Gwen called me up to tell me that her nineteen-year old Siamese cat Coco, who raised her from a small child and taught her innumerable wisdom, had just come out of surgery and was not doing well. She talked about how her sister Lisa went to the vet every day to sit with him, talk to him, and give him her love. Gwen said she was burning a blue candle next to his picture in order to promote his healing, and was that O.K.? To answer her I mentioned as a gentle aside that I had heard that green was also good for healing. We talked cats for a while. She cried. I remembered Buttons, fought tears, and then I understood what pain she faced here. She kept talking until I offered that I too might do a healing spell on his behalf. She jumped on my words with an eager "Oh! Would you?!" and I suddenly understood the real question behind this phone-call.
I explained that a cat who has seen nineteen summers has really had the best of it already, and that a spell which holds him to a body which is obviously failing him might be no kindness. She agreed. I explained that he might just be ready to go, now...since she has been raised, and even her little sister Lisa-with whom Coco lived-had just graduated college. I agreed to do a spell which sent him energy to do with as he chose, either to heal or to move on. She made a hopeful sound that with healing, he might choose to stay, then she hung up.
I went quiet, thinking how best to do this. I mentally reviewed past spells that have worked, and why. Spells of "recovery" (whether they have been for illness, or finding Buttons when he was lost in a strange and distant city, or simply gaining the return of stolen things) have worked best when I look at the web as it was before the undesired event, compare it to the web as it is after, and (if the difference is not too great) then shape the web with my mind until it resembles what has been and consequently have the item in question pop back into my reality like a watermelon seed squeezed between thumb and forefinger.
Here I sought to couch this knowledge within the Wiccan framework I am studying. I understand how the use of a ritual (or a language, an image, a habit, anything) taps into all those who have ever used the same thing, and knits their gifts together on the time-line. More mundanely, I understand how my own establishment of the habit of ritual will build powerful cues in my mind which make spell-work more efficient. Out of respect for what my teachers have been showing me, I determined to do it perfectly...while no one was around for me to feel awkward before.
How might my Priestess teacher compose her Altar? What things, and what Deity shall be the focus? Well, obviously Bast...and such things as Bast might like. I thought back to the ritual I wanted to do with Bast for healing Le-oh. I plundered the memory of it for useful items. I remembered: Bast likes golden necklaces and other shiny things, images of cats, soft lights that don't damage night vision, and suddenly, I laughed aloud as I was inspired to offer Her cat-nip. It just felt right. So I laid these all out (along with the "usual" things): My first piece of jewelry-a golden cat pin, inscribed "Save a Cat" from the Save a Cat League of New York, my finest gold chain, two teak cats from the orient, my golden ankh, scarab necklace, and the spread-winged Horus-falcon I got when I visited the exhibition of Ramses II. I placed a bud-vase next to the water cup and went out into the night to gather a perfect sprig of fresh cat-nip.
A deep breath, and I began by lighting the tiny oil lamps on Her Altar...
Standing before Her altar I closed my eyes and reached for the images of the web when Coco was well and compared how it is now. Images slipped and swam. The differences were great. I pictured Gwen, her candles and photographs, and knitted us all into the circle with a breath. Then the images left. I opened my eyes and spoke softly but aloud. (I'm trying to cultivate that ability.) Before me, my cat images glimmered. I remembered the scene where Thomasina visits Bast.
I went there too. I breathed energy into myself, and held it in my belly, as my Sensei taught me. Then I said:
"Oh Bast-I'm here on behalf of your charge Coco, and his human, my friend Gwen. Coco is old, and it may be that his time has come. It's true he has lived long, but some cats do live longer. If this is still something about which there is uncertainty and choice, let him use this energy to heal. If it is really time for him to go, then I don't wish to stop him. Let him use this energy to go on into what ever comes next for him, and have an optimum and right...'coming forth into the day'."
(I wanted to say 'death and re-birth,' but suddenly that wasn't accurate here...) I then continued, asking:
"Oh Bast, how hard is it to just let things be as they have been, for just a little longer? He is old, but old-age isn't a crime..."
and suddenly a voice broke in just behind my right ear, and in perfectly lucid English She answered softly:
"...and Death is no punishment."
It shook me a moment. As soon as She said it I recognized She was right- (hence-right side? Or R/L Brain?) It humbled me to realize I had thought that death WAS punishment. I knew that She was gone as soon as She had spoken, and there would be no point to turning to look. I felt the energy go out of me toward Coco, and I knew the spell had worked but that I hadn't gotten the answer Gwen wanted. That saddened me, even knowing what She said. I thanked Bast, thanked and dismissed the watch-towers, and went to bed to think about it all.
Early the next morning Gwen called to thank me for talking to her, and to tell me there was no need to make the spell for Coco. He had died in his sleep during the night...now at least he wouldn't have to face another surgery.
I told her I had already done the spell, and it was my feeling that Coco was O.K. I mentioned that I thought he had taken the energy for use in his next reality. I said everything I could think of to help her feel better. I don't recall whether I told her what Bast said to me or not.
When I went to the altar to take it all down, I noticed the water level on the cat-nip had dropped below the stem and it had withered. Somehow that was fitting. It meant many sad and happy things all at once. It meant that She had accepted the gift by taking the essential freshness of the offering; It meant that things die, and that's natural; It meant that when the vitality is gone, the flesh can not stay. So it is with what I know of death.
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