Friday, January 20, 2012

B Is For Bastet

So Bastet (or Bast) is the Cat Goddess of old Egypt. Those Egyptians, they had their priorities straight all right.

Her name means She of the bas, a bas being a type of ointment jar; in the exceptionally dry climate of Egypt moisturizer is an absolute necessity. I like to call Her Our Lady of the Salve.

Her cult center in Egypt was at the city of Per-Bastet ('the domain of Bastet' and now I'm totally cracking up at the I assume coincidental resemblance of Per to purr) up in the Delta; it was the capital of the 18th nome (administrative district; something like county, state, province) of Lower Egypt (lower of course meaning downstream in the case of the Nile, so that lower=northern, and upper=southern). It was famous for a particularly merry festival dedicated to Bastet, which involved lots of alcohol.

As you may well imagine, I've been petitioning Bastet left and right around here lately.

What? you say. Why is that?

All right; for those of you who have not been paying attention, I'll try to keep this brief.

Once upon a time at the start of last winter a little grey and white cat showed up on my doorstep, looking plaintively in at the glass door. That was Spot:

But of course she wasn't alone, oh no of course not. She had in tow three little kittens, who I reasonably enough named Splotch


and Stripey

Crap, I thought. I could instantly tell that two of the three at least were female by the tortoiseshell color schemes. And I've been around the block a few times and so knew exactly which direction that was going to go in.

So I asked Bastet for help. I asked Her to make sure that they had someone to look after them, and to find them a good home with enough food to last them through the winter.

What do you think I am doing? She purred.

Crap, I thought.

So I fed them, because it was the beginning of winter in New England and knowing they were there I could not let them starve.

I will admit I hemmed and hawed about the next part of it, though, because I could see what was coming and how much work it was going to be if I chose to do it. I mean it doesn't take the Sight to know what will happen when three (at least) unspayed female cats show up on your doorstep.

So I started looking around on the internet. But it took a while. For one thing, with the crap economy charities have very few resources nowadays. One particular cat charity, just last year, would come to your house, trap the feral cats, take them away to be neutered, deal with the aftercare and then bring them back to be released (as trapping, neutering, and releasing feral cats is really the best bet at population control, plus, you know, it avoids killing them); this year though they couldn't be arsed to even call me back, never mind lend me a trap or two. And it's true, I procrastinated a bit, because I knew it was a big job and it simply took time to get my brain around it. But in the end, yeah, it was my responsibility.

In the meantime, the Stripey kitten went missing. We found one by the road a few days later; maybe it was that one, maybe not. It had been there a little while and I honestly couldn't tell. We buried it.

So what with the hemming and hawing and lack of help with the traps (which I simply cannot afford to buy myself), and tracking down someone who would spay feral cats on the cheap, never mind psyching myself up to trap what is essentially a wild animal (I am, I suppose I should admit, a rank coward in more than a few ways), by the time early spring came around Spot had reproduced again, giving us this guy:

This one I managed to socialize, as his personality was fairly open to it (Splotch and Smudge were really skittish from the start). Plus the weather was nicer; it's hard to have much patience standing out there in January trying trying trying to coax a shy kitten to let itself get anywhere near you. So I ended up adopting him myself and now he's my Aleister Meowley, Frater Purrdurabo, the Lesser Beast (333). I've been calling him by his Chinese name lately, Miao Li (apparent younger brother to this Lady). I also sing him this song:

Well I hear you're just a kitten now
And I can see your pretty whiskers getting
in the tuna fish
You've got me right in your paws
Yes I'll put more in your dish

I know this world is thrilling you
Oh Aleister
Meow meow meow mew

Then of course before I knew it it was Splotch's turn, and she had these four, named after the place she gave birth to them, an old MG in the downstairs garage.

There was Austin

Healey (you can see she inherited her grandmother's spot)


and Morris Minor

By this time I'd been talking to the local cat shelter and knew I had to bring them inside. But before I could rearrange the dining room to accommodate them Morris Minor was killed, probably by a coyote. The bastard pretty much tore him in half and just left him there. So I buried him. Nature, sure. Child of the Goddess, sure. Still a bastard in my book.

So I got the other three inside, and socialized them. They all got adopted out, eventually.

Not, however, before it was Smudge's turn. She also had four, though one of them died at three weeks as it just didn't thrive (something like one out of four kittens don't make it for whatever reason). I buried that one too.

The other three, though, were Maurice (named after Morris Minor)

Danny Lyon

and of course, Ratty.

Oh, Ratty. That's the one I bottle-fed. And after all that work, he had to stick around too.

