Happy birthday, Grey Cat

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A Facebook email this morning included the usual list of friends’ impending birthdays, including one for my mentor Grey Cat, who passed away two years ago. It is a strange feeling seeing someone’s name and picture smiling at you from a birthday list. For a moment, I saw Cat’s picture smiling and I reached for my phone to call. Her number is still in my Contacts list.

I stopped, caught myself. Felt the subtle swirl of emotions as I remembered the memorial service two years ago. Right about that time, a friend of mine messaged me with a note that it was Cat’s birthday. He was upset too. We spent part of the day talking about Cat and what had happened since she had passed.

I like to think that Cat would be happy with the paths that my friend and I are on. We’ve used what we learned from her as stepping stones on our own paths. We’ve taught others along the way when appropriate. In our own ways, we have honored her memory through what we are currently doing.

We both resigned from NorthWind, the tradition that Grey Cat founded, because it was no longer our home and because nothing had been happening in the group for months. Even when my friend and I had tried to encourage activities to rebuild the community of initiates, we met with resistance and disinterest. We tried for a year after Cat died to get things moving and nothing happened.

Some times the best option is to vote with your feet instead of putting energy into activities that go ignored. My friend and I both voted with our feet, a year apart. Not one person commented upon my resignation letter on the public mailing list when I resigned this past March. I had hoped for something, even a “keep in touch” from people I had known for almost 30 years.

Silence some times speaks volumes.

I miss Cat a lot at times like this. I miss the friendships and community I always found at her place within the Trad.

So many things passed away with her.

For Cat

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Grey Cat’s memorial was held on her birthday on June 16th at her old house. I spent many evenings up there in classes, attending potlucks, and sharing time with friends (while trying to survive a room-full of smokers). This was a poem I wrote a few days before Grey Cat’s memorial. It is a strange thing doing a handfasting one weekend and attending a memorial service the following weekend. Bookends, in a way.

Court and carry candles

She passed with grace from our circle
to the Samhain side of the veil
a loved Grey Cat with a lioness personality

Has it been so long that I am the one in center now
instead of fumbling in the ritual closet for items
(and never putting them back in the right place –labeled or not)

The copper carry candle still burns
lighting the way this time
for us to find our remembrance of you.

I speak up during ritual now
clean dishes unasked
shuttle people through before-and-after ritual
weaving a web of discourse
knitted conversations
never managing to capture court

With a tilt of your head
glancing over glasses
tapping a cigarette
the world stopped for you
You, graciously, nodded its passing
and marked your last months with beauty and love.

I’m still here
remembering Summer Solstice
visiting the privy and the falls
meeting people who stand here now

-June 14, 2012

Dealing with the passing of a friend

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I spent most of the weekend thinking about how to honor Grey Cat. All afternoon on Friday I kept seeing her signature with the distinctive swipe of the G and the curl in the C. And then I started remembering the little things from all of the classes, gatherings, and tradition meetings. The best way to honor her was to write about the memories and share that here.

  • Cat holding court in her little house in the hills of Tennessee. A bunch of us sitting around her, listening, laughing. A cloud of cigarette smoke from other people smoking.
  • Cat sitting with the red and brown cigarette roller rolling cigarettes on her lap using the Kite tobacco in the blue canister with the skill and ease of years of practice. It’s familiar tick-tick as she pushed the arm up and over and then pulled it back and pulled a finished cigarette and placed it into the little tin next to her chair.
  • Arriving to a gathering late Friday evening, just before evening ritual. Cat telling me that I had to do the opening ritual in half an hour. My friend and I wrote the ritual, found people to help, and managed to pull things together. One requirement for Second Degree down: be able to do things on the fly with little to no preparation.
  • Being in circle and being reminded to “Project! Speak up!” Years later, I repeated those same words to students of my own.
  • Calling Cat while in any number of situations and listening to her advice, knowing that how hard it was to hear, that she was usually right.
  • Potluck dinner during trad meetings with spaghetti, meat or veggie sauce, garlic bread, salad. Sharing dishes patrol with other trad members.
  • Learning the hard lessons of what being a priestess means by watching her some times controversial example.

I had spaghetti tonight with hamburger in the sauce. Garlic cheese bread. Chocolate cake. Watched The Wicker Man and Practical Magic. Talked with one of my former students about Cat.

Realized just how much one person can impact a life.

Merry meet and merry part, Cat. May She bring you home.

For Grey Cat

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It seems fitting that the first post on this site is about my mentor and priestess, Grey Cat, founder and priestess of Northwind Tradition of American Wicca. She guided me through many years from college on. Granted, we didn’t always agree, but we always cared for each other.

This past November she let people know that she had late stage cancer and was not going to seek treatment. She has been facing her last days with grace and dignity. It has been so sad and yet at the same time so beautiful to be able to honor her during her last days. I hope when it is my time, I have the same strength and courage she has always shown.

For my friend and mentor, Grey Cat. May She light your way home.