My Animal Spirits

By Morgana RavenTree

Holmes was acting out.  He was running around like a maniac clawing at everything in sight, just being a little shit.  I decided it was time to do more than just yell at him (which never does any good with a cat, anyway), so I figured it might be time to do a ritual for Bast, the Egyptian cat goddess.  At the time, I was studying Egyptian magic.  I set up a simple Egyptian altar with a representation of the Goddess and set up offerings of kibble and milk.  I offered these to the Goddess and said Praises for Her.  Suddenly, Holmes appeared in the bedroom doorway glaring at me, except he didn’t have the eyes of my beloved cat.  No, his eyes glowed with an eerie light and I knew that he was manifesting the Goddess.  He walked straight to the altar, stopping for a moment to look up at me.  He then bent down and began to drink the milk.  The thing is, Holmes never liked milk.  He had never drunk it before, but I realized it had to be the Goddess who was consuming the milk through him.  He drank all of the milk and then took some bites of the kibble, looking at me again and rubbing his cheek on my knee.  He then turned around and walked out the door.   After that, his behavior changed much for the better.

Holmes, the Goddess shining through his eyes

Several years earlier I went on a backpacking trip with the Sierra Club in the undeveloped backside of Catalina Island.  It was summer, and I hadn’t brought a tent, because I like to look at the stars when I sleep outside.  I woke up that night because I felt something touching my foot.   I looked up over the edge of my sleeping bag and there at the foot of my sleeping bag stood a boar, one of the many that run wild on Catalina.  She looked at me, I looked at her, and I felt an immediate connection to this animal.  I didn’t feel any fear and we simply stared at each other for a while, before she made a little grunting noise, turned around and disappeared Into the night.

Not long after (this was in the 1980s), while I was living in an apartment building in Westwood, I heard the sound of a crow or raven cawing outside.  This went on for several days and nights. I finally figured out that the bird was in a very tall tree growing outside my building.  One night, the bird perched on the edge of my balcony.  Again, we made eye contact and the bird “spoke” to me.  It visited me for 3 nights, before disappearing.  It was at this time I added “RavenTree” to my public magical name.

I do not believe that our Spirit Animals stay with us for our entire lifetime.  In the 80s and early 90s my spirit animals were the boar and the raven but over time that seem to change.  In the very late 90s and throughout the Aughts, I acquired a new spirit guide – the red panda.  I first encountered her during a guided meditation.  I saw a creature that looked very raccoon-like, but wasn’t a raccoon because its fur was red.  I didn’t recognize the animal, but later I checked a book I had of all mammals of the word.  I flipped through the book and found a picture of a Red Panda and knew that was my Spirit Animal.  My Red Panda has guided me through my experience learning a new tradition, studying, teaching, setting up my own coven and continuing practice. 

My Red Panda spirit

The fact she isn’t a flesh-and-blood animals is irrelevant. She continues to guide me.  I encourage everyone to look back on your life and think about the animals, both “real” and “spirit” that have influenced your own life and growth on your pagan path.

Morgana RavenTree is the current President of Pagan Pride LA/OC and has practiced various magical paths over the past 38 years.

AN OFFERING TO MY ANCESTORS

By Morgana RavenTree

How does a child of Diaspora find her ancestors?  How does she connect with her ancestral culture when it exists on another continent she has never, and possibly will never, visit?

My parents were born in Indonesia when it was a colony of the Netherlands.  After Indonesian independence, in the early 1950’s, they, my brother and their extended family all left the only home most of them had ever known and migrated to the Netherlands, the “homeland” most of them had never seen.  They found it difficult to adapt to a cold (in more than one way) country and after I was born, immigrated to Massachusetts, then California.  Growing up in Southern California, there were no other Dutch-Indonesian (“Indo”) families where we lived.  My parents told me stories of growing up in Indonesia, but for the most part, they wanted me to be “American”.  English became our primary language and in school I absorbed “American” history and culture.  The strongest connection to the culture into which they had been born was food.  My mother cooked mostly Indonesian food for my father, but even then, she made separate “American” food for me.  The only time I ate Indonesian food was for special occasions, when we would go to “Little Bali” restaurant in Inglewood for “Rijstaffel”, an Indonesian feast.  It was not until I was in college, visited my grandmother in the Netherlands, and collected her recipes that I learned to appreciate Indo food.  For a while I was really into cooking Indo food, but I discovered that my friends did not like it (or maybe they just did not like my cooking), so I stopped gradually.  It has been several years since I have prepared any Indo dishes.  Meanwhile, I ate Thai, Vietnamese, Filipino and other Asian foods, but neglected my own food heritage.

