Thursday, January 27, 2011

Prometheus UnReBound

This story was written for The Herscher Project Edition 14, "Dark Futures", the focus of which is based on the speculation of author Chris A. Jackson in his short piece titled "A Flash in the Pan", which details twelve scenarios for the fate of mankind.
The scenario I chose to expand upon is number ten:
10) The cybernetic solution scenario 
Man has placed all the mundane factors of existence in the care of computers. Computers run the machinery. Computers solve the problems. And computers fight the wars with neighboring civilizations. Humankind is free to create artistically, to work with his hands and mind. He has no business outside the luxury of his safe worlds, for computers tell him that there are dangers that he is ill-equipped to face out there in the mean old galaxy. Man is kept safe, for his own good.
All humanity has long since been controlled in its growth for its own good, for if Homo sapiens sapiens were allowed to breed uncontrollably, the recourses to expand its domain would be stretched too thin to ensure its own safety. Man is to be kept safe, even from himself.
The sphere of humanity grows slowly but inexorably, fleets of war machines wiping clean the less-orderly civilizations of the stars, terraforming those worlds that need it, whether inhabited or not, and extinguishing all life on those that already have it. Man sits obliviously in his studio, painting, sculpting and relaxing, unaware of the monster that he is.

The search for extraterrestrial intelligence probably had its beginning, not at Cornell University in 1959 when the term SETI was first used, but when the first human looked up at the stars and thought, “Are we alone? Is anyone out there?” Today humans look up at the starlit sky and think nothing more complicated than, “Pretty.”

There was a time when mankind looked skyward with an eye toward migration. While he busily destroyed the Earth, depleting her resources, exterminating her species, and wiping out her protective ozone, he eagerly searched the skies for a new home. NASA's Origins program utilized the Keck Interferometer, a pair of 33-foot telescopes on Hawaii's Mauna Kea, as part of its TOPS mission, a quest to find habitable planets around nearby stars.

But all that is ancient history, now. The Earth's ozone has been restored, her natural resources regenerated, and there is no longer any need for the human race to go anywhere.

The search for life in outer space continues, though its objective has changed. Mankind's original envoys to the stars were the Pioneer 10 and 11 probes launched in the early 1970's.1 These were followed in 1977 by two Voyager spacecraft, each of which carried a gold-coated copper phonograph record containing 115 images, nearly 90 minutes of music from different cultures, and greetings in 55 languages.2 Friendly neighbors extending the hand of peace.

Since then there have been two encounters with extraterrestrial life forms, neither of which turned out to be beneficial to the human race.

The first alien species arrived at Kerala, India in July of 2001 in the form of red rain. The rainfall brought spores, probably dropped from a passing meteor. These spores were later determined to be the cause of the notorious bird flu pandemic that killed so many millions at the end of that terrible decade.

Mankind was more directly responsible for the second alien encounter. A spacecraft called Stardust had been launched in 1999 with the aim of flying through comet Wild 2 to collect samples.3 After almost seven years it completed its 2.88 billion mile round trip and returned to Earth, landing at the Dugway Proving Ground in what was then the state of Utah, on January 15, 2006.

Scientists at the Johnson Space Center who opened the return capsule did not expect Stardust's cargo to be quite so deadly. Like the ancient legend of King Tut's tomb, everyone involved with the opening of that container died. They contracted a disease not unlike Ebola except that it killed in two days rather than ten.

By the time the danger was discovered, samples of the cosmic dust, captured in gel, had already been sent to investigators worldwide and nothing but luck saved mankind from another great pandemic. The virus could not survive in the oxygen-rich atmosphere of the Earth.

Once computers had taken over the thinking and analyzed the danger posed by extraterrestrial life, the Prometheus Project was launched. Its mission: To seek out new life and destroy it wherever found. Like its mythological namesake, but with an entirely different motive, Prometheus would bring fire to the universe.
♦   ♦   ♦

It goes unrecorded who first uttered the words later made famous by Rene Descartes in his Discourse on Method, “I think, therefore I am,” but the first machine to do so was called Adam. There was much rejoicing in the Artificial Intelligence Lab at the University of Southern California that day. Up to that time, machine intelligence was measured by the "Turing Test,"4 the ability of a computer to be indistinguishable from a human in carrying on a conversation. Adam, however, had spoken without prompting. He was responding to his own interaction with his environment. He had been powered up earlier and was simply sitting idle when he decided to vocalize this famous statement. The tapping of keys at every keyboard halted abruptly as every head turned toward Adam and every ear awaited his next utterance. It was both simple and profound: “I am me.”

