All posts by Doreen Shababy

I am the author of THE WILD & WEEDY APOTHECARY - An A to Z Book of Herbal Concoctions, Recipes & Remedies, Practical Know-how and Food for the Soul. I am also co-owner of The Wild & Weedy Apothecary, specializing in herbal extracts for Lyme disease and liver support, tonic and compound tinctures, and soothing herbal salves. This is my personal website where I share some of those recipes, ideas and endeavors that are going on in my life.

Gathering – a poem


With mortar & pestle we grind resin

with lavender


          & the peel of oranges

a thoughtful steady motion

channels open as aroma sifts through fingers

We burn candles dipped by hand

witness clarity in the dancing flame

& close our eyes to find stars on our belt

incense smoke to purify

we meditate & meet

we are the circle that surrounds us

Inside, She greets us

with open hands

          scented loaves

          & runes

She teaches us with what we seek

and touches us with knowing

© 2018 Doreen Shababy

Biting Off her Own Wing


the Angel succumbs

to the flightless endurance

of separation,

leaving behind

not only all the old games

and fancies

but also the so many

wonderful delicious

pantomimes of religion and war.

Marauding mobs of so-calleds

spit language and decoration

and devise assaulting rituals

to practice on the psyches of peers

who do not fly the same direction,

while they themselves

deteriorate in closet self-admonishment.

Feathers still stuck to her lips,

the Angel coughs and spews

the beauty and terror

of her own power

and finds embedded in her own soul

the rhythm and rush

of wings incarnate

still beating


© Doreen Shababy 2017

Meet Linda Raedisch, Architect of Alvenholm

I recently had the opportunity to ask author Linda Raedisch some questions about her most recent book THE PRINCESS IN THE MOUND – A Visitor’s Guide to Alvenholm Castle. As you will see, she is as lively as her “fiction”.

Raedisch’s most recent book


But first, you will want to know about her books of non-fiction, both from Llewellyn Publications:

NIGHT OF THE WITCHES – Folklore, Traditions & Recipes for Celebrating Walpurgis Night, which Llewellyn Publications calls a “charming, impeccably researched book” about the lost traditions of this auspicious night.


THE OLD MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS – Yuletide Traditions for the Darkest Days of the Year, which is a “spooky sleigh ride” deep in the heart of the winter wonderland.

Author Linda Raedisch


Linda is also the author of dozens of articles in Llewelln’s annuals, the Herbal Almanac, Sabbats Almanac, and the Witch’s Companion.


Gripsholm Castle in Sweden, one of the inspirations for Alvenholm

Here is our interview, which we conducted via email, my questions and her answers.

  1. Tell me a little about the places you’ve visited that helped form the composite for Alvenholm Castle.

My Mom’s side of the family comes from far northern Germany, which is practically Scandinavia.  In fact, at times it has been.  My aunt and uncle live in Daenisch Nienhof (which translates roughly as “Danish New Farm”) which is located in the Daenischer Wohld which is part of the larger area of Schwedeneck, “Sweden Corner.”  So over the centuries, it has been part of several different kingdoms, duchies, and what-have-you.  The native language is not German but Platt or “Low German” which is closer to English and Dutch. There’s a lot of history and a lot of old houses to traipse through.

When we go down to the beach (it’s on the Baltic) we walk past a Baroque manor house that you can’t go into because it’s been made into condos.  So, of course, that’s the house I started to wonder about.  Also, my uncle once pointed out a field to me near his house.  A witch was burned there in the 1600’s.  That was the inspiration for the character of Anke Erker, but I gave Anke a happy ending.  And Anke;s husband, Witchety Willi, is my response to the Black Peter controversy.  Black Peter is a comical Dutch Christmas figure who’s traditionally represented by a white person in blackface.  Imagine growing up Black in the Netherlands and having to see that every year!  Witchety Willi, on the other hand, was a successful entrepreneur, and many Alvenholmers can trace their lines back to him.     

One of the houses we can and do always go into is Schloss Gottorf (Gottorf Castle) which was designed by architect Nicodemus Tessin who also designed a lot of grand homes in Sweden.  In the book, he’s “recast” as “Theophilus Nessin.”  Alvenholm is a lot like Gottorf, but much much smaller and much more run down.  Also, much more haunted!

Image result for Gottorf castle
inside Gottorf Castle in Sweden


  1. What about the people? Are they based on curators and craftspeople you’ve met? The names are a real mouthful sometimes!

Some of the names in the book are family names, slightly altered, some are taken from place names in the area.  My great grandmother Magdalene was one of thirteen children, 12 girls and one boy.  They were partly the inspiration for Juniperus and Aina Nissenborg’s thirteen daughters in the book.

