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This post pertains to Wicca
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From The Big Red Strory BookTales Of Men And Women
From The Big Red Strory BookTales Of Men And Women
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This post is in category Music For Freedom
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This post is in category Goddess
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This post is in category Nature

Catsong and The Life Of Plants


{- prosodic long memoir stone riley creative commons 2020 the creds are at bottom -}
{- a memoir of magic -}

[:: These events took place in 1980 at age 24, early in my 2nd marriage, while The Simple Tarot was being made. ::]

Some long years ago, at the time when I had first begun to practice magic, I was a young man with a wife and little child living in the city of Houston.

We were poor and the place we lived in was a run-down big apartment complex, not a tall apartment block but a lot of long low two-story buildings. That city stands on a prairie near a tropic sea, you know, and hurricanes blow through there frequently, so most of the buildings there are built quite low.

This place had a long row of apartments facing another row with a long courtway in between where there were sidewalks and plots of grass and unkempt shrubs and planters with weeds and flowers and such, where our children would all come out to play, and then behind that was an alley for the cars, and then another long low building with a courtway and another – and so on and on, several acres all built up like that, crowded full of people, lots of children with their toys and bikes and trikes and games. It was run-down and poor and ill kept and the shingles might blow off the roof in storms, yes, but it was nice.

And there were cats. Cats. A whole society, a town of cats.

You see, there was a kind of little patio in front of every door. On the ground floor every door had a wooden fence and a gate, and on the second story it was a balcony with stairs. It was just a little space but kind of private, kind of public, where you could put a chair and sit, and many of us would set out food and water there for the cats. We on the ground floor would leave our gates open just a bit. You know how humans love to live with other species. Well, even though the humans fed them – and doctored them too when there was a need – yet still these were not tame pets by any means. No. There were many dozens of them and they were living in their own world by their own feline law.

Maybe you’ve been lucky enough to watch some other species in their own society like that. It is a rare treat.

The cats partly lived out of grocery cans of meat, yes, but mainly on vermin. There were those giant filthy tropic cock­roaches, those awful cockroaches big as your thumb that smell of stinky oil at night and scurry loud across a floor; the cats kept them down all right. They’d pounce on them and gulp them down in just two crunchy bites, with the little legs still wiggling. And mice – there surely were no rats – they ate the few unlucky mice that wandered in and such as that. So the cats lived outside where they hunted, among the bushes and the patios, although we humans would some­times let a polite civil individual into our house to hunt inside a while and then exchange respects when leaving.

Maybe you know this too: Tom cats like to club up. Most of the toms preferred to hang together in a little gang and take possession of a generous open patio. Other porches belonged to a mother with her periodic broods of kittens. Some individuals preferred to roam about. When the human kids came out to play with bikes and balls and toys, the cats would lurk within the bushes and watch, then come out sometimes for a soothing belly rub. You can imagine. It was no Tahitian paradise like Gauguin painted but it was pretty good.

But then one summer day a child molester came into the neighborhood.

At that time I had only just begun to practice magic, and only lesser magic still, but at least my eyes were open. So, from the first time that I saw this horrid fellow – he was someone’s uncle visiting, you see – I knew he was a hungry tortured soul with another hungry spirit on him. There’s no other way to tell you how that fellow looked. He was a little man, haggard with a malicious grin always on his face, always wringing his hands, always bent like there was a heavy weight on his back, just exactly like some character from Dickens, and always trying to hang around the children, always trying to chat them up.

You couldn’t call the cops. Houston was the kind of place where poor folks do not call the cops, not unless you absolutely know there’s something going wrong. We feared the law. Nobody really knew what this fellow with all this evil on him was actually up to, if he was actually doing anything at all. When adults looked out there in the courtway and saw him, they would just cringe and call their own kids in and slam their door.

This went on about a week. I bespoke him sternly one time, standing close, glaring in his knotted countenance. I warn­ed him off but he did not hear and so I walked away.

Well, let me tell you just a bit of where I was in life. I was young but had in my few years tried to live properly. I had tried to do my duty with sufficient courage when a need arose and tried to act with charity. I tried to always show all kinds of folks an open hand and open face. I had done all that – for so my father always taught – but as you know, that is not enough to fill a person’s spiritual needs. My spiritual hunger was the sort that leads a person toward the mysteries of life, toward the hidden truths, beyond the boundaries of common­sense, toward the shining goal of reality and wisdom in their nakedness.

