu’s forehead. As she prostrates herself before him, body curled into a ball as her forehead meets the point of her hands, she can’t help the contempt that rises in her throat like vomit. Such riches, while she has to beg in front of the court for a chance at life.
“Rise,” intones the king.
Teeth clacking as she fights back shivers, Anu painstakingly lifts herself to her feet and meets his eyes.
“What brings you here?” he asks, courteous.
Anu breathes in deeply, taking the opportunity to look around the throne room. The marble walls are gilded with gold and tall, carved pillars support the ceiling, which is painted with figures of the king in various battles. Cushions and mats surround the throne where the ministers and court musicians would usually sit — once a week, the king banishes them from court in case they are the subjects of a civilian’s complaint. The throne itself is just how the stories describe it — carved into it are the figures of the thirty-two apsaras, the virtuous spirits who recognized King Vikramaditya as the most noble of kings. The king’s wives are absent; Anu wonders if they are even allowed to be present when the king holds court.
Allowed to. Anu’s mouth curls, and she quickly controls herself. You need him, she reminds herself. He is the most generous of all kings.
“Your Majesty,” she begins at last. “I come at the behest of the many stories told all around the nation of your grace and benevolence. Tales of your generosity and courage have been recited loudly enough to reach even my small village, far in the south.”
The king smiles, pleased. Anu swallows, then continues. “Your Majesty, I have journeyed for one month to bow before you and make a request. You see, I am very ill.” Anu curbs the roll of her eyes as the guards conspicuously move away from her. “The physicians in my village could not find a cure, nor could the ones in the cities around me, until one finally revealed my condition is one that can only be cured by great magic.”
“This is truly unfortunate,” the king says. “What ails you?”
“Intermittent fevers,” Anu replies. “They used to come on every few months, but now they have been occurring weekly. I fear for my life, Your Grace.”
“I see,” the king says, thoughtful. “What is it that you seek from me?”
“I have heard that you employ a sorcerer.”
The king’s eyebrow arches. “Indeed, I do.” He gestures towards a man standing in the far corner of the throne room, who comes forward. He carries a wooden staff and is dressed in a plain, white dhoti. Something about him reminds Anu of a coiled snake about to pounce.
“Speak, sorcerer,” says the king, “and tell this woman if you may assist her.” (Continue Reading…)

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Indigenous Magic Month


PodCastle is very proud to present Indigenous Magic, our special month of stories featuring Indigenous themes by Indigenous authors. Every week during November 2022, we will be bringing you a new Indigenous Magic story, and we can’t wait to share them all!

We have five fabulous stories coming up:

“Anu and the Vetala” by Srikripa Krishna Prasad, narrated by S. B. Divya

“The Tree Whisperer” by Oluwatomiwa Ajeigbe, narrated by Somto Ihezue

“The Bone Pickers” by Kelsey Hutton, narrated by Laurie McDougall

“The Witching Hour” by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, narrated by Shingai Njeri Kagunda

“Dying Rivers and Broken Hearts” by Gabriella Buba, narrated by Vida Cruz

We’re also delighted to be featuring this beautiful artwork by Cindy Fan, an illustrator and night owl who specializes in bringing stories to life in a dreamy and thoughtful manner for print and digital media. When she’s not drawing she loves walking slowly and aimlessly admiring the textures around her. Her work can be found at

Our cover art design is by Matt Dovey.