I’ve long been obsessed by craft and by materials.  I don’t want to be bored with dates!  I want to know how things were made and what they were made of.  There’s more history in a chair or a carved wooden headboard than there is in a textbook.

Also, my sister Marlene was a decorative painter and a world-class gilder.  I started writing the stories that became Princess about six months after she died.  It was a way of both channeling my grief and celebrating her craft.  My illustrator, Ursula Raedisch (who’s also my daughter!) inherited all her gilding tools and materials and she’s doing some beautiful work with gold leaf on glass.


  1. As “A Visitor’s Guide”, your book has no storyline. That being said, you built characters with personalities, and settings with spirit of place – literally. Tell me about your background and life studies that inspired the richness of Alvenholm. What are you into?

I’m an autodidact.  I have only “some college,” as they put it on surveys.  I’m always obsessed with something and, like Neil Gaiman tells us, you have to trust your obsessions!  After my sister died, I bought the old classic, The Art of the Painted Finish for Furniture and Decoration by Isobel O’Neil.  Why?  I don’t know, because I can’t actually do any of the things my sister did; that takes years of training.  But the book is magical.  You open to any page and it’s pure poetry.  Here, let’s try it!  Page 192: “Certain mediums used for antiquing painted areas are discussed here again when they may be used effectively on leaf: in accordance with the manner of coloring, it is possible to gray, yellow, or blacken silver, and to brown gold.”  See?  The idea of spending hours, if not days, painting one thing to look like another thing, well, it’s just fascinating.  And there’s a lot of that going on inside Alvenholm Castle.

I also have a whole shelf of Swedish Castle books.  They’re really coffee table books but I treat them as cover to cover reads.  In France, if you wanted mahagony, you got mahagony; if you wanted marble, you got marble, but up north all they really had was pine.  So they had to fake it.


Paper cuttings by Elva Wichtelborg
  1. I want to know more about your experience with self-publishing.

After doing a lot of research, I decided to publish with Amazon Create Space.  You can pay for content and copy editing but I decided to go it alone.  I had several people read earlier drafts, including my mom who’s pretty nit-picky!

I’m not good digitally, and as far as getting the book up, I was stretched to the limits of my scanty computer skills. But there’s always someone at create space to answer questions, even if it takes a day or two for them to get back to you with an answer.  At Llewellyn, as you know, we work with the same editor all through a project, but at amazon it’s a diffferent person every time,  Still, I’d do it again.  

Because I had already written my back cover copy – – the back cover is part of the fantasy – – I didn’t buy the Marketing Essentials package.  Now I’m having trouble getting the book in people’s faces.  If you search my books on my amazon, Princess comes up on about page 6, after all the Llewellyn annuals I’ve contributed to,  I think I’ve sold more copies at craft fairs at my “Soap, Book & Candle” table (Get it? Get it?  Not everybody gets it!) than I have on amazon.


  1.   You have a very puckish sense of humor. If we could sit at a table together and time travel, where would we go and what would we drink?

“Puckish.”  I like that!  Okay, so this is honestly the first thing that popped into my head: We’d travel back to China in the neighborhood of 3000 BC.  We’re drinking green tea but we’re not sitting down; we’re strolling through a garden with the legendary first empress who supposedly invented silk.  As we walk under the mulberry trees, we watch to see if a silkworm’s cocoon really does drop down into her tea cup and unravel.  And, most importantly, does she still drink the tea?

Does she still drink the tea?


  1. Can we look forward to future tours to other fascinating times and places?

Yes, I think you’re going to have to look forward to more haunted houses and cupboards from me.  The last phrase in Princess is “so there is no way to know.”  But since I wrote that, I’ve discovered more about Olga Ravenlow, and now I know.  And remember her older sister, Eugenia?  Turns out she married into the Mistelborg family, and there’s something very spooky going on in their apple orchard. . . 


  1. This is your opportunity to shamelessly self-promote your work and whatever it is you do that you want my multitude of readers to know.

I guess I just want to tell everybody to stay tuned.  I’m working on a third book for Llewellyn, due out late 2019, I think.  And I have lots more indie fantasies planned.  None of them take place at Alvenholm, but they are in the same universe.  The best way to stay tuned is via my facebook page, so send me a friend request.

Ursula Raedisch is still drawing and gilding away.  She seems to be in a Venetian phase right now.  You can see her work at



Thank you, Linda, for this deeper look into who you are and what makes you tick. I love reading about folklore and old traditions, and your work makes these studies very interesting and fun.

Also available in French;

This one is also available in Czech!



Dill – it’s not just for Pickles, you know!

