Book Review: The Illustrated Crystallary by Maia Toll
The Illustrated Crystallary: Guidance and Rituals from 36 Magical Gems & Minerals
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Author:
Published: 1 Sept 2020
Page Count: 176
Illustrator: Kate O'Hara
In the ancient world there were three medicine kingdoms: animal, vegetable, and mineral. Following her previous acclaimed volumes on animal (The Illustrated Bestiary) and vegetable (The Illustrated Herbiary), Maia Toll fulfills the call for mineral with The Illustrated Crystallary, exploring the mystical qualities of 36 fascinating and minerals, including gold, silver, copper, amethyst, hematite, mica, smokey quartz, emerald, ruby, and more. Combining bits of ancient wisdom with her own insights, Toll explores the aspects and energy of each stone and, through rituals and reflections, the life guidance it might offer contemporary readers. Obsidian's shiny surface and sharp edges reflect the shadowy corners of the self and serve as the tool for cutting them loose. The sky-like color of earthly turquoise provides balance between opposing forces. The stunning illustrations of Kate O'Hara magnify the symbolism of each crystal throughout the book, and are also featured on 36 oracle cards included in an envelope bound in the back of the book.
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The saying goes “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” – but one glance at this cover and I knew I had to apply to it. As an art history graduate and a Pagan who has always been drawn to the idea of an illustrated guide to them was my idea of perfection.

This book was provided for free by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to NetGalley and Storey Publishing for the opportunity to this book.

First Impressions

As I said, I was unashamedly drawn to The Illustrated Crystallary by the gorgeous cover art and since it’s an illustrated guide to crystals and minerals I take that as a positive sign. If all the illustrations are as mesmerising and beautiful as the one on the cover then it’ll be well worth it just to look at the pretty pictures. Obviously, I’m hoping to get a little bit more than that out of it 😉

As someone who loves crystals and has used them for twenty years, I’m intrigued by multiple things suggested in the summary. Most of the books I’ve seen about crystals have been purely encyclopedia-style so one which focuses on symbolism interests me a lot. Likewise, with my interest in mindfulness, the idea of a book that combines crystals with rituals and reflections sounds like a wonderful combination.

Examples of the illustrations found inside The Illustrated Crystallary

The

As expected each crystal is depicted alongside stunning illustrations. Each of these is filled with symbolism which has been woven into the artwork. The result is a mixture of sublime and serene images that beautifully compliment the words on the pages. As I’d hoped The Illustrated Crystallary is the furthest thing from an encyclopedia then you’d expect. I’ve seen other reviews mention that this isn’t a book for beginners and honestly, I’d disagree; it depends on what you expect to get from this book. If you’re looking for a guide to crystals which explores what they are, what they do and how to use them then this is the wrong book. In that way it’s not an ideal book for a beginner looking to work with crystals, however, that’s because the book isn’t designed with that in mind.

In The Illustrated Crystallary, the crystals aren’t talked about factually; they are introduced to the reader as long lost friends. This level of personalisation distinguishes it from other books I’ve read and was reminiscent of self-help books, especially those on the topic of mindfulness. The messages within the pages of The Illustrated Crystallary is not one of the oversold self-help stereotypes, however. Rather Toll calls on a vast selection of resources, demonstrating brilliant research skills. From Victorian Britain to Taoism, Toll has lovingly put together this crystallary and it shows on each page. She has a way of bringing the information to life, of making it resonate and relatable to modern-day.

For once, crystals and minerals are not alien and mysterious lumps displayed in perfect photos with impersonal words smooshed together telling you how you can tap into their healing potential. Oh no, they’re old friends, reaching out through Toll to advise, reassure and encourage. They speak to us in whispers and anecdotes, reminding us of things we already know and tend to forget. They’ve been on longer journies than we have, Toll writes, have adorned kings and queens, and been forged in the earth. Emerald, for example, is described as a smoky cat who looks over her shoulder with “uncompromising eyes […] as she heads into the dark forest of yourself”. Each one has a message for us, and the way Toll brings these messages, and their stories to life aren’t hokey.

Each entry in the Crystallary follows a specific format; an introduction to the crystal/mineral, followed by a ritual and then a reflection. The rituals are grounded in spirituality rather than having any religious connotation. As a Pagan, I believe I noticed only one or two that felt specifically akin to Paganism. They reminded me more of mindfulness and meditation exercises, with a slight Pagan/Spiritual influence. The one thing I liked about this book was that there is absolutely no pressure to do any of the rituals or reflections. I got quite a lot out of the book just reading it and taking in the ideas and knowledge. The rituals themselves range from setting an intention for a day, carrying a crystal while you explore nature, practising gratitude, making a crystal elixir – as you can see it varies.

Toll doesn’t dive straight into the rituals, nor are they set out in a particularly ritualistic manner. I don’t know about you, but the world ritual conjures up a certain idea in my mind. One that is very strict and guided. In The Illustrated Crystallary Toll gently guides the reader to the idea of ritual, or as I think of it, an exercise. This exercise is based on the topics and themes introduced in the crystal information, and Toll offers further information here. For example, Toll talks about Lepidolite which is a type of mineral called Mica. She explains that Mica grows in sheets and when there are many sheets of Mica together it’s called a book. Continuing the idea of books and stories she compares our lives to the books of Mica and discusses changing our future;

The ritual for Leopidolite is called “Rewrite the Book” and asks “What stories do you tell yourself that no longer server?”. This particular ritual is to use a journal, spoken word or imagery to go into the book and change the story, and it was just one that spoke to me personally.

In comparison, the reflection section is much more passive and asks questions related to the messages that the crystals have for the reader. This section is designed to make you think, to make you look back over the information you’ve been given and as the title suggests ‘reflect’ upon it. Like the rest of The Illustrated Crystallary, I found the reflections to be insightful.

The Illustrated Crystallary also contains 6 oracle cards and a guide on how to use them. Unfortunately, as I was given an e-book version to I did not have a copy of those to test and so I highly recommend buying a hardcopy of this book. Even though I have an e-book copy I’m planning to add a hardcopy to my wishlist for this reason and because it is such a gorgeous book.

Sometimes the way to shift your future is to sort through the chapters from the past and find the ones that no longer fit the arc of life you are creating.

The ritual for Leopidolite is called “Rewrite the Book” and asks “What stories do you tell yourself that no longer server?”. This particular ritual is to use a journal, spoken word or imagery to go into the book and change the story, and it was just one that spoke to me personally.

In comparison, the reflection section is much more passive and asks questions related to the messages that the crystals have for the reader. This section is designed to make you think, to make you look back over the information you’ve been given and as the title suggests ‘reflect’ upon it. Like the rest of The Illustrated Crystallary, I found the reflections to be insightful.

The Illustrated Crystallary also contains 6 oracle cards and a guide on how to use them. Unfortunately, as I was