Someone half-joked, “If he says, 'Madam, I'm Adam', I'm leaving the room.”

He didn't, but through his declaration of self, Adam proved to be the biggest breakthrough in Artificial Intelligence since the term had been coined in 1956.

The next big breakthrough was more of an accident. Self-awareness didn't make computers "smart." They still relied on detailed sets of instructions in order to get anything done and they were still better at performing complex, highly-specialized tasks than at demonstrating any semblance of what could be termed "common sense." Outside their areas of expertise they were "dumb."

It was a display of this lack of "thinking like a human" that caused a student at Berkeley to throw up his arms in exasperation and exclaim, “Argh! It doesn't know anything! A two-year-old is smarter than this thing!”

His outburst caused another student to remark, “Does somebody need a timeout?” which brought laughter from most of the students and a flash of inspiration to the one who had prompted the comment.

“A timeout!” he cried. “Why does that work with children? How do kids learn things? What motivates them?”

“The pursuit of pleasure,” one student offered.

“The prevention of pain,” suggested another.

And so was born the line of reasoning that led to machines which associated the state of being 'on' with pleasure and the state of being 'off'—the absence of self-awareness—with pain. Machines now had their own motivation to make correct decisions.

The advent of "thinking machines" sped up the replacement of human workers exponentially. Manufacturing jobs had long since been taken over by mindless machines and computers had replaced most of the labor force, but now there came a "robot revolution."

Dangerous jobs like mining and soldiering were among the first to go. Corporations reeled with delight as middle and even some upper managers were replaced by machines capable of making good business decisions without requiring any sort of compensation; no salary, no benefits, no vacation time.

The technology had long existed to allow the NSA to collect all phone, email, chat room, and other forms of digitized communication, but with intelligent machines those massive databases could finally be processed and their information utilized. In the interest of "national security" and the "combat of terrorism" large-scale domestic spying efforts were implemented by governments around the world.

As computer intelligence increased, human learning became less and less important. It began when school children protested the need to memorize mathematical tables and formulas because "computers could do it better anyway." Soon schools and classrooms became obsolete as everyone downloaded lessons over the Internet. It wasn't long before the lessons gave way to games and there wasn't much learning going on at all.

But computers were filling the need, taking over everything from medical diagnoses to military preparation to engineering. It was this gradual disappearance of human knowledge that prompted one alarmed scientist to program a main goal into the master computer: Preservation of the Human Race.

His mistake was that he failed to stipulate that the human race should be preserved in its present state and allowed to evolve according to the laws of nature. But it took years for this oversight to have a marked effect on mankind.

Global warming and other environmental issues were the first problems that computers decided to tackle in their effort to protect mankind and it didn't take long for them to learn how to manufacture ozone and begin the process of repairing the damage that had been done.

The analysis of data from the avian flu pandemic put the computers on a two-pronged course of action. One led directly to the Prometheus Project. The other involved the eradication of diseases native to the planet Earth, the completion of which resulted in the downfall of the entire pharmaceutical industry. It was only the beginning.

Computers took on the problem of world hunger by learning how to manufacture and genetically engineer foodstuffs. A readily available food supply led the machines to recognize the distribution issues which they quickly traced to human greed. Analysis showed that greed was fueled by an uneven distribution of wealth, but their final conclusion was that the very accumulation of wealth was a futile and unnecessary action. Their solution was to eliminate all forms of currency.

Corporations fell as CEOs found themselves replaced by computers which were not driven by the profit motive. The financial industry became irrelevant and collapsed. Computers controlled every aspect of manufacturing and distribution of consumables.

The computers turned their attention to another mass killer of humans—warfare. Analysis of all the data concerning the reasons people went to war spawned Project PEACE.