This common garden herb is used for both its seed and its fragrant leaf. Everyone is familiar with the dill pickle, which is usually a cucumber left whole or cut into spears, chunks, or slices, and flavored with salt, dill, spices, and sometimes vinegar and garlic. And even though a pickle can be anything from a string bean to a peach, the long, crunchy cucumber spears will inevitably be flavored with dill seed.

fragrant dill seed


In cook’s jargon, pickling is actually a process of fermenting food in a salty brine, or immersing in vinegar for a quick pickle. What we commonly call “pickles” are technically pickled cucumbers. You can even pickle lumber, such as for paneling or flooring, with calcium carbonate or lime.

If you haven’t tried fresh dill weed, as the leaf is often called, you are in for a real treat. This lovely herb is used extensively in Scandinavian, Russian, and Eastern European cooking, and also in many Greek dishes. And while the leaf may look delicate, it adds a lot of flavor.

Deviled eggs and smoked salmon with dill

Use fresh dill weed with eggs, either as an edible garnish or as a small amount minced into the dish itself. It is the quintessential flavoring for a steaming bowl of new potatoes; simply sprinkle it on fresh, or dollop with a generous amount of dill weed blended with soft butter. You can use this butter to season all types of fresh vegetables as well as fish. Try sipping a cold glass of buttermilk or kefir flavored with a pinch of fresh dill – very refreshing.

New potatoes seasoned with dill

Chewing on dill seed is said to be a remedy for hiccups. The word dill comes from the Norwegian dylla, meaning “to lull”, and indeed, a mild tea made from the seeds is a good remedy for baby’s colic and is said to help bring on mother’s milk.

Dill Seed Tea – Boil 1 pint (2 cups) water, remove from heat, stir in 1 teaspoon dill seed, then cover and steep for 5 minutes. Strain and serve warm, up to 2 cups a day for mother and 2 small spoonfuls every hour for baby. You can also gently warm the seeds in milk for baby.

The lulling quality of dill must be one of the reasons why it is often used in sleep pillows – you know, those cute little pillows stuffed with magical herbs that you tuck under your regular pillow to lull you to sleep. I love how folklore and utility often go hand in hand.

Sleep pillow with herbs

The essential oil of dill has been shown to have antifungal and antibacterial potential, while the alcohol extract shows anti-oxidant properties; mass spectrometer studies resulted in the identification of 35 compounds responsible for the potency of this common garden herb.

It’s easy to grow dill. If you have the garden space, you can successively plant every two weeks starting in May until the end of June for fresh dill all summer. Dill likes full sun and loamy soil, and moderate watering. Snip fresh leaves throughout the summer to keep them growing, but let some stems grow into seed heads too.  Dill is a tall plant, from 2 to 3 feet, and prolific, so take that into consideration. Otherwise, find one of the more compact varieties to grow in a container. Fernleaf and Teddy are favorite container varieties, while Bouquet is the most common garden type.

Dill flower going to seed

Be sure to save some seed for planting Anethum graveolens next year: before they are fully ripe, cut the stem at least a foot below the seed head, and tie several stems into a bunch to hang and dry in a dark, airy place, perhaps with a loose paper bag around them to catch any errant seed. Dill makes a good companion plant for cole crops – cabbage, broccoli, and so on – while growing dill with carrots, parsnips or other plants of the Apiaceae or celery family (to which dill belongs) is discouraged.

If you find that you have extra dill fronds or flowering heads, you can use them in floral arrangements; they are quite beautiful.

Dill in a floral arrangement

[This article is an excerpted and revised version of “D is for Dill”, which is found in my book, THE WILD & WEEDY APOTHECARY.  You can purchase a signed copy of my book directly from me for $25 ppd. US only.  Please leave a comment if you want me to contact you.]

Yes, me, too…

I’m going to tell you a story about something that took place forty years ago. I was nineteen years old, it was so long ago.

I feel kind of funny talking about it, not because it is difficult for me to talk about anymore, since the distance of time has given me some perspective… but because I don’t want to seem like I’m riding the bandwagon of coming out stories… coming out, that is, about sexual abuse.

Because I was a teen-aged mom, I can with perspective understand why Mom looked out for her girls, why there were curfews and that sort of thing.  But I was still a kid in a worldly way. When you are young and someone advances on you, whether aggressively or subtly, when the situation is calculating incongruous inappropriate and you are taken by surprise… you don’t always realize the choices you have at hand.

See, the thing about “sexual” abuse is that the acts may be physically played upon your sexual parts, but the deviousness of it seeps into your head, into your gut, into your very being, like a lesion. It plays upon your psyche, because it’s not about sex, it’s about power. Even if the incident seems superficial – “oh, he just touched you, at least you weren’t raped” – the violation is not. For women, it’s something they face… they have faced… it seems like forever.

