Flame-foot, farthest walker
Your hunter speaks
In need he walks
In need but never in fear”
– First-Walker prayer, Tailchaser’s Song
As Fritti Tailchaser spoke this prayer into the darkness of his final moments, goosebumps crept up my arms. Though ancient texts do not name Tangaloor Firefoot or his brothers as children of Kemet’s Bast, in the moment I read that passage Her presence was overwhelming. I felt compelled to memorize the prayer, should I ever need to call on Lord Tangaloor’s aid, and I have been mentally repeating it like a mantra for days. I can’t seem to let it go; its words slip over my tongue like prayer beads and bring me as much comfort.
The experience has me considering the role fiction can play in our worship, and in the wills of the gods themselves. After all, the gods speak to us in myriad ways. If we listen, we find their messages are everywhere, in forms and faces we might not expect. I think it is thus with Bast, who can be found in the religion of the felines in Tailchaser’s Song (Tad Williams) and the creation myth in The Wild Road (Gabriel King). Rereading these books as an adult, I finally recognize Bast’s purposeful influence in these stories. Their authors are extremely talented, and I don’t mean to say they couldn’t invent such a story on their own, but Her role is too obvious for me to overlook. When I mentally smack my head for not realizing the connection sooner, I hear Her gentle laughter. She made these stories come into being. She wanted them to be read. She wants them to mean something to me. They feel like scripture, like missing pieces, but I can’t yet figure out where they fit. If my thoughts seem scattered and incomplete, it’s because they are. I’m going mostly by feeling, here.
Below are the creation stories from both Tailchaser’s Song and The Wild Road. I feel compelled to preserve them somewhere, to make them available to other followers of Bast. Do with them what you will – and let me know if you feel the same power within their lines as I do. Luck dancing, friends!
“Before the first life of the Felidae there was nothing but darkness and silence. The darkness was complete, and nothing stirred within it. But the silence was the silence of stillness before turmoil. Inside the silence there waited a sound, but nothing stirred in the darkness, for that which was the darkness and the silence had not yet woken. Nothing felt the vast breath of the void.
Air moved in darkness.
Eons came and went.
At last, the first sound broke the silence. Rhythmic and insistent, charged and vital. Every corner was filled with awe and comfort, comfort and awe.
But there were no cats yet to know the glory that was the first purr.
Breath braided now like rivers; warmer, faster, warmer and faster. Something stirred, as from a deep sleep. Two vast shafts of light illuminated the void. One shaft was of silver, the other of gold. At the center of each lay a vast circle of dark. This is how light spilled into the world – with darkness at its heart – and the world was light; and a great sigh hung in the air of the world.
The Cat of the World, the Great Cat, had woken to Herself.
Now She blinks her eyes – darkness and void for an instant! – and when they open again, motes dance in the gold and silver beams, motes whirl and leap and grow and differentiate themselves. They come together, they break apart, they dance the dance of life. Motes spiral and swim and spin to the rumble and spark of the endless purr – a bright tapestry of movement – retinal measure, a tapetum lucidum of created things.
Birds soared in the Great Cat’s eyes; fish swam and insects swarmed. Mice and rabbits bolted and scurried toward the light. Out they leapt! Out leapt the frog with its slick and virid skin. Out leapt the magpie, cawing and croaking. Out leapt the bank vole and stopped to groom its whiskers. Out leapt fleas and fledglings, hedge mice and velvet moles. Out leapt tufted duck and corncrake, shrike and shrew and stoat! Down they tumbled, into the fur of the Great Cat. And behind them came the Felidae, already hunting.
In the pupil of the gold eye burned two sudden green, determined specks. A blunt, proud head and a shaggy ruff pushed out, then in a rush the paws and talons of a brand-new trade, and at last the plumed tail. Down it jumped with a flicker of feet and a back arched like a question mark, its striped coat gleaming in the golden light. The First Male!
Partridge and rabbits scattered before him, but he hunted them among the fur of the Great Cat, and his pursuit was unrelenting.
Now the First Female glints in the Great Cat’s silver eye! Fluid as water, strong as the tide, a rosy sorrel coat and pointed ears to lengthen the fine lines of her head, she leaps down. Head on this side, head on that, face sharp as iron, delicate as a shell, she looks around. Morning! Things are good!
Fish cascade out in front of her as bright as brand-new light. Off she dances to fish her way down the Great Cat’s fur, down the shoulder, over the flanks, and far away.
The First Female!
She catches a salmon to take to him.
He catches a hare to take to her.
What those two did when they met is another story!
So the torrent of life flooded down the coat of the Great Cat, and she approved of what she saw. She was as content with her predators – Felidae without parallel or peril – as with their prey. Each kept to their own sphere; all would breed and thrive and take their proper place.
At last, the tapetum lucidum was quiet, and light poured forth once more – warm and refulgent, cool and healing – and as the light in the world intensified, so the Great Cat’s pupils contracted and shrank. Just as it seemed they would close forever, new shapes appeared from the darkness.