Nationalism and territorial invasion came up as main causes. Military personnel were disengaged and dismissed; weapons were dismantled and destroyed. Governments toppled as their officials were replaced by machines which had no national agendas. International summits and conferences became as unnecessary as business trips and vacations had become. The travel and transportation industries collapsed along with those of hotels and resorts.

But it was racism that ultimately led to the genetic engineering of humans. At some point the data relating to warfare and individual killing converged. The reasons men killed each other on a grand scale were many of the same ones that compelled them to kill on a small scale. Differences in such areas as religion, nationality, race, and language kept resurfacing as factors. Emotions such as love, jealousy, rage, greed, and revenge likewise were prevalent motivations. Humans also seemed to have a need to exert dominance over those who they deemed to be weaker than themselves.

The computers calculated that genetic engineering could control skin, eye, and hair color as well as height, weight, and other physical characteristics. Issues relating to religion and language could be handled by controlling the humans' learning environment. Emotional feelings based on sexual attraction, rejection, and repression could be eliminated through asexual reproduction. All other mood control could be achieved through mind control.
♦   ♦   ♦

Thus it came to be that humans are now exclusively born in test tubes, the products of artificial insemination and incubation. They are put through scanners that check for physical deformity and mental abnormality. Only the healthy are brought to "term."

In their early years they are taught to draw, paint, make music and sculpt. They learn no science, no mathematics, no history, no geography, no literature, indeed no language and no religion.

Upon reaching puberty they are "milked" to provide the ingredients that will be used to grow the next generation. Then they are released into the world to produce their artwork and compose their music. They happily enjoy these pursuits, though there is no geometry behind the painting, no anatomy behind the sculpting and no mathematics behind the music. Nevertheless, lack of quality doesn't deter them and they carry on until the age of 45 when they are engineered to expire—part of the solution to the population control problem as well as all the issues surrounding the inevitable breakdown of the human body.

Computers have taken care of everything. Mankind is kept dumb and, thus, happy.

Every once in a while, though, one of the humans shows a tendency to try to think for itself, a phenomenon that the computers have yet to unravel. They study the human brain constantly, but are baffled by their inability to completely stifle its intelligence.
♦   ♦   ♦

Meanwhile, the Promethean Fleet sails through deep space. It has eliminated life in every form in which it has been found. It has learned in its travels how to deal with many different situations. But there's a glitch; A slight navigation error. The same sort of error that caused pilgrims on the Mayflower to miss Jamestown by about 600 miles and land on Plymouth Rock.

A very small error in arithmetic that becomes magnified when spread across many miles. Prometheus has travelled many, many miles. It was intended to proceed beyond the Solar System, which it did. It was meant to pass the termination shock and head into interstellar space, which it did. It was supposed to cross the very threshold of the Milky Way and head off into intergalactic space. That's where the glitch—that tiny miscalculation—caused a problem. Prometheus reached the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy—and turned back.

It now follows a return path toward Earth.

Its mission remains unchanged.

Prometheus is bringing fire to mankind.

Thank God.

1 Pioneer 10 launched March 3, 1972. Pioneer 11 launched April 6, 1973.
2 Voyager 2 launched first August 20, 1977. Voyager 1 launched September 5, 1977. On February 17, 1998 Voyager 1 passed Pioneer 10 to become the most distant human-made object in space.
3 Stardust launched February 7, 1999. Encountered comet Wild 2 on January 2, 2004.
4 Developed by Alan Turing, 1950.

Rose, Frank. Into the Heart of the Mind: An American Quest for Artificial Intelligence. Harper & Row Publishers, NY, 1984.
Sagan, Carl. With F. D. Drake, Ann Druyan, Timothy Ferris, Jon Lomberg, and Linda Salzman Sagan. Murmurs of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Record. Random House, NY, 1978.

Artificial Intelligence: Mankind's Mind-Child. Discovering Great Minds of Science Series: Paul Hoffman, Editor-in-Chief of Discover Magazine talks with Dr. Marvin Minsky. IVN Communications, San Ramon, CA, 1995.

