Baast Accepts a Tribute

Baast on the left; her black-and-white handmaiden on the right

Publication Date: September, 2020

Location: go to PoetsOnline, then Archive, then look for ‘myths retold‘.

Genesis: My son and I watched this event play out in front of us this very summer, and I was moved to write about it as it came across to both of us as being deeply respectful, reverent and holy. Full disclosure here – this is not the original version! I’d only just finished the original – which I was quietly please with – when the challenge emerged from to bring a mythical figure to life in a modern context.

As a shaman and occultist, I’m familiar with a wide swathe of the world’s gods, goddesses, arch-angels and demons, so the potential choice I faced was huge. In the end, though, it was obvious. Baast is delightful; you can see her beautifully rendered in the wonderful Immortal, a film by Enki Bilal. And what we witnessed this summer, as told in this poem, was a goddess being revered and honoured by those closest to her.

In case you’re wondering, in the original version (A Feline Ritual) the three cats were named Senior Female, Junior Female and Junior Male. There was quite a bit of work to tweak the poem so that Baast (once the Senior Female) became the truly prominent character, but the structure – and, indeed, the super-structure – remained fairly in-tact.

Three adult cats;
Baast and her two pages, who live
to serve the Goddess.
On a bright, warm, August day,
the male trots in through the gate,
a recent kill, a mouse, jiggling in his jaws and,
as Baast and the female look on, he places it on the grass,
in front of the house,
and takes a few exploratory sniffs.
Baast approaches.
We expect hackles, hissing, high drama.
Instead, the male steps back, allowing space
for her to freely inspect the fruits of his hunt.
After a few moments, she moves away, satisfied,
and the male returns to his prize.
Then, the female approaches.
Again, he moves away a few steps, watchful,
and seemingly respectful.
The female takes the little grey body in her mouth
and crunches down, hard.
It takes her just a few minutes to devour the mouse;
legs, guts, body, tail – she’s steady and methodical,
totally absorbed in her task.
When only the mouse’s head lies forlornly on the grass,
untouched and undamaged,
does she pause, reflect, consider,
with a thoughtful lick of her lips,
before walking over to the male
to sit near him, perhaps in wordless thanks
for the grey gift bestowed.
In the Bible –
the head of John the Baptist;
in myths both modern –
the head of Alfredo Garcia –
and ancient –
the head of Medusa;
from history –
the head of Anne Boleyn
and all the heads severed by Madam Guillotine;
severed heads are tributes, loaded with significance and meaning.
Now, here, on the grass, in front of the house,
the head of the mouse,
surrounded and considered by the Goddess
and her entourage.
Finally, Baast steps forward once more –
who else? –
and accepts the mouse head tribute
in three deft bites and a deep, deep gulp.
He brought home the meat.
She filled her belly.
And they both honoured the Goddess
by leaving the severed head for her,
and her alone.

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