Okay, so first I have to tell you about my name. My parents liked an old TV show and gave me the first name of one of the people on it, Ethyl. Then, for a middle name, they called me Berry. That way, they said, I was also named after a famous actress.
When I was a kid, I liked being called "Berry." But when I started to go to school, kids there laughed at me for that name. First they said it was a boy's name. When I explained that it was spelled differently, they said I was all fruity. So I tried Ethyl, but that was even worse. My father said, "Then let's call you 'Eth.' That's a combination of the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet and it represents everything in between. And you are everything to your mother and me."
I thought about it. Nobody else was named "Eth." And I kind of liked that it had a secret meaning. The kids at school didn't have any way to make fun of that name, so I became "Eth."
You may wonder how my dad knew such weird information. I mean, we're not even Jewish. So how did Daddy know Hebrew? It's probably because both of my parents are Witches.
When I was young it was really cool to see them do their stuff in rituals. But as I got older and had my own friends, I simply would rather play Nintendo than see them and their old friends run around in robes. When I told friends my parents were Witches, they'd say, "Yeah, so are ours." I'd usually let it go at that.
Then, Witches started to get popular. First with the movie The Craft and then with TV shows like Sabrina: The Teenage Witch, Charmed, and Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. At first I tried to tell everyone that Witches weren't like that. I tried to tell them what my parents did. But nobody wanted to listen, So I finally just shut up and stopped talking about it.
A few months ago my friend Clarissa's mother brought me home; Clarissa and I go to the same school and had been studying algebra together at her house. When we got to my place I went in and saw that my parents were standing together, looking at me with that goofy look parents sometimes get. Dad had just come back from a business trip. "What's with you?" I asked, as I took off my coat and sweater. They just stared and looked kind of creepy.
They followed me as I went to my room. When I went in I saw a box on my bed. Little peeping noises were coming out of it. As I got closer, I could tell that those sounds were more like "mew" repeated over and over. When I looked in the box I saw the big eyes of the tiniest kitten I'd ever seen.
"Her name is Pyewacket," my mom said.
"That's a weird name."
"It's a traditional name for a Witch's cat."
I turned and stared at them. They knew I didn't want to be called a Witch.
Dad said, "I got him for you down in Florida. Count his toes."
I counted the toes on one tiny paw, then counted them again. I didn't believe it. "She has six toes on each paw!"
"Yes, she does. Pye comes from an area in Florida where all of the cats have six toes. But that's almost unheard of here in Seattle."
She was so cute! Totally black. When I touched her I could feel her start to purr. Then it dawned on me. "You got Pye for me? You mean, Pye is mine?" My parents nodded. I ran over to them and hugged them both. "Oh, thank you! Thank you!" I said. "I promise to take good care of her and feed her and brush her."
"And empty her litter box," my mom added.
"Yeah, that too."
PYE DEVELOPS PROBLEMS
So that's how I met Pye. I could tell you how wonderful a relationship we have, how I tell her all my secrets and how, sometimes, I think she tries to tell me hers. If I'm upset she comforts me and we love to play together. My friends love her and she's very patient every time somebody new starts to count her toes.
But that's not what I want to talk about. All of that came later. What happened took place a few weeks after Pye came into my life. One Saturday morning I awoke to hear her making some odd noises. She snapped at me when I tried to pet her. And her nose was warm, very warm.
I told my mom and we ended up taking Pyewacket to the vet. He examined her, gave her a shot, then sat both me and my mom down. He said a lot of stuff that I didn't really follow. But he finished by saying that Pye was very sick and he had done all that he could to help her. The rest would be up to the cat's strength and spirit.
I maintained until we got home. I put Pye very gently into her cat bed. Then I lost it. I threw myself onto my bed and cried into my pillows. Eventually, I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was warm and comforting. I knew it was my mom.
"It's so unfair," I cried. "Pye never hurt anyone."
"Yes, I know.""Isn't there anything you could do? You know, some Witchey stuff?"
"Yes, Eth, there are things that your father and I, or even our coven could do. But remember, you are the one who promised to take care of Pyewacket. It's up to you."
"But I don't know any of that stuff. You never showed me."
"You never wanted to learn."
"I do now. Please oh please oh please help Pye."