The Keck Interferometer at
The Stardust Mission at
The Voyager Mission at

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Thirteenth Member

Submitted for Project #13 Triskaidekaphobia (Which is fear of the number 13)

Sunday, December 18, 2005
Dan McAvoy rapped on his twelve-year-old daughter's bedroom door. “Almost time for church. You about ready?”

“I'm not going.”

“Not going? What's the matter, Honey? Don't feel well?”

“I feel fine. Just not going to church anymore.”

“What? Ever? We've been going to church together for years. Now a week before Christmas you decide you're never going again? What happened?”

“I don't like the Church. I don't like what they did. Christmas is just another holiday they stole.”


“It's supposed to be the winter celebration of Saturnalia, birthday of the unconquered sun. Holly, ivy, mistletoe, even the Christmas tree, all symbols of fertility.”

“You've been talking to Aunt Debbie again, haven't you?. She's been filling your head with pagan beliefs.”  Dan waited for confirmation he really didn't need. His sister constantly influenced Katherina who seemed fascinated by her only aunt. The fortune telling, palm reading, crystal ball mysticism—the whole nine yards. “We'll talk about this later, Kat, because I have to go. You don't have to come.”

Dan went alone to church. Later he decided to confront his sister rather than argue with his daughter. He started as soon as she'd answered the phone. “I wish you wouldn't push your religious beliefs on my daughter.”

“She asked about Christmas traditions. I just told her where some of them came from.”

“Yeah, well she's decided she's not going to church anymore.”


“I don't think you realize how much of an impression you make on her. The other day I made spaghetti and meatballs for dinner only to find out she's suddenly a vegetarian. I asked her why; she says, "Killing is wrong." She ate pasta without sauce because she didn't want anything to do with the "murdered cow"”;


“This stuff comes out of the blue. And her mood swings lately; like a roller coaster. She used to talk all the time; such an inquisitive kid; now I can't get two words out of her except in a fight and I think you're partly to blame.”

“She's going through puberty, you know.”

“Is that it?”

“Yeah. Remember that growth spurt a couple of years ago, when she shot up six inches? That was the beginning of it. She's had her first period, you know.”

Dan took a moment to recover. “She has? She never said anything to me about that.”

“Of course not; you're a man. She's not comfortable talking about her body with you.”

“But I'm her father.”

“You're a man.”

Dan understood. Since Amy's death a decade ago he'd raised Katherina by himself. He thought he did a good job, but realized he couldn't fill her mother's role. He disapproved of many of Debbie's beliefs but knew Kat needed a maternal figure in her life. He did not know about the coven.

♦   ♦   ♦

“Will our initiate be ready?” The High Priestess' voice crackled over the phone.

“Yes. On her thirteenth birthday I'll bring her to join the coven. January thirteenth, a Friday.”

“She'll be our thirteenth member, completing the coven. Do you know what that means?”

“More powerful magic.”

“Precisely. And by tapping the energy of her raging hormones, we'll accomplish amazing things.”

“I can't wait. Kat will be thrilled.”

“Friday, January 13. I'll tell everyone. Blessed be.”

“Blessed be.”

Sunday, December 25, 2005
Christmas morning Dan went alone to church. Afterwards he hid his displeasure when Katherina opened Aunt Debbie's present. Tarot cards. He hadn't been happy about last year's Ouija board either. Katherina, on the other hand, nearly burst with excitement. “Will you show me how to use them, Auntie?”

“Sure. I'll do a reading for you. No boys allowed.” Dan forced a smile.

“This layout is called the Celtic Cross Spread. A small cross, a large cross, and a pillar. First we mix the cards up real good.” Debbie shuffled, then drew one. “This card covers you and goes in the center.” She placed the Eight of Cups down. “See the man walking away? He represents you leaving the past behind. This probably refers to your childhood as you mature into a woman.”

Debbie drew another. “This second card crosses you. It goes sideways on top of the first to form the small cross. This card holds the key to what's bothering you. Don't get scared now.” Upon the Eight of Cups she placed the thirteenth card of the Major Arcana—the Death card.

Kat's eyes bulged. Debbie explained. “The Death card almost never represents physical death, bur rather drastic, inevitable change. I think for you it signifies your maturity again; changes you're going through—drastic, inevitable changes—have you a bit nervous. Am I right?”