Just in the normal way of suchlike things, quite surpris­ingly and quite by chance, I had stumbled on a proper teacher. By that time this teacher lady had shown me where to stand upon this grassy plain to start the hidden path.

She had given me, by then, to the holy art of telling fortunes; that was one thing. How to commune with disembodied spirits too. A little about herbs and minerals and music and scents and such. Just a little. And that particular witch was very given to ancient incantations in forgotten tongues, which is totally out of fashion in the Pagan movement now, but which she enjoyed to either cry aloud or else sometimes to scratch the peculiar words on little scraps of genuine parchment with colored ink. So on. And I was gladly taking all of this into myself to try and see what was the truth of it.

So there I was, a genuine and bona fide sorcerer’s appren­tice, with a real fearful danger for my own child and others on my hands, a danger which no other person in my neighborhood had even the least inkling of any means to face. There was simply nothing else for me to do, now was there? If you had been learning all that stuff and wondering how much of it was real, you too would feel required to take that challenge up. Wouldn’t you? Right. You would have to at least give an honest try at banishing the hungry spirit which you plainly saw riding with its talons gripped into that disgusting insect of a man.

And so it was done. My teacher looked up the problem in her books. She copied out a ceremony for me, on ordinary paper with ordinary ink. And she came over the house and spoke with our little girl. Understand, she was a quite intelligent kindly woman and she spoke very well to our child. And she gave our little girl a large talisman, a protective thing, a disk of leather with a picture painted on it. The picture was a power­ful wolf painted on it, looking alert and strong in a snow-clad wood, and the child should hide this talisman in a secret place by day then keep it in her bed at night.

And the child evidently knew there was a danger lurking. To my surprise, our little girl accepted this unusual ornament in the manner actually of someone who is feeling some relief. And my teacher told me that the next night after that day’s night would be a good time for the job, according to astrology, of which I have not got the slightest understanding.

Well, what would you have done in somesuch circum­stances? Put yourself in my place (kindly for a moment do) and pretend that you have found yourself somehow alive in somesuch strange unreal fantastic real actual pressing emergency situation, with this piece of paper pressed into your hand, and answer this: What would you do?

The ceremony called for me to very calmly wait until one hour after midnight, with the child asleep, then go into her room where I would accomplish everything with murmured spells, in English, and with a peculiar pantomime of exact ritual gestures. I must cast a bright sphere of divine light around the tiny room and the sleeping child, then put myself above the place to hide, and call the evil being in, as it would think, to feast upon this seeming victim. Then, with incorporeal blazing sword in hand, I must swoop upon the disembodied thing and hack it, bleed it, pierce it, weaken it beyond repair.

I built the fortress temple as instructed and hid myself and called. The thing arrived from somewhere across a dim-lit empty plain, arrived in the form of a giant running spider several times my size, and I went to it. I set upon the imaginary it with that imaginary blazing sword. Several times the ghastly thing retreated then came on again and I must dash to the new quarter of my crumbling walls to hack and thrust some more. But finally it had had too much, lame in every leg and spurting dark gouts of blood that vanished on the whistling wind, so that it finally screamed and fled across the empty plain from whence it came, away far out of sight.

Can you possibly imagine what this was like? I swear by any living power you may wish to name, this is all true. All that stuff you hear about other realms of reality; in somewise it is true. This combat was imagination, obviously, all in the mind’s eye, but true imagination is not fantasy. Once I was prepared, the clear and powerful impressions following thence were forced upon me by the force of some real being outside myself.

The mask of all these doings, you might say, was in my head, but the truth of them was not. Beyond all of my expec­tations, beyond all prior experience, I stood in the spirit realm and fought for good. I was utterly convinced of it as I am today. I was elated and my heart was very glad but I was trembling and exhausted too and dawn had nearly come. It was startling to learn the fight had taken several hours.

I’ll tell you quickly how that bit of the affair came out; it came out for the good. Two days later with another spell I finally trapped that weakened spirit in a candle that I made of molten wax. At my kitchen stove in that small home, in broad daylight, even as I poured the molten fluid carefully to the candle form, that hungry wretched wounded thing came screaming in and fell imprisoned in the wax. I wrapped it tight in paper as my teacher said, and later gave it to her so she’d cast the thing into a fire and banish it to realms more distant from our own.

