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Introducing Letting Magic In from Maia Toll: Featured Excerpt

Photo of author Maia Toll, as a sideview portrait.
Author Maia Toll

In the forthcoming memoir Letting Magic In: A Memoir of Becoming, author Maia Toll reflects, “Was there a way for the sharp fragments of my life to be reassembled into a different pattern? Could I make meaning for myself from the morass I’d been stumbling through? My inner witch smiled knowingly and hummed a jaunty little tune.”

There’s something so relatable about this moment from Maia’s own life: feeling confused by the present and unsure about the future. Through it all, our inner witch—or higher self or whatever you want to call it—knows and remains calm.

Maia Toll is a modern mystic, founder of the Herbiary retail shop, and celebrated author known for her Wild Wisdom series as well as her most recent book, The Night School: Lessons in Moonlight, Magic, and the Mysteries of Being Human. The Night School invites you to explore the “farthest reaches of the universe and the deepest parts of yourself. You’ll learn to cast off the constraints of the day, and open your eyes, your heart, and your mind to the enchanted mystery of the Night.” Maia Toll’s accompanying Notes for the Night: A Guided Journal for Moonlit Magic and the Moonlit Magic Deck are ideal companions for your unofficial enrollment in Night School. The book, journal, and mini deck are beautifully illustrated by Lucille Clerc.

The only prerequisite for “enrolling” in The Night School is to know that magic is everywhere:

“TO SEE IT AND THE EFFECTS IT HAS ON YOUR LIFE, change the way you perceive the world.

TO HARNESS IT, change the way you interact with the energies around you.

TO KNOW IT, change the way you think.

TO LIVE IT, remember the lessons of the Night as you go about your day.”

A note from RP Mystic: Dive deeper into The Night School with our blog post The Night School’s New Student Orientation.”

So, how can Maia offer so much insight into the mystical realm? How did she come to know that magic is everywhere? In Letting Magic In, you’ll get more than a memoir; you’ll get a front-row seat to Maia’s story of becoming the woman she is today, including her journey to discover and harness magic.

As we await its release, enjoy this featured excerpt from the introduction. Get ready to unearth the magic within you as you dive into the story of Maia Toll’s own magical awakening! Letting Magic In: A Memoir of Becoming and the companion mini deck, Daily Magic: A Deck of Mystical Inspiration for Your Everyday Life, go on sale June 27th, and are available for pre-order now.

Photo of "Letting Magic In" against a backdrop of glowing star decorations
Photo of "Daily Magic" laid on a short decorative log with a crystal and flowers

Introduction

“Practicing magic takes a kind of awareness you don’t feel ordinarily,” she said haltingly. “You have to really know things around you and make them know you. And when you manage that connection, it’s as though the world belongs to you. You feel more at home in it.”

—Emily Croy Barker, The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic

“In ancient times magic was not thought to be supernatural or paranormal, it was seen as the capacity to bring creative thought into physical reality.”

—Jessica Dawn Palmer, Animal Wisdom

IN 2016, I GAVE MYSELF A WEEKLONG WRITING RETREAT IN Carmel, California.

Each day I’d set up my makeshift desk on a picnic table in the garden. The air was rich with rosemary, sharp with sea salt. Other scents ghosted through my mind—black tea and rose geranium oil, the honey-sweet smell of hot wax, the musk of manure. As I typed, the memory of a year I’d spent in Ireland gently draped itself over the California landscape.

I have no photos from that time. My teacher—an herbalist and self-described witch—had told us to put our cameras away and be present in the moment. So, instead, my nose took snapshots: the grassy smell of drying nettles; the unexpected citrus snap of clary sage, crushed carelessly underfoot. Writing in Carmel, the scents of Ireland became scenes. Scenes became chapters. A through line began to appear and, along with it, a hopeful thought: maybe, just maybe, I’ve begun drafting a book.

In the evenings the seven women on retreat would come together, gathering by the fire to read aloud from our day’s work. Afterwards, my roommate and I would sleepily climb the stairs to our room on the second floor. Sliding open the glass door, I’d step out onto the balcony. Below, the driveway twisted down through sea pines and cedar. The moon’s trail rippled as the Pacific stretched and sighed in the distance. Each night my roommate and I would take full advantage of this enchantment, setting an intention for our dreams and seeking guidance for the next day’s work.

One night, midweek, I sat on my single bed, grounding into my feet and stretching through my crown. On the nightstand, I’d already placed an open notebook and pen as invitations to my subconscious. Breathing in and out, I settled. My mind wandered to the writing I’d been doing. It was beginning to feel like the start of a memoir. What should the title be? I mused. Giving into whimsy, I used that thought to set my intention.

I awoke to seabirds carousing beyond the balcony. Vaguely, I remembered scrawling something in the dark hours before dawn. Was that a memory? A dream? I felt around for my spiral-bound notebook which had fallen to the floor. As I leaned over the edge of the bed to retrieve it, I saw words dashed off in blue ink:

Letting Magic In.

