Interview with Madame Blavatsky from Secret Lives by Barbara Ardinger
Dr. Brooke Simeon, a professor of history at California State University at Long Beach and a member of the circle, has invited the circle’s familiar, a calico cat named Madame Blavatsky, to her office for an interview. The cat magically appears and sits in the center of Brooke’s desk, right on top of a book about famous queens of history. The cat and her interviewer are sitting nose to nose.
“Hiya, dearie,” says Madame Blavatsky. “It’s good ta be here. This here innerview is gonna help the author of that novel we’re in.” She idly swats at pens lying on the desk and watches them elevate and float around the office. “So, dearie, what’s yer first question?”
Brooke smiles bravely. She knows that Cairo, an older member of the circle, often has discussions of literature with the cat—they both especially enjoy critiquing children’s literature—but she herself has had few real conversations with the familiar. “Okay,” she begins, “here’s a couple general questions. Readers will want to know—were you really the famous occult author in an earlier life? And how did you get from there to here?”
“Yeah, I really was Madame Blavatsky. Lemme tell ya about this here theory of the transmigration of souls. You know the Archy the Cockroach books by that newspaper columnist Don Marquis? That he wrote back during Prohibition?” Brooke nods and the cat continues. “Well, Archy was a free-verse poet transmigrated inta th’ body of a cockroach. Our author got her idea there. But she’s read Kafka and dint want any bugs in her book an’ she lives with two smart cats, so voilà—here I am! Transmigration of souls was a reincarnational theory popularized by the Theosophical Society, which I founded while I was Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the famous Russian genius and author—” the cat gives a modest smile “—an’ I invented that theory, too.”
“You did not,” Brooke replies. “It comes from the religions of India. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism. It’s also called metempsychosis. It’s not quite the same as reincarnation because most of us believe that people reincarnate as other people, not as cockroaches or cats.”
“Oh … yeah, okay, yer right. Well, anyway, here’s how it goes. The soul first arises in the mineral realm, then rises to the vegetable realm, then to the animal, then to human, then to the angelic. We all do it, and it takes eons, and we don’t remember them earlier realms. Except I do. So, as our author wrote in that FREE READER’S GUIDE she put on her website, I was born in a fluorite mine, then I moved up to become a mugwort bush. Those’re both related to mental powers, doncha know. I’ve always hadda lot of mental powers. Then I was a Russian bear—see? because when I was a human being, I lived in Russia?”
Brooke nods. She’s done her research on the famous occultist who lived from 1831 to 1891 and travelled around the world.
“Well,” the cat is now sitting on one of the crowded bookshelves in the office. She sits on another book, gives a dainty lick to one paw, briefly scrubs an ear, and goes on. “After I was done bein’ HPB an’ done inventin’ Theosophy and writin’ Th’ Secret Doctrine ’n’ Isis Unveiled an’ my other great books, I moved up again. Yeah, yeah, yeah, people prolly think becomin’ a cat is goin’ backwards, but that ain’t true. Everybody knows th’ cat is th’ highest form a life on th’ planet. And I’m th’ highest form of cat! Well, maybe except for that there Cheshire Cat that I disguised myself as ta get rid a that pesky residence hall manager, Frances J. Swift. Chased her all around th’ Center Towers Retirement Residence, where I live with Bertha and am mostly invisible. Talked ta Frances all th’ time. Gave her a nervous breakdown. I’m actually on my second cat life, so after I’m done cattin’ around, so ta speak, here in Long Beach, I’ll start in on th’ nine angelic hierarchies.”
“And you’ll claw you way up and become one of the seraphim,” Brooke says sarcastically. “Can you get off that shelf, please? And don’t knock any more books down. Here’s my next question. Why did you and Bertha turn that psychic fair at the Church of Abundant New Age Light and Love into a vaudeville show? Don’t you know about the Wiccan Rede that says ‘harm none’?”
“We was havin’ some harmless fun! An’ we dint hurt no one, not even that Rev. Debbee … well, yeah, I guess maybe we did injure her dignity. But if she’s so psychic, why dint she figger out right away we were all witches an’ geniuses?? Anyway, makin’ all the furniture in the room dance an’ sing, an’ makin’ th’ tarot cards turn inta a kinda marchin’ band, an’ getting’ everything in th’ bookstore ta come sailin’ out … well that was a lotta fun. Besides, it took Bertha back to her days in th’ show biz.” The cat gives a huge sigh. “But youse girls, you did that there reversin’ spell on us, an’ all them cartoon characters started hauntin’ Bertha. Like ta drove her nuttier than she already is. And when them four cartoon rabbits—Peter, B’rer, Roger, and Bugs—took over her living room for that poker game, well I’m glad Wendell, Bertha’s nephew, came in an’ won the game. But then I got th’ karmic fleas. That wasn’t no fun at all!” The memory of the flea bath makes the cat’s whole body shake. She moves to the chair beside Brooke’s desk and starts grooming her left thigh.