Next time that I saw that little fellow, he was a different man. He was quite utterly changed, apologetic in demeanor, meek and mild. I stood before him once again and stared hard into his heart. There were human weaknesses still evident but he was clean at least of the ugly thing that had been on him. So I pray he might be well. If he is dead, I wish him rest.

But in that morning, that early pre-dawn morning when the awesome fight was done, after the hungry spirit fled, after that disembodied battle in the small child’s room, inside the crumbling fortress built of shining light that stood upon some distant empty plain, with the exhausting hours passed since it began, first thing I did was this: I heaped back up the glowing stones of the imaginary walls into a semblance of their power and mouthed a whispered blessing by the bed. Then I left the silent room. The child was sleeping quietly.

I sat out in the living room. That’s when I saw the dawn was near. The light was slowly growing, glowing darkly through the window glass. And so, gathering in my strength again, I watched the sun arise. The sun came up. It shone in through my front window and little bits of rainbow struck upon the walls. There was a pretty crystal hanging in that window there and the light came through refracted, casting lovely bits of rainbow everywhere.

Those of you who walk a rocky path like mine can verify that when you reach the early upward slope which I had reached, and if you are a worthy candidate as I had evidently been, then the universe conspires to offer worthy tests. The universe con­spires to let you exercise yourself so as to learn. So it had done. This timeless fact of life was that event. And if you pass those tests it offers fitting treasures as reward, and treasures that your eyes are fit to see and hands to grasp.

I tell you now, only one reward in this whole universe could fit me then. After all that I had seen and done, after the heedless hungry evil whose naked­ness I’d gazed upon, after that blood gushing to the wind, the only treasure for my eyes and hands would have been some proof of fundamental beauty in this world. That’s what the rain­bows were. I knew at once on seeing them; a treasure and reward strewn in jewel-like bits around that room, a confirmation of surpassing loveliness in fundamental things. My eyes beheld the colored light with joy. My hands went out to touch the beams of it.

I did not know that there was even more treasure yet to come.

My heart was full of gratitude for all beauty in this world, and for the strength it gives, and for that sufficient portion of its strength which the divine light had gifted to me in the struggle. So I soon arose and found a little pottery dish and a bit of char­coal and some frankincense. You know, by that time in this life I owned a jar of frankincense.

So I quickly got the charcoal lit and got the tiny pile of incense smoking on it and took the dish out to my little patio outside the front door there, then held it up to the sun in earnest prayer and set it on a little table, an offering of gratitude and love for the power of light that comes up manifested with the day. So there I stood leaning on the bit of fence and basking in the light and letting the smoke curl around me as it would. And so a new thing happened.

Cats. Cats. Yes, cats.

Just across the way, at the neighbors’ place across the little courtway there, there sat the usual gang of toms who owned the neighbor’s patio under feline law.

Now, that particular little club who owned that place con­sisted of four tom cats, one big old brawny fellow with hardly a brain in his head but covered in bulging muscles, and three of his equally brilliant sons. They all looked much alike except the different colors. All were tiger-striped, you see, but the big old dad was orange, like one of the lads, while another was blackish and the other gray.

But the old fellow was biggest and meanest and therefore undisputed boss. I knew all this from lengthy observation. Right now the big old fellow was lounging there beside the opening of their gate, rolling on his back most luxuriously on the cool cement before the day’s oppressive sum­mer tropic heat came up, while his three sons sat about like bodyguards just washing themselves and feeling quite important, just the way that stupid toms partic­ularly will do if left to their own world.

I stood there hanging on my fence, you know, and study­ing these amusing quite Shakespearean fellows and smiling at the fineness of the world so manifested in its richly woven quirks, and wondering if the wisest human person in our world could extract any bit of moral lesson from this bit of feline tale, but there was more and finer yet to come.

Movement caught the corner of my eye. I looked and saw, way down at the far end of that apartment row, way down at the far end where the buildings gave way to a vacant lot that stood in prairie grass extremely tall and thick, prairie grass chest high on me in that vacant lot down past the buildings’ end; two new cats had appeared from out of there and these two new fellows were creeping very carefully in the shadows along toward us, evidencing every sign and gesture of utmost caution. That wild and primitive prairie out there is called buffalo grass.

From the way they walked it was quite clear these fellows were strangers in this cat town. And as they approached I came to see how dirty and skinny they both were. Bony. Grimed with dirt. They walked shoulder to shoulder right in step and leaning on each other – maybe you’ve seen cats who really trust each other walk like that – casting wary glances everywhere – then they spied the gang of big toms by the open gate.