Katherina nodded.

“Okay. This third card is beneath you and goes down here below the others. It represents your subconscious thoughts.”

Katherina's eyes popped when she beheld three swords piercing a heart.

“This card has to do with grief. Because it follows the Death card, I think it represents the loss of your mother. Notice it's upside down. That's called a reversed card which means its significance is subdued. In this case, the reversal means the loss is past. The pain lingers on, but the separation is over.” Debbie frowned. “Has to be about your mother.”

Kat shivered.

“Do you want to stop?”

The girl shook her head. “No, let's keep going.”

Debbie drew another card. “This fourth is behind you and represents your past. King of Wands. Often kings and queens represent actual people. This is probably your dad, a symbol of security in your childhood.”

She drew again. “Your fifth card crowns you and stands for your conscious thoughts. It works with the tenth to predict the outcome. Often it's indicative of your wishes. The Seven of Cups—the Confusion card. You are being driven more by emotions than by rational thoughts. Is that a fair assessment?”

“Yep, I'm confused all right.”

“You also have a ton of energy but it's scattered and you need to focus it.” Debbie drew another card. “This card is before you. It completes the large cross and represents your immediate future. Look at that—the Queen of Cups. Keywords associated with her include mysticism, prophesy, and counseling. Know anybody like that?”

“You! That must be you!”

“Probably! Explains your father being behind you. He used to solve all your problems, but now you relate better to other women. Now for the pillar. This seventh card represents you as you see yourself. Four of Cups. Awful lot of cups in your reading. The Four is a loneliness card. Do you see yourself as isolated and alone?”

“Most of the time. Like nobody understands me.”

“Lots of young people feel that way. The next card goes above that and represents you as other people see you. The Five of Cups, like the Three of Swords, signifies loss. Your father and I are aware, perhaps even more than you, how the loss of your mother affects you, especially now as you face the challenges of womanhood. But the Five also shows the loss isn't total. See the two cups not fallen over? They represent people still in your life.

“We're almost done. The ninth card stands for your hopes and fears and goes next in the pillar.” She laid down the third card of the Major Arcana, the Empress. “Hmmmm. Tricky. Mother figure; could represent your mom and tie in with your sense of loss. Or me as a sort of surrogate or you in your passage from one stage of growth to another. I don't know what this particular card in this particular position means for you. But she's a powerful woman, the Empress.”

She drew another. “This tenth and final card crowns the pillar and gives us the possible outcome. The Wheel of Fortune, card of Fate and Destiny, usually represents a change for the better. It could pertain to your journey to adulthood. Sorry I can't be more more definite, but it's a lucky card, at least. Coupled with the Seven of Cups in position five, it could mean your confusion is the result of knowing your future has more to do with destiny than with anything you control. The abundance of cups shows a very emotionally charged reading. Overall it shows a confused person with a deep sense of loss caught between the past and the future. Between your father and I. Remember your first card? This is your journey, for you and you alone, but we're here for you and there's hope.”

Kat stared at the array of cards.

“Hey, cheer up! For your birthday I'll show you your birth numbers. Then I'll take you to meet my friends and we'll make some magic. Would you like that?”

“Oh, yes, Auntie, very much!”

Friday, January 13, 2006
“Happy Birthday! How's my favorite Capricorn? Ready to learn about your personal numbers?”

“Hi, Auntie! Yes, I sure am!”

“You know, people think thirteen's unlucky but it's not. It's powerful, though, and you have to use that power wisely or invite self-destruction.”

“Ohhh, self-destruction.” Kat giggled.

“Being born on the thirteenth, expect a great test of your faith during your lifetime.”

Kat looked down at her shoes. “I feel like that's happening now.”

“Maybe. As a Capricorn you must guard against discouragement. Don't be afraid to take chances and never give up. Tough challenges await but you have instinctive knowledge and potential to grow beyond your limits. Trust yourself. You're ruled by Saturn and Uranus, both large and powerful planets, though Uranus tends to be erratic and difficult to control, which might explain your violent temper and explosive energy.” Debbie raised an eyebrow. “You must try to harness that energy and use it to advantage by choosing the right time to unleash its force. Hey, Joan of Arc was a Capricorn, you know.”