Then there was Danny and the long saga of him, which I haven't shared before and which is frankly rather a nasty story, involving a mother who insisted that she could handle taking care of him while I was away for a couple weeks; but one day I called to check up on them and was told that six-week-old Danny had 'broken his neck.'

Of course he hadn't; he was, instead, really, really, sick.

And my mother didn't see any reason to take him to the vet. She just sort of threw up her hands and said, O how sad! How terrible that nothing can be done!

It is a long story; basically I had to frankly bully my own mother from six hundred miles away into calling a goddamned cab to get that kitten to the emergency vet. She didn't want to. But she did. I swore a lot, and for some reason that worked.

When I later picked Danny up (after cutting my vacation short) the vet there said he was '95% dead' when he was brought in. They were, frankly, amazed that he recovered at all; one of the vet techs said she almost had a heart attack when she saw him trying to sit up the next day. A couple of weeks ago I stopped by the emergency vet to give them an update. The lady there said they don't usually remember animals since they come and go so quickly through there, but she sure remembered Danny.

One of the first things I did when I got home from my vacation was make an appointment with my lawyer, to make sure that, should something happen to me, my mother, specifically, is absolutely NOT to be the one making decisions for me.

I did say my family was dysfunctional. Yeah.

But anyway so then of course Danny stayed (you should see that vet bill, hoo boy).

I was going to put Maurice up for adoption, I really was. But he has this sort of chronicish respiratory condition which is well under control but still there, and I didn't know how adoptable he was going to be. Plus, he absolutely worships his Uncle Aleister. You should see it. He follows him around, rubs himself against him, gets in his path to head butt him, the whole thing. I suspect Aleister is a little annoyed with it all, honestly, but he tolerates it. So he stayed too.

Now, through all this summer of course there were eye infections going around, and no one could leave here until everyone got the all clear. Which meant putting this nasty ointment (why there's that word again) in their eyes. Plus there were some antibiotics in there for Maurice, never mind all the stuff Danny had to have, and honestly it's all kind of a haze now. It sure as fuck was a lot of work.

I did eventually scare up some traps, though I had to go pretty far afield (Boston, actually, which is not particularly local). And I caught all three of the mommy-cats, though I had to let Spot go the first time because she was obviously still nursing yet another batch of kittens. Now those are:

Rory (named after the marvellous Rory Pond, of course)

Flufius Maximus (that's Latin don't you know)

and their really quite exceptionally shy sister, Mademoiselle Zéphirine Chattonne-Gris.

(That's the best picture I have of her so far). All three of those are now in my dining room. Rory and Floof have been good to go for ages; they socialized fairly easily, though Floof took a little longer. But they are still here, because their sister is really very, very, very shy; I'm only just at the point where I can pet her a little while she eats without her freaking out. The two boys are a help with her; when she sees them come out and climb all over me purring I can see the wheels turning in her little cat head, that maybe, just maybe, I'm okay. So for now they're here.

And in the meantime Spot has been spayed. Which means all three of the mommy-cats are missing the tips of their left ears, as well as their reproductive organs and man I can tell you that makes me so very happy. Because this last batch is it.

Well, so much for brevity. But that's been my life lately. It's a lot of work. Oh sure, I know, sounds awful, doesn't it, hanging out with kittens and making sure they get enough cuddles and playtime; but, really, what I've been doing is transforming eleven wild animals into eleven tame animals. Holy fuck is this a lot of work, especially given my lack of mothering proclivities.

So I've been, like I said, bending Bastet's ear a bit this past year. And She has come through. I've always (eventually) gotten help when I needed it.

But I've been too busy to make any proper offerings. The most I'd done was offer some incense, and keep Her statue on my altar dusted.

Yes, well.

That's not actually how it works, is it. I have been making offerings. I have been making sacrifices to Her. All this, all this work I've done, this Work I've done, this real-life hard slog feed the kittens medicate the kittens drive the kittens to the vet, the shelter, the place to be neutered, trap the mothers, but no let that one go because she has very young kittens and she can't be away from them that long yet, trap her again later, get them all spayed and release them and keep feeding them and trap Zéphirine before it's too late and socialize them and tame them and pay attention to them first because they need to eat now and I want to go to bed but I have to clean the litterboxes first—all of it, is all an offering. It's all many offerings, over and over again, to Bastet, to the Goddess of the Cats.

I know this is true, and I know it is what She wants. Because when I look at Her now, all She does is purr.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

Yes, love it! Any service to cats is a service to Bast, to the Goddess. Thanks for that! I'll never again look the same way at cleaning HRH's litter box.

Rose said...

Oh my! I think you have more than looked after Bastet's interests this last year or so... I knew there were kittens and cats but not quite how many!