Category Archives: tradition

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!



HALLOWE’EN – An Inner Journey with Herbs and Friends

Follow me on a brief journey and get to know just a few of the plants and herbs that have been used to celebrate, commemorate and ritualize the phenomenon known as Hallowe’en. Strap on your riding boots, this broom is ready to fly.

Also known as Samhain, Hallows, and All Hallows Eve, the night we call Hallowe’en traditionally represents “… the time when the separation between life and death, between the born and unborn, the veil between the worlds, is at its thinnest… it is the dar sky and dark night that make the new moon possible, the intrinsic duality of new beginnings… That beginnings and endings meet is the great law” of Hallows.


Hallowe’en is decidedly of Irish origin, and was a time for honoring the ancestors. Many of our contemporary trick-or-treating festivities hail from a time of shadows and mist and fae, for when the torch was out… it was dark… Considering the Druid calendar begins on November 1st, we can say that Hallowe’en is also the Witch’s New Year!

Here are a few curious Hallowe’en traditions:

The Star in the Apple

In many areas, an apple is present during this time as much as the pumpkin – after all, Hallowe’en is the 3rd and final harvest festival of the Celtic year. The apple symbolizes the soul: cutting one in half laterally reveals a star shape, not unlike the human form.  An apple can be ritually buried on Samhain to symbolize nourishment during a symbolic death until rebirth in the Spring.


As a precursor to our jack-o-lantern, large turnips were once hollowed out, lit candles placed inside, and then set in windows to guard against any unwelcome spirits that might be stirring on that auspicious night.

For those who choose to meditate on the symbolism of the season, the following botanicals will lend their otherworldly vibrations toward that journey.

Oil of Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) can be used on Hallowe’en to honor and remember those who have passed on, and to be reminded that death is but a doorway to another kind of life. Cypress emanates vibrations of blessing, consecration, protection and grounding. Place a few drops into some steaming water and inhale.

Italian Cypress, looking somewhat like juniper

Hazelwood ( Corylus) which is to be gathered on All Hallows Eve, is used to draw a protective magickal circle, and can also be used for divining such as water dowsing.

A Hazelwood thicket

Often burned with Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) – which lends itself to prophetic dreams – Wormwood (A. absinthium) – oh yes, the plant which fortifies The Green Fairy Herself, Absinthe – is used for protection and to induce visions. Both of these plants are easy to grow. Light a small amount in a heat-proof dish then let it smoulder to perfume your lucid dreams.

mugwort in flower

Myrrh (Commiphora myrrah) has long been used as an incense for meditation and visioning, and for its protective energy, while Clove (Syzygium aromaticum) energizes our love-center as well as protects.

Myrrh trees
Clove tree

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is another herb used for clearing negativity and lending it’s own love vibration to our incense. It offers us the space to focus.

Rosemary plant in bloom

Rosemary is a main feature in this recipe for Meditation Incense, given to me many decades ago, and very inspiring. All ingredients called for are dried, except for the oil.

Meditation Incense

  • 2 cups rosemary herb
  • 1-1/2 cups orange peel
  • 1-1/3 cup lavender buds
  • 1-1/3 cup benzoin resin
  • 1/4 teaspoon patchouli essential oil

Blend everything together in your magickal blender (you may need to give it a good soaping afterwards). Burn in your usual way – my usual way is either in a heat-proof dish of sand, or on my woodburning stove. Please take every precaution with burning incense or anything else with embers or flames.

To learn more about magickal herbs, read Scott Cunningham’s CUNNINGHAM’S ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MAGICAL HERBS.

To learn more about Samhain and the Great Goddess, read THE SPIRAL DANCE by Starhawk.

For a more scholarly approach, read THE PAGAN MYSTERIES OF HALLOWEEN by Jean Markale.


copyright 2017 – Doreen Shababy


New Book by Stephanie Rose Bird, reviewed here

I have recently had the opportunity to  review a new book called Earth Mama’s Spiritual Guide to Weight Loss  by Stephanie Rose Bird, author of several self-help books rooted in earth magic and ancestral wisdom. Stephanie is also an accomplished fine artist with work in many galleries and exhibits.

Here is my review of this book in exchange for a signed copy from Stephanie.

Earth Mama’s Spiritual Guide to Weight Loss

by Stephanie Rose Bird.  Somerset, England: Green Magic Publishing, 2017.

Spirit helpers, affirmations, meditations and more are all intrinsic to Stephanie Rose Bird’s own roller coaster weight loss journey. More than a “diet” book – and she does talk about food, how we are hard-wired to make certain food choices, and how food addiction affects us –she shares with the reader her insight, backsliding, humor and hope.

There are many useful guidelines in this book, starting with Part I – Wisdom of the Sages. The author, a bit of a city girl, tells us about her experience living in the Australian “out bush”: the knowledge of some of her aboriginal friends; and the earth wisdom she acquired spending time with them.  There is an introductory section about herbs and how to prepare them for use, with emphasis on a few herbs (and foods) that the reader will likely use for weight loss supplements. A fun hand-crafting project follows; these are interspersed throughout the book and are designed to inspire and attune the reader with the teaching.