At several recent Pantheacons, I attended workshops on Hoodoo and Conjure paths that have become popular.  Rather than studying those paths, it awakened in me a desire to learn more about the Pagan cultures of my ancestors.  Although my ancestors were both European and Asian, my Pagan practice has always been European-origin Wicca (with a detour to Ancient Egypt).  At one of the Pagans of Color caucuses I expressed my desire to connect with my own ancestral Indonesian culture, but did not know how to start, as my most recent Indonesian ancestors were Muslim.  One of the other attendees recommended that I do “ancestor work” and try to connect with more distant ancestors.  After thinking about it, I realized I did not have to go back that far.  My mother had told me that her grandmother was a “witchdoctor” who lit candles for spirits.  I doubt she was a “witch” in the European sense of the word.  It was more likely that she was a practitioner of folk-magic.  She died when I was 2 years old, so I am not her reincarnation, but my mother often said I was very much like her.

I want to reconnect to pre-Islamic Indonesian culture (the islands of Indonesia were once a hub of Hindu-Buddhist culture) using my great grandmother as a bridge.  As the Balinese never converted to Islam, I looked to Balinese culture for clues as to how the pre-Islamic culture of the rest of Indonesia would have been.  I know enough about Balinese culture to know that great feasts are prepared for the gods (or in this case, my ancestors), but after they have eaten the spirits in the foods, it’s the people that eat the food.  I feel that before I can call upon and commune with my ancestors, particularly with my great-grandmother, I need to show them that I am serious about pursuing this and honor them as they deserve. 

This long explanation is leading up to this: during the pandemic, I suddenly found myself mostly homebound for three months.  That is when I decided to re-learn how to cook Indo foods.  I have an added complication.  For health reasons, my doctors do not want me to eat red meat (and by “red meat” they mean mammals), empty carbs (white rice, white potatoes), and restrict sugar and saturated fat (which includes coconut).  Dairy too, but that doesn’t really figure in Indo cooking much.  I started with some simple dishes – “frikadel” (a meatloaf made with potatoes), “sayoer lodeh” (vegetables in coconut cream) and “atjar” (pickled vegetables).  I have had to make each dish several times, each time trying to “perfect” the recipe.  For the frikadel, I had to replace ground beef with ground turkey and mashed potatoes with mashed sweet potatoes (higher in fiber and nutrients).  It smelled and tasted like my mother’s frikadel but was disturbingly pale.  I think I will need to make it one more time and mix the soy sauce into the loaf instead of pouring it on top in an effort “darken” the loaf. 

For the sayoer lodeh, it also tasted like Mom’s.  She always used diced potatoes in it, so I replaced them with diced butternut squash. 
The atjar is still marinating (it has to cure at least one month).  For that dish I had to replace the sugar in the brine with monkfruit, which, fortunately, grows in Southeast Asia.  It remains to be seen (and tasted) if that was successful.
This is still a work in progress.  If I can perfect the taste, appearance, and texture of those three dishes, I’ll feel more comfortable with trying to reach my great-grandmother, hopefully receiving the teaching of my Indonesian ancestors.

Making Fresh Cheese

by Kandy

My adventures making cheese started a while back with a group experience to make Ricotta for Imbolc. Making cheese is simply the process of separating curds from whey. This is done with either rennet (an enzyme) or acid. Aged cheeses are more complex and usually separated with rennet. Luckily, fresh cheese can be made with milk, a pot, a cheese cloth, and some acid.

Want to make your own queso fresco, paneer, farmers cheese, chevre or ricotta? Read on! 

  1. Bring milk (and salt if needed) to a gentle boil over medium heat stirring occasionally. The milk type and mixture will vary by the recipe.
  2. Add the acid
  3. Let it separate
  4. Drain into cheese cloth
  5. Process according to cheese type.

No really, it is ENTIRELY that simple. Check out the provided links to great simple recipes above and begin your cheese making adventure. If we ever get to gather again you will impress the heck out of your friends!

In my opinion, the BEST thing to do with fresh ricotta is to serve it warm, drizzled with olive oil, and topped with cracked pepper and a bit of shredded parmesan. Seriously. The best!

If for some reasons you any left, try out these awesome ricotta recipes.

Beet and ricotta hummus

Lemon ricotta pasta

Frittata with ricotta

Butternut Squash Casserole