I met Maia Toll for the first time 4 years ago, when I invited her to teach at the MidAtlantic Women’s Herbal Conference. At that time she lived in Philadelphia as a practicing herbalist and founder of the popular Reading Terminal Market store, Herbiary. At that time I was thrilled to connect with a local, kindred spirit in the botanical healing arts. Colleagues are hard to find in my area and I couldn’t believe I had not met her sooner. My dismay when she told me she was moving to Asheville, North Carolina only deepened when I got to know her better.
She is just the kind of person to have tea with, or herbal cocktails, to share books with and to laugh and exclaim about all sorts of matters, serious and whimsical.
For over two decades Maia has been in love with plants. Probably longer if you count a childhood fascination with the outdoors. As with many healers, she began her journey after a life-changing illness. In her early 20’s, Maia got sick. Fortunately, her New York City physician was a little more than ordinary, having trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine. When this doctor could not ascertain the root cause of Maia’s troubles, she released her to the alternative healthcare arena. Looking back, Maia considers she probably would have tested positive for celiac, and did in fact became an early subscriber to the gluten-free diet. Plant medicine played an auxiliary role in her healing process at this point. Her deep fascination with the botanical world blossomed in Ireland, under the tutelage of renowned herbalist, Gina McGarry. Maia spent a transformative year apprenticed to this traditional medicine woman. It was there in Ireland that she stepped into the world magical world of Celtic and Irish plant wisdom and lore.
Since our first meeting and throughout our ensuing friendship, her relationship with intuition stands out to me as truly remarkable. At heart Maia expresses a free spirit. Her independence, determination and work ethic combine to support her dedicatation to making this planet a “more comfortable place to live.” By that she means a safer, more loving and gentle place for all beings, animals and plants included.
Creating such an environment, she assures us, is easily learned through lessons learned from the plants around us.
While a scientific approach to herbal medicine intrigued her at one time, she is now called more deeply by the unseen and magical nature of plants. She emphasizes that
The plants, she explains, stand as a connector between the two worlds, science and spirit, the roots of the plants reaching in each direction bringing understanding to the magic hidden within.
She writes in detail about the intuitive magical aspects of plant medicine in her new book, The Illustrated Herbiary, scheduled for release August 7 by Storey Publishing. In this book she takes a contemporary twist on the doctrine of signatures. She takes the reader on delicious journey exploring the magical personalities of over thirty herbs, fruits, and flowers. A love affair with plants unfolds upon the pages of this book, both in Maia's words, and in the sumptuous illustrations by artist, Kate O’Hara.
Rosemary Gladstar loves Maia's new book:
The best part? Maia Toll will join us at this year’s MidAtlantic Women’s Herbal Conference in Kempton, PA. Her opening keynote address, "Head, Heart, and Hands: How We Know What We Know,” will explore the important role intuition plays in the art of herbalism. Her book will of course be available for sale, ready to be signed personally from Maia's heart to yours.