My mother stroked my hair for a while. Then she said, "There are many lessons we have to learn in life. All things that are born will eventually die, only to return again. This is the knowledge of the Witch. We can't stop Pye from dying, but you can use magic to try to prevent her from dying now. If you're willing to do the work, I'll help you. Start with this book." Then she got up and left.
My mom and dad were always doing stuff like that. They would give me a book to read and then help me get through it. I learned a lot that way. Maybe that's why Algebra was easy for me.
So I looked at the small book. It's called White Spells, by Ileana Abrev. I thumbed through what seemed like a zillion spells, and finally found one called "To send healing energies to a sick friend or family member." (Editor's note: this and all other quotes are found on page 84, unless otherwise noted.)
I LEARN TO SET UP A RITUAL
Here is what the book says: "Light two yellow altar candles on Sunday. Crush a fistful each of dried calamus and peppermint leaves together until a powder is formed. On a charcoal tablet burn a quarter teaspoon of this powder while thinking of the person you would like to send well-wishes to. On a piece of parchment paper write down the person's name and on top of it light his or her astral candle.
"While still focused on the illness of your loved one, light four white candles and two red ones, and in front of them light a black one. With the black candle visualize the person's illness melting away, with the white candles visualize his or her healing, and see the red one giving him or her strength. Snuff the candles, and if you wish, do this ritual every Sunday until you see the person getting well, then repeat once a month to help keep up his or her courage and strength."
Great. Now I knew what to do, I just didn't have any of the stuff. I didn't really understand some of it, either. So I asked my mom for help. She said, "But this is for a person, Eth, not a kitten."
"Well, it's the closest thing in this book. Besides, Pye is sort of like a family member, so can't we make this work?"
My mom smiled. "That's excellent, Eth. You've figured out an important lesson from this book: it's okay to make changes when you need to. So let's get some supplies."
My parents have a "magic room" that nobody other than them is supposed to go in. For the first time ever, my mom invited me in. It smelled beautiful, and if the situation wasn't so bad, I would have loved just to sit or dance in there. My mother led me over to a cupboard and opened it. Immediately, more smells filled the room. "This is my herb closet, Eth. What herbs do you need?"
"Dried calamus and peppermint leaves." She took out two bags and had me take a handful of each and put the herbs into a small bowl. Then she give me a sort of stick thingie.
"This is called a pestle," she said. "You use it with this special bowl, which is called a mortar." Together, you can grind up the herbs. My mother showed me the motion and I took the pestle from her. I asked if there was anything else I should do while I ground the herbs. "Think of how much you love Pye and how you want her to get better." That's what I did, and in a few minutes I had a nice, smooth powder.
"What else do you need for this spell?"
I looked through the book. "A 'charcoal tablet,' a piece of parchment paper, four white candles, two yellows, two red ones, and one black one."
"You'll also need a burner for the charcoal." For that my mother brought out a small bowl with some sand in it. "Anything else?"
"Uh...what's an 'astral candle?'"
My mother smiled. "You tell me," she said.
I used the index of the book to find the answer on page 64, where it says that an astral candle is "of the color associated with a person's astrological sign." I asked my mother what sign Pye was.
"Well, I think it would have been during the sign of Leo that she was born." I looked at the book and told her that we needed another red candle.
That was when I realized something horrible. The ritual was supposed to take place on Sunday. That was tomorrow, not today. I didn't know what we could do. "We could either modify it for today, perhaps by adding candles for Saturday, or wait until tomorrow. What would you like to do?" my mother asked.
I ran to see how Pye was doing. She was sleeping and seemed okay. I went back to the magic room and told my mom that I thought Pye would be okay until tomorrow. "But Mom," I said, "what does all this stuff mean? How does it work?"
<"Let's talk after lunch," she said.
MY LESSONS BEGIN
I scarfed down my "sandie" and a bowl of soup. Then I begged my mother to tell me some more.
"Okay," she said. "Let's look at some of the ideas from the book. On page 68 it says that we can use yellow candles for the altar 'to aid healing of the self and for learning something new.' I think here you will be learning how to use these tools to help Pye. And the healing will be directed toward her. The herbs are healing and calming."
"Parchment is an old writing surface that was used before paper. You write Pye's name on the parchment as part of the ritual to focus on her. Then, to link the paper with your kitty, we put her astral candle right on top of the parchment. The white candles give light and purity, the red one gives energy, and to my mind the black one sort of 'burns away' the illness."
