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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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