The Death and Re-Birth
by Paul Pigman
Listen and I will tell you a tale of birth and death, magic and transformation. It is the tale of Bow-Wow, the stuffed Bear.
It happened that I had to travel with a friend of mine to her parent's house for a visit. Parents can always be counted on to remember and relate interesting childhood anecdotes. Sometimes such stories go beyond personally interesting and into the realms of mythology.
When my friend was a very small child, she had a favorite stuffed bear. It was a constant and boon companion. She carried it everywhere. She slept with it under her head. It was named... Bow-Wow.
Now Bow-Wow was prone to the wearing and slow dissolution that all stuffed animals are heir to: loss of fur and eyes, parting of seams, and collecting of dirt. Eventually Bow-Wow would be care-worn and loved to tatters. However, there was a solution to this problem when Bow-Wow could no longer continue in this incarnation. The falling apart Bow-Wow could be born anew.
A date had been picked for its magical significance: Christmas. Santa's elves would come and transform Bow-Wow. But special arrangements were needed to make the ritual of renewal work. A small bed would be made up from scratch (for Bow-Wow slept with the child and had no personal bed). On the chosen evening, the worn and tired Bow-Wow would be tucked in for the long night. The child could hardly sleep without Bow-Wow there and so she kept a vigil as well. In the morning, a revitalized Bow-Wow would be found in the special bed. All signs of wear were gone, the fur had regrown, and all limbs were in perfect order. Bow-Wow was reborn.
Over the course of time, Bow-Wow was reborn at least six separate times. The first time Bow-Wow went through the ritual, the child was only about a year old. She had pulled most of Bow-Wow's fur off. When told that Santa's elves would repair Bow-Wow, who was she to doubt the magical powers of such beings? At one year of age, anything is possible.
This went on for years. One day when she was six or seven years old, while looking for something else, she found the box with all the old, identical Bow-Wows in it. It was the Bow-Wow Graveyard. Over the years, her parents had bought exactly the same stuffed animal (sometimes two or three of them at a time) to ensure that there would always be a proper vehicle for the reincarnated Bow-Wow. The old Bow-Wow husks had been saved in this hidden box.
The acting out of the Myth of Bow-Wow may have been the earliest example of my friend's quirky magical development but it was not the last. While we were visiting, we came across some of the magical remnants of her preteen years. Odd hand-sewn dolls (poppets, actually, with creepy bits of human hair and cast-off clothing), various fetishes made of clay from the lake behind the house, and one little horribly-sewn amulet containing scaps of ripped up paper and a lock of hair. The purpose of the amulet was forgotten in the mist of memory, but it was carefully disassembled and disposed of with the wisdom of hindsight, along with astral requests for forgiveness to whomever its target had been. My friend did not remember the particulars of most of these objects. However, she was most definitely looking for an item she did remember: a poppet used in a definitely unethical love spell. (Oh, don't you miss those awful books of manipulative magic that were all we could find in the early seventies?) She thought that needed to be dispersed most of all. She still has weird dreams about this person. We never did find it.
Viewing someone else's childhood experience from the advantage of distance can be very educational. Some people who find their way to magical paths are quoted as saying "it feels like coming home." My observation is some never left.
copyright ©1991, 1998 paul pigman