“Why did the author title that chapter about the metaphysical church ‘The Best of All Possible Worlds’?” Brooke asks.
“Oh, that’s from Voltaire’s novella Candide. She likes literary allusions. The book’s full of ’em. This one’s ironic, of course. Rev. Debbee thinks she’s got th’ best of all possible worlds, sort of like Dr. Pangloss in Candide, but it’s not th’ best anything.Debbee’s delusional, if ya ask me. Our author also quotes a lot of Shakespeare ’n’ Donne. I knew ’em of course. I knew everybody of any importance in th’ world. Knew a lotta Masters, too. Corresponded with ’em all.”
“Blavatsky, even when you were HBP, you couldn’t have known William Shakespeare and John Donne. HBP wasn’t alive in the 17th century. And there’s no record that you knew Gerald B. Gardner, either. You were dead by the time he returned to England after World War II and invented modern Wicca.”
“Maybe so, but I sure knew how ta go ta Summerland an’ fetch him to Long Beach when them smart-ass college students tried ta tell th’ grandmothers that make up our circle how to cast a circle. Ya dont wanna mess with grandmothers who can do magic.”
“That’s true. Our crones are very powerful women. They banished that ghostly inquisitor that came back to arrest them again. They made a beautiful circle for Sarah Baxter so she could make an important decision about her life. We used the Victorian language of flowers to tell her how much she was loved. Our beloved crones also did a reversing ritual aimed at that egotistical physician who didn’t take adequate care of the senior citizens who live at the Towers. And they also threw a really splendid Halloween party. That’s where I met Matthew, the Green Man. So, Blavatsky, tell us a couple useful things you did in the novel. I have to admit it—you’re a smart and useful circle familiar. Even if you’re too familiar half the time.”
“Thanks, dearie. Well, the first thing I done was ta visit one a th’ girls that’d just died. Brought back news that she was doin’ okay in th’ other world. An’ of course I played a major role in th’ weather war when th’ Norns, disguised as them Wintergreen sisters, came ta Long Beach an’ tried to move in on th’ circle, like they was some movie godfathers. And then, when our old gals wouldn’t let ’em take over, they declared war on us an’ used thunder storms as their weapon. They flooded half a Long Beach and a buncha Orange County, too. I went inta action and found th’ dragon our girls created in the first chapter. We beat them Norns good. Them Wintergreens and their little canary turned into giant ravens, but our girls called in a whole slew of war goddesses ta help. Yeah, we beat ’em good. You were there.”
Brooke nods again. “Yes. Matthew and I steered the cone of power the women built. That’s the scariest thing I ever did. It was awful! I was sure I’d never survive. Yes, we won the war, but it was a pyrrhic victory. All of our women were wounded, emotionally if not physically, and it led to the dissolution of the circle. And it led to Emma Clare’s death, too.”
“I was her psychopomp! I was dancin’ th’ lambada, it looked like, but I was really makin’ a path fer her to dance inta th’ other world on. I also helped that little lost goddess, the one who reminded everybody of Little Red Ridin’ Hood, find her way back home. Finally, I stage-managed the destruction of that there villain Nankhani, that awful man who hated everybody and insulted everybody and attacked poor Jacoba while she was sufferin’ from her breast cancer. Boy, did he get what he deserved. Yeah, I done good. I done a lotta good in that novel. Our author was really smart ta put me in her book. I’m the star!”
“You are not. Well, you may be the most memorable character. But we all have our stories, and they all add up to a big book about important issues.”
About Barbara Ardinger
Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (www.barbaraardinger.com), is the author of Secret Lives, a novel about crones and other magical folks, and Pagan Every Day: Finding the Extraordinary in Our Ordinary Lives, a unique daybook of daily meditations, stories, and activities. Her earlier books include Goddess Meditations, Finding New Goddesses (a parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Quicksilver Moon (a realistic novel … except for the vampire). Her day job is freelance editing for people who have good ideas but don’t want to embarrass themselves in print. To date, she has edited more than 250 books, both fiction and nonfiction, on a wide range of topics. Barbara lives in southern California.
Here’s the Facebook page for my new novel, Secret Lives: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Secret-Lives/140993335978461