"Will it work?" I asked.
"That's partially up to you. Everything is made of energy. Your desires and will allow you to direct that energy. If you really want it and follow these instructions, it should work. If you're not really dedicated, then all you are doing is burning incense and lighting candles."
"Tell me more about Witchcraft," I asked. This was the first time I had ever asked that. And that afternoon, my mother told me about what she believed and about the God and Goddess and about much more. I don't think my mother and me have ever been closer. She said she would be glad to tell me more and teach me, but only if I wanted to learn.
"Let me think about it, okay?" I think she knew that I wanted to see if this magic stuff really worked before going further.
That afternoon I spent all my time with Pyewacket, talking to her and stroking her hair. I fell asleep early and when I awoke there had been no change in Pye. At least she wasn't any worse.
THE RITUAL BEGINS
After breakfast, my mom asked if I was ready. Dad asked if he could participate, too. I hugged him and said, "Yes." Then I went to my room, picked up Pye, and brought her into the magic room.
When I got there, my parents were already in their black robes. "Before we start, I have something for you," my mother said. She gave me a paper bag. I reached inside and pulled out a robe that was just my size!
"Oh, wow! Thanks." I kissed both of them, then put the robe on over my clothes, and we were ready to begin.
"I want to follow what it says in White Spells exactly, " I said. Mom had cleared the altar, so I carefully put two yellow candles into holders at the far side of the altar. "Shouldn't I say something?" I asked as I was about to light them.
"Just say what you think is appropriate, Eth," said my dad.
"Okay. I call upon all the powers that watch over this day to guide us in healing Pyewacket." I lit the candles. Then I put a disk of charcoal on the sand in the burner. My dad lit it. Once it was glowing, I put the special incense I had made on it. As I did I said, "Let these scents help Pye heal." I figured that if I had said something wrong my parents would have stopped me, but they didn't say anything.
I used a pencil to write Pye's name on a piece of parchment my mother gave me. I used her full name, Pyewacket Moore, because, well, I didn't want there to be any mistakes as to who needed to be healed. I put the parchment in the center of the altar, then put the red astral candle on top of it and lit it. I said, "Let this link the ritual to our beloved kitten." I was getting into this.
I started to focus on Pye's illness and on her getting better. As I did, I set up four white candles. "Let this bring you healing and light." In between them I added two red candles and a black one in the center. I lit the black one and said, "As this candle burns away, so, too, does you sickness." Finally, I lit the red ones, saying, "Let these candles bring you strength."
I watched the candles burn for a while. "Do I have to do something else? This seems too easy," I said.
My dad said, "Why don't you just state what you want and why you want it."
"Okay. I want Pye to be well. I want her to be happy and not be sick."
My mother asked, "What would you be willing to give up to get that?"
"What?" I asked, as I spun around and looked at my mother.
"Well, there is a price for everything. Perhaps you can give up at least ten minutes every day to take care of Pyewacket?"
"Yes. I'd do that anyway." I turned toward the altar and said "I promise to give up at least ten minutes of my time to take care of Pye every day."
We watched for a while and then, as it said in the book, I snuffed out the candles. My mother put them away so I could use them next Sunday if Pyewacket wasn't better.
I spent the rest of the afternoon with Pye. She wouldn't eat or drink. By the time I went to bed I was worried that she might not make it.
The next morning, before my alarm clock woke me up so I could get to school on time, I felt something on my face. When I opened my eyes it was Pye! She was up and licking my face. She had finished her food and wanted some more. "Mom! Mom!" I yelled, racing through the house (I knew Dad had already left for work).
"What is it, Eth? Are you okay?"
"It's Pye. She's up and around. She's better."
Pye had followed me into the kitchen where I had found my mother. "Well," my mother said, "she is better, but it doesn't look like she's back to normal. We'll have to keep an eye on her."That morning changed my whole life. I had done a spell and it had worked! I've asked to learn Witchcraft from my parents, and they've been teaching me. I have an altar in my room, now. The spell in White Spells worked so well that I've tried some of the others. So far, I've done spells to reach my goals, to get rid of anger, to help me with exams, and to remember dreams. Only one didn't work, and my mother told me she'd explain why when she gives me my next lesson. I can hardly wait. Every day I spend at least ten minutes taking care of Pyewacket. And I have to admit that my parents aren't as dorky and old school as I thought. They're okay.