After meeting Gaia, the author takes us on a Goddess Vision Quest to meet our Power Animal. Gods, Goddesses, Iwa of the African diaspora, and beings of the Hindu pantheon: we are taught that they “hear” us in our need. They encourage us with healing and discretion. There is nothing we can’t talk to them about, and nothing they have not heard.

In some of the herbal sections, the author explains how to use flowers for the journey, an especially lovely gesture. Flower Essences, Hydrosols (floral waters), potions, essential oils, the exotic Monoi Tiare oil, all enliven and beautify. The Rose flower affirmations are delightful and relevant. Herbal baths, healthful smoothies, an Ayurvedic primer (including short pieces on Tulsi Basil and Henna), and numerous activities are found throughout the book. I especially liked learning more about the author’s personal relationship with deity, the vast African pantheon and reading the African proverbs such as this from the Maasai: “Happiness is as good as food.”

Stephanie Rose Bird, author, artist, scholar, Earth Mama

I like the author’s approach toward food and eating. She often refers to weight loss as a personal “journey”, and surely this approach can apply to any issue one is dealing with. The book seems to target women, with reference to baby-weight, PMS and menopause, and personal adornment (although this is mostly gender non-specific).

The author loves aromas and aromatherapy, and I am all over that bandwagon. She also loves (as do I!) Lord Ganesha, Remover of Obstacles. What I do not love is the way the book is organized; it could be more useful if the subjects were put into chapters. The author has assembled a good bit of information here and I would like to access it easier. Also, I could appreciate some editing relative to sentence structure and repetitive wording. Perhaps a revised edition in the future?

The generous spirit of this book is to instill confidence, self-esteem and sensuality, finding delight in self and nature, and knowing you don’t have to do it alone. The Goddess has your back on this, and so does Stephanie Rose Bird.

book review © 2017 Doreen Shababy

To your Good Health – Wassail!


wassail in bowl

Soon we will be facing the longest night of the year, it will be here sooner than we realize! Creating new traditions out of old ones is something that can bring a feeling of satisfaction to our lives. As we connect via invisible airwaves, it is comforting to know we are still nourished by the same things that sustained our ancestors. In this case, The Apple.

apple cut to show star

Here is a short excerpt from my book, The Wild & Weedy Apothecary, about the tradition of Wassail – both the verb and the beverage.

The curious custom of Wassail — from the Anglo-Saxon wes hal, meaning “be whole” or to drink “to the health of” — is a midwinter toast to the apple orchard, and possibly dates back to the fifth century; some believe it is a relic held over from Roman sacrifices to Pomona, goddess of fruit. It was certainly practiced in the West Country of England up until very recently, and many neopagans and period-revivalists still do so — and why not?

The tradition took place on Twelfth Night, usually around January 5.  A biscuit or cake doused with cider was laid on a tree branch, doused again, and then all the folks who had gathered in the orchard would sing carols or hymns — “Hats full! Caps full! Bushel-bushel-sacks full!” and bang pots and pans together, with the men sometimes shooting their guns into the air, generally making a great noise to ward off uninvited bad spirits and to let the beneficent spirits know where the apple trees were.

wassail festivity

The wassail bowl was sometimes passed around and shared as a “loving cup” or was brought door to door to wassail the neighbors and their homes. Sometimes even beehives were wassailed. Proclaiming a toast to those things in life that are vital and necessary, such as food and friends, makes a lot of sense, and we can see that wassail is an activity as well as a food item.

Some recipes for wassail feature baked apples floating around the punch bowl. Most wassail recipes include brandy, stout, or some kind of alcohol, although you could certainly make it without.

 ripe apples

Here is a recipe that takes a little bit of time and fussing, but the results will be fun to share with your fellow revelers.

English Wassail

12 small red apples

3  each, whole cloves, allspice berries, and cardamom seeds

1 cinnamon stick

2 quarts good English ale

1 teaspoon each ground ginger and nutmeg

2 cups natural sugar

1 fifth bottle dry sherry or port

6 eggs, separated

Bake apples at 350-degrees for 20 minutes, set aside. In a large saucepan, place the whole spices, 2 cups of the ale, and the ground spices, and slowly heat for 10 minutes. Strain ale into a bowl, discard spices, and return ale to the pan. Add remaining ale, the sugar, and the sherry or port, heating on low for about  20 minutes; do not boil! In the meantime, beat the egg whites until firm, beat the yolks until creamy, then fold in the whites. Slowly beat the hot ale mixture into the eggs until smooth (you can see why you don’t want it to boil). Carefully pour the hot liquid into a heatproof bowl. Float apples on top. Serve warm in heated mugs.

wassail cup


Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too!