Line drawing of a woman's silhouette against the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan skyline

Letting Magic In…

In the years since, I’ve rolled these words on my tongue, testing the taste of them. I’ve asked myself over and over: What exactly is magic? What do I mean by magic? This is not a new question for me, but instead one I’ve been pondering in one form or another since I was young. My answer usually revolves around feelings for which I can’t find language: What is the word for craving a relationship with the earth, plants, rocks, and stars? What do you call someone who finds their spirit sparked by these connections, whose concept of the sacred is altered by the scent of jasmine in bloom or the deep indigo of a sky awaiting nightfall? We’re taught that doctors know our bodies and clergy know our souls. But what if you’re a person seeking to understand both for yourself without an intermediary? What is the word for these feelings and the person we become when we honor them?

We don’t have good language to help us name and address the longing for a life that’s richer and truer than the one we’re currently leading. So, while the word magic is, perhaps, not quite right, I’ve realized it points to a gnawing craving for a connection that includes, but also stretches beyond, the human realm. It’s the word I use to mark those moments when I allow myself to lean into my intuition, to revel in synchronicity, to be in awe of mystery, and to sink into the cycles that exist outside of myself.

Sometimes magic has felt like a cosmic zap, and I’ve known immediately that something notable has shifted within me. But often magic has snuck in without me being consciously aware of it, nesting like a mouse in a forgotten corner of my mind, chewing through outdated neural wiring and making a mess of what I previously thought of as oh-so-logical. The trick, it seems, is learning how to come to center, to find one’s balance through both the huge revelations and the tiny but persistent shifts.

As I was finding my personal equilibrium between these two poles, there were times when I felt like the Fool from the tarot deck, stepping blithely over the cliff’s edge. The beginning of my journey was confusing; the middle was messy. Western culture doesn’t have a model for the deep interiority required to attune to our inner senses. The process can be—and was!—unsettling. Luckily, I found mentors who both allowed me to find my way and gave me a stern talking to when I wallowed in the muck. Sometimes I got yanked back into prevailing cultural precepts. Other times I felt silly or judged by other people. I questioned myself, wondering if I was a little crazy or a lot weird. Then I learned that in Middle English, weird referred to one who could control fate. And isn’t that what we all want? To be weird enough to take control of our own lives? To know who we are and what we are becoming? To be willing to choose an outlook that allows life to be a joyous adventure?

As my thinking shifted, I began to see patterns. I started to feel how my inner world reflected the outer world and vice versa. I noticed the cycles swirling around me—the seasons, the moons, my own breath—and began to work with them to create flow and balance. I realized that I was crafting something very important with my every thought: my own life.

When I look back, even seemingly insignificant magical moments can be strung together, allowing me—and you!—to see the beadwork of the larger story, a story that began in my childhood but gained momentum in my thirtieth year when I moved from Brooklyn to the small town of Beacon, New York. During my three years in Beacon—which spanned the unexpected and tragic events that centered on September 11, 2001—I learned to use my sixth sense, or intuition, as a doorway to the inner realms. Through this work, I developed a profound ability to trust myself, which allowed me to make large and wondrous changes in my life. These changes culminated in selling my house in Beacon and moving across the ocean. To study with a witch. In Ireland.

While my hours typing away in the garden during the writing retreat in Carmel helped me begin this book, my focus then had been on Ireland. It’s easy, even for me, to romanticize witch school on the Emerald Isle. But as I dug deeper, it became clear that the most essential parts of the story happened before I traveled across the sea. I realized that Ireland was possible only because I’d gone through a series of transformations in the years leading up to that trip.

What were the steps to becoming a person who believed in herself enough, who trusted her intuition enough, who could feel the pull of life’s currents enough, that she could find the courage to allow herself to step off the mapped edge? To believe that she could live that kind of magic?

This book is about that becoming. It’s about how I learned to let magic in so I could live the life I longed for—one filled with curiosity, connection, and the deepest kind of inner knowing. It’s about the things that change you in unexpected ways and guide you to become the person you never knew you wanted to be, but perhaps, always were.

Featured Book

Maia Toll

About the Author

Maia Toll is the author of Letting Magic In, The Night School, and the Wild Wisdom series, which includes The Illustrated Herbiary, The Illustrated Bestiary, The Illustrated Crystallary, and Maia Toll's Wild Wisdom Companion. After earning degrees at the University of Michigan and New York University, Toll apprenticed with a traditional healer in Ireland, where she spent extensive time studying the growing cycles of plants, the alchemy of medicine making, and the psycho-spiritual aspects of healing. She is the co-owner of the retail store Herbiary, with locations in Asheville, NC, and Philadelphia, PA. You can find her online at maiatoll.com. 

Kate O'Hara is an illustrator and artist. Her work combines intricate nature drawings with decorative hand-lettering and rich color schemes. She received a BFA in Illustration from the University of the Arts. Clients include Cirque du Soleil, Crabtree & Evelyn, Serif & Affinity Designer, Hasbro Toys, and more. She is currently based in Reno, Nevada.
 

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