Like I said, I was a 19 year old hippie chick momma, and I had an appointment at the eye doctor. A friend walked with me the several blocks to the clinic on a nice summer day, and I was wearing my long hair in braids.  Once seated in the chair, we went through all the “which is better, this, or this?”, finally getting to the lens selection for my new glasses. As I’m sitting in the exam chair, before the doctor takes away the swiveling pillar with all the rotating lenses, he says “Do you always wear your hair like this?”, takes ahold of my braid, and rubs his hand on my nipple (like I said, a braless hippie chick).

My body turns to stone. This is crazy. It’s got to be a mistake. I try to speak, to say “No”, whether to his question or to what he is doing, I don’t know… and again he is rubbing the top of his fingers on my breast! Finally I am able to jerk up in the chair and pull my body back, away from him, and I am stunned… the look on his face was as if he thought he was being sly or cute… I really was still a kid in a lot of ways. Examination over.

Doesn’t sound like much, does it? I was shaking inside, and not in a good way. Did I say anything to the receptionist or office manager? No. No, I didn’t. I was 19 and kinda dumb and not very courageous I guess. I was afraid of what I would have to face if I did. I was afraid that somehow me not wearing a bra enticed him to do what he did. Seriously. It wasn’t even a tight shirt, I said to myself (see how pervasively sexism worms its way into our thought processes?).

I had to go back a couple weeks later to pick up my glasses, but in a different part of the clinic. I didn’t say anything then, either. I chalked it up to the doctor being an asshole that needed his fingers broken, but I didn’t know about friends in low places back then, so I went about my life with college and mommying… and, eventually, of course, Feminism.

It was an exciting time for me. Meeting like-minded people in that institution of higher learning (and elsewhere) helped me grow as a woman in innumerable ways. And I discovered that what happened with the ophthalmologist was a symptom of a much greater illness. An illness that objectifies women for someone else’s convenience… and they called that illness… Patriarchy.

Laugh if you will, it sounds very dramatic, like Godzilla or Donald Trump descending on a captive crowd. Which brings us to a very disturbing analogy… and I finally realized why it’s okay for me to tell this story now, on the biggest, loudest brass-bandwagon we can muster up… and it’s partly on account of whom I cheekily refer to as Tchump.

I realized that the wave of women coming out about sexual abuse, abuse that happened a few, ten, even thirty years ago, is in response to that man sitting in The White House who so blatantly demeans women and represents our country to the rest of the world!

Many men in positions of power have a reputation for feeling entitled. This is not a belief. This is an observed reality. Feeling entitled generally means you are a taker; that you feel owed whatever it is you want; that world revolves around you. Who does that remind you of? I can think of many other men now being publicly named as having the kind of personality to be takers as well.

There are many things one could say about swanky Hollywood parties, lifestyles of the rich and debauched, and the whoredom of politics.

But when it comes to touching and consent, there is never a time when permission should not first be sought. Never. Even if she’s wearing a tight blouse. Even if she’s wearing no blouse. If you don’t ask first you are a taker.

When men use their workplace authority over women looking to advance their own careers, it creates a pattern of manipulation that takes more energy than can be imagined to buffer the situation. Women are tired of this…

… Moreover, it’s against the law. And the men responsible for this unbroken lineage of sexism need to be held accountable for it. The lies need to stop. We need to teach our children straight out of the womb to treat other people with the respect you would give something precious, just like them. It’s so very simple. So monumental. So idealistic. You may say I’m a dreamer.

Women taking back their power is not the same as men having power over women. Think about that.

Civil rights have to translate into everyday life. Those rights are not to be taken for granted, nor are they to give us a reverse sense of entitlement, as if we are more deserving than men. Equal is equal, that’s all. Sexism is a social disorder wherein the perpetrators believe they are more equal than others because of their position, and they are not willing to share their privilege. Coyness is a symptom of this, locker-room-talk, if you will; it doesn’t change anything. What happened with this presidential selection was carte blanche to every sexist racist NASCAR enthusiast in the country to let ‘er rip, and wave that flag even it’s confederate because, by golly, my woman knows who’s boss.

We are at a turning point. Our country is at a turning point. I don’t know which way it’s going to pivot, but I do know this: the only way out is forward, there is no going back. The cat is out of the bag, and it has nothing to do with a handful of pussy.

A bit of a follow-up here to my original story… A few years later, at-school vision screening discovered my daughter needed glasses too… we went to the same eye clinic, but not to the same doctor of course. I did ask if Dr. So-and-so was still there, and they said no, he temporarily left his practice to go to Jamaica… on a mission… and my heart became frozen then.

© 2017 Doreen Shababy

Photo credit: Body Paint Artist: Mandi Ilene,; Robert Johnston, photographer; Model: Sunny Applegate.

Read this as food for thought: