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                                  Second Ritual For Bast 
                                      Chris Olmstead
          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
          wisdoms, 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

          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

          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
          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 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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