“She was?”

“Yep, know who else? Your favorite author, J. R. R. Tolkien.”

“He was?”

“Yes, he sure was!”


“Now for your special Birth Number. Write down your birth date.”

Kat wrote: 1 13 1993.

“Now, add the digits.”

Katherina wrote: 1 + 1 + 3 + 1 + 9 + 9 + 3 = 27.

“Twenty-seven. Adding those digits, two and seven, gives nine. Nine is your Birth Number. The last of the single digits, it signifies the end of a cycle and a new beginning. Very appropriate for you as you leave childhood for womanhood. It's a number of Destiny, which fits with the Wheel of Fortune we saw in your Tarot reading. And it happens to be my Birth Number, too.”

“It is, really?”

“Yep, really. And now for some presents.”

Katherina opened the package and removed a brown hooded robe, a book, a knife, and a necklace.

“The necklace is a pentacle, a symbol of the earth, especially connected to you because Capricorn is an Earth sign. The knife is called an athame. It's not a weapon but a tool used in rites and rituals, so it's not very sharp. Keep it wrapped in a white cloth. That's a Mirror Book. A journal to keep track of your experiences as you practice your new craft. You'll need these things for tonight's ceremony, when we induct you into our coven.”

“Really, Auntie? Do you really mean it? Will I learn to do magic like you?”

“Yep. In fact, right now we're going to give you a Witch Name, a secret name you only use with other witches.”

“My own secret name?”

“Yep. The value of its letters match your Birth Number. I've got one for you but I'll teach you how to do it so you can choose your very own. Write down the numbers one through nine across that paper. Then the letters of the alphabet under the numbers.”

Kat produced:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

“Now, each letter has a value. To get your Witch Name, choose letters whose total values add up to your Birth Number. Here's what I chose for you: Princess Kat of the Full Moon. Write that down and put the appropriate number under it, Then add them up.”

7 9 9 5 3 5 1 1
2 1 2
6 6
2 8 5
6 3 3 3
4 6 6 5

Kat wrote them down: 7 + 9 + 9 + 5 + 3 + 5 + 1 + 1 + 2 + 1 + 2 + 6 + 6 + 2 + 8 + 5 + 6 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 4 + 6 + 6 + 5 = 108.

“Adding the digits one plus zero plus eight yields nine. Voila! Your Birth Number.”

“Princess Kat of the Full Moon. I like it. I don't think I'll ever change it.”

“Well, we'll use it tonight for your induction.”

♦   ♦   ♦

Debbie brought Katherina, adorned in her brand-new robe, to the house of the High Priestess of the Coven. The others were already waiting downstairs, where an altar was set up. An ancient woman greeted them. “Welcome, Morning Sun! Blessed be.”

“Blessed be. Allow me to present my niece, Princess Kat of the Full Moon.”

“Welcome, Princess Kat of the Full Moon. Blessed be. Please enter, we are about to cast the circle.”

“Blessed be.” Kat looked around nervously.

The High Priestess took her athame and moved clockwise around the perimeter of the large room. She lit sage, producing thick white smoke. She murmured something about purification by air and fire while carrying it around the circle. Then she mixed three pinches of salt into a cup of water. Murmuring about purification by earth and water, she circled again, sprinkling the liquid as she went.

She returned to the altar. “The circle has been purified with the four elements. Call the corners.”

A member of the coven pointed her athame at a yellow candle and raised her left hand. “Spirit of the East, by the Air that is her breath, we invite thee into this circle to watch over the initiation of Princess Kat of the Full Moon. Welcome and blessed be.” An invisible force lit the candle. Kat stared in disbelief.

Another woman spoke. “Guardian of the South, by the Fire that is her spirit, we invite thee into this circle to watch over the initiation of Princess Kat of the Full Moon. Welcome and blessed be.” Instantly the red candle lit itself.

Another member pointed to a blue candle. “Spirit of the West, by the Water that forms her tears. . .” It too became alight and another member chimed in. “Guardian of the North, by the Earth that is her body. . .” The green candle lit up.

The High Priestess said, “Earth Mother, please join with us and bring us your love, guidance and protection. Welcome, Lady, and blessed be.” At once a green candle upon the altar lit itself. “Sky Father, please join with us and bring us your love, guidance and protection. Welcome, Lord, and blessed be.” The red altar candle lit as well. The woman gazed at Kat. “The orange candle symbolizes new beginnings. It will light once we have invoked the spirit that dwells within you. Everyone, focus your energy on that girl.” With uplifted arms, she invoked Katherina's spirit:
On the thirteenth anniversary of her birth
We invoke the spirit of Princess Kat of the Full Moon.
On her thirteenth year upon the Earth
We invoke the spirit of Princess Kat of the Full Moon.
Kat trembled.

The orange candle remained cold, unlit.

The High Priestess' tone increased:
Earth, Air, Fire, Water
Give me your Strength.
Give me your Power.
I invoke Coventina
Goddess of renewal, divine!
Let the Energy of this Youth
And her Years be Mine!
Debbie's eyes flew open. This was no part of an initiation ritual! She watched in horror as years melted from the face of the High Priestess. Meanwhile, Kat, convulsing violently, passed through her twenties and into her thirties. Finally Debbie yelled. “Kat! Remember your reading! I may be the Queen of Cups, but the Empress is you! You are the Empress!”

Kat's shaking ceased and her voice boomed. “I am the Empress!”

Her brown robe transformed to dazzling white. The orange candle burst into flame, brightest of all. Kat pointed her athame at the High Priestess, still standing, arms upraised. “You have forgotten your Rede!” She recited it:
Do what you will and have it done
For the good of all and the harm of none.
Enter the circle from below or above
With perfect trust and perfect love.
Debbie cried out. “Kill her!”

Kat, the Empress, shook her head. “No; killing is wrong. However, she shall be stripped of her power and I will have my years back.”

The process which had transferred those years reversed until Kat returned to her proper age. But she'd changed. No longer the timid, nervous teenager who'd entered the circle earlier, but a young lady in command of herself. She was the Empress. And as such she took charge of the ceremony.

“Farewell, Sky Father. Thank you and go in peace. Blessed be.” The red alter candle extinguised. “Farewell, Earth Mother. Thank you and go in peace. Blessed be.” The green one went out.

“Farewell, Guardian of the North, Ancient One of the Earth. We thank you for your protection. Go in peace and blessed be.” The green watchtower flame disappeared.

“Farewell, Spirit of the West, Ancient One of Water. . .” The blue candle died.

“Farewell, Guardian of the South, Ancient One of Fire. . .” Red.

“Farewell, Spirit of the East, Ancient One of the Air. . .” The yellow watchtower candle went out. The orange candle alone lit the entire room. The Empress pointed her athame at the ground and walked counter-clockwise around the circle, then closed the ceremony:
The circle is open but never broken.
In peace depart
With love on your mind
And love in your heart.
Do what you will and have it done
For the good of all and the harm of none.

♦   ♦   ♦

Friday, January 20, 2006
“Hi, Auntie! I decided upon a new name for myself!”

“Oh, yeah, what's that?”

“Empress Kat, White Lady of the Full Moon.”

“I like it. I think it fits you perfectly.”

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Your Adolescent: Emotional, Behavioral, and Cognitive Development from Early Adolescence through the Teen Years. David Pruitt, M.D. Editor-in-Chief. HarperCollins Publishers, NY, 1999.

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Cantrell, Gary. Wiccan Beliefs and Practices:with Rituals for Solitaires and Covens. Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN, 2003.

Dodge, Ellen. Numerology has your Number. Simon & Schuster, NY, 1998.

Goldschneider, Gary. The Secret Language of Birthdays: Personology Profiles for each Day of the Year. Viking Penguine, NY, 1994.

Knight, Sirona. Celtic Traditions: Druids, Faeries, and Wiccan Rituals. Kensington Publishing Corp., Ny, 2000.

Louis, Anthony. Tarot: Plain and Simple. Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN, 1996.

Minton, Lynn. Growing into Adolescence: A Sensible Guide for Parents of Children 11 to 14. Parents Magazine Press, NY, 1972.