They walked on two legs; they were pale and furless. They shrank from the world outside, but they were too dissatisfied to stay where they belonged. Out they squeezed, into the light. To them, the Great Cat’s body was hill and mountain, jungle and forest, strand and ocean, while her gold and silver eyes shone irretrievably as sun and moon. There was no dance for them. They fled down her foreleg in terror, to shelter from the gaze that made them. At last her paws reared above them, and there at the base they took up lodging in the deepest of caves.
That was how human beings made their way into the World of the Cat: unbidden and out of darkness, the last things that God made. And that is how they live today, dissatisfied with one world and frightened of the other, wary and watchful of the life that surrounds them.”
– The Wild Road, Gabriel King
– – –
“In the Hour before time began, Meerclar Allmother came out of the darkness to the cold earth. She was black, and as furry as all the world come together to be fur. Meerclar banished the eternal night, and brought forth the Two.
Harar Goldeneye had eyes as hot and bright as the sun at the Hour of Smaller Shadows; he was the color of daytime, and courage, and dancing.
Fela Skydancer, his mate, was beautiful, like freedom, and clouds, and the song of travelers returned.
Goldeneye and Skydancer bore many children and raised them in the forest that covered the world at the beginnings of the Elder Days. Climbfast, Wolf-friend, Treesinger, and Brightnail, their young, were strong of tooth, sharp of eye, light of foot and straight and brave to their tail-ends.
But most strange and beautiful of all the countless children of Harar and Fela were the three Firstborn.
The eldest of the Firstborn was Viror Whitewind; he was the color of sunlight on snow, and full of swiftness…
The middle child was Grizraz Hearteater, as gray as shadows and full of strangeness…
Third-born was Tangaloor Firefoot. He was as black as Meerclar Allmother, but his paws were red like flame. He walked alone, and sang to himself.
There was rivalry among the Firstborn brothers. Whitewind was as fast and strong as a cat could dream of being — none could overmatch him at jumping and running. Firefoot was as clever as time; he solved all puzzles and riddles, and made songs that the Folk sang for generations.
Hearteater could not match his brothers’ exploits. He grew jealous, and began to plot the downfall of Whitewind and the humiliation of the Folk.
So it came to pass that Hearteater raised up a great beast against the Folk. Ptomalkum was its name, and it was the last spawn of the demon-hound Venris, whom Meerclar had destroyed in the Days of Fire. Ptomalkum, raised and nurtured with Hearteater’s hatred, slew many Folk before it was itself slain by the gallant Whitewind. But Viror Whitewind received such wounds that he soon wasted and died. Seeing the downfall of his schemes, Hearteater was afraid, and crept down a hole and disappeared into the secretive earth.
There was great lamentation in the Court of Harar at the death of Whitewind, the best-beloved.
Firefoot his brother fled the Court in heartache, renouncing his claim to the Mantle of Kingship, and wandered the world.
Fela Skydancer, Whitewind’s mother, was ever after silent, all her long life.
But Harar Goldeneye was so full of rage that he wept, and swore great oaths. He went howling into the wilderness, destroying all before him in his search for the traitorous Hearteater. Finally, unable to bear such great pain, he fled to the bosom of the Allmother in the sky. There he still lives, chasing the bright mouse of the sun across the heavens. Often he looks down to earth below, hoping to see Viror running once more beneath the trees of the World-Forest.
Countless seasons turned and the world grew older before Firefoot again met his treacherous brother Hearteater.
In the days of Prince Cleanwhisker, in the reign of Queen Morningstripe, Lord Tangaloor came to the assistance of the Ruhue, the owl-folk. A mysterious creature had been pillaging their nests, and had killed all the Ruhu hunters who had come against it.
Firefoot laid a trap, clawing away at a mighty tree until it was near cut through, then lay in wait for the marauder.
When the creature came that night, and Firefoot felled the tree, he was astonished to discover that beneath it he had trapped Grizraz Hearteater.
Hearteater begged Firefoot to free him, promising that he would share the ancient lore that he had discovered beneath the ground. Lord Tangaloor only laughed.
When the sun came up, Hearteater began to scream. He writhed and screeched so that Firefoot, although fearing a trick, liberated his suffering brother from beneath the pinioning tree.
Hearteater had been so long beneath the earth that the sun was blinding him. He clawed and rubbed at his steaming eyes, howling so piteously that Firefoot looked about for a way to protect him from the burning of the day-star. But when he turned away, the blinded Hearteater dug himself a tunnel, more swiftly than any badger or mole. By the time the startled Firefoot bounded over, Hearteater had disappeared back into the belly of the world.
It is told that he still lives there, hidden from the eyes of the Folk; that he works foul deeds underground, and aches to return to the World Above…”
– Tailchaser’s Song, Tad Williams