They froze. I must guess they were drawn to this strange dangerous open place by drifting whiffs of the heap of luscious food that waited in a lump on a plate in there beyond the opening of the gate. Perhaps they smelled the bowl of water. They were starving.

But it seemed the three bully guards had not spied them yet, still preoccupied with washing, so the new fellows, with every move like a single being, fixed their gaze upon the gang of four and stepped off again, shoulder to shoulder, coming on again.

At last the bullies spotted them but they did not stop. The big guy saw them first and started, startling his sons, and they looked too, at this pair of dirty skinny tramps who now had the unmitigated gall to just stare fixedly at them and come on right ahead. The two strangers now were simply coming on while striving to fix a baleful glare upon the four. Well, the three sons jumped to their feet and started doing that feline thing where you stand sideways and put your back up and show your teeth.

Oh, they looked fierce all right but the tramps just kept on coming, staring with their baleful eyes.

I was amazed.

Finally, when the new guys were maybe ten feet off, just when the big boss too at last jumped up and was turning side­ways, getting set to show his teeth and hiss quite horribly as he could, suddenly the new guys stopped. They stopped. Unbelievably to all of us, they sat down upon their backsides in the regular cat way with every sign of confidence and startling self-composure.

They straightened up their bony bodies tall. I was amazed but now I understand. They had a magic trick. They knew they were in range by now to hurl this overwhelming stupefying spell of magic they had got from somewhere. And so help me, that is what they did.

The two guys, both as one, turned their faces upward to the sky. They opened their mouths wide. They sang.

They sang. These two souls sang one long single note in perfect ringing echoing harmony together. Where had they learned to do this? How had these two wild ones from the buf­falo grass learned, and learned such confidence that it would work? They hit this one note exactly and immediately together, not even reaching for the note but both at once, their two screechy voices blending in a tone that I have certainly never heard from human throats, a tone that pierced right through and struck a chord of splendor in my brain. Splendor.

Music can do such things. Certain notes and rhythms have effects. There is a rising strain that tears the heart from out your breast and sends it winging toward some distant home that waits for all our race. There is a certain waterfall of cas­cading notes that wakes the lonely yearning for your long-lost love, even if you haven’t got one. And this particular vibrating piercing wail had mystical effects. It brought transcendent vision. The world opened all around, as if this cosmos were a blossoming rose or lotus flower. Oh, it was lovely.

The world there in that place vanished when that note struck in my ears then penetrated to my brain. All of space in all directions opened. So then the wheeling stars turned round at every hand while I marveled at the vast infinity of space and time. And when it stopped, it was a startlement to find myself somehow back again. I simply blinked. Once more I leaned upon that bit of wooden fence as if I’d never left. I had never heard that note before and never heard it since. And these were cats.

Well, the four bullies were farther stunned than I. This mystical vision thing was apparently new to them. They stood frozen even when the long note faded. Their stupefaction obviously lingered.

And so the two ragged troubadours eyed them, eyed them warily to check on the effect. And suddenly the big guys simply sagged. All four sat down at once with eyes open wide and staring unblinking at the singers. The skinny troubadours then, reassured by this delayed response, crept cautiously around right by the four into the open gate. Without a backward glance, they laid into the fragrant feast of meat and water. The four watched them for a moment, then began to wash again.

And that’s all of this tale. The sorcerer’s apprentice gained a test and, having passed the test, was granted just and glorious reward. My heart was full of strength and beauty and amazement and that wondrous vision, all of it, is with me to this day.

One sorry note that I must say: the orchestra broke up. That’s how musicians are sometimes, you know. One of the fellows stayed there in our neighborhood but the other one I never saw again and surely no one else has ever heard their mystic song.

And by the way, this story is all true.

[:: And as these events did occur even while my first Tarot was being made,..
.. A Tarot with poems in it, ..
.. And as that harrowing ritual in the poor child’s room ended at the rising of the Sun, ..
.. Therefore my Simple Tarot’s poem on The Sun portrays exactly..
.. The spirit combat in that harrowing ritual.
.. You can see all those poems here.. {Here} .. starting on Page 12 of that document. ::]

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
{- End Of “Catsong” -}
{-Creds.. This is from my book.. “Tales Of Men And Women”
.. .. Its overview page .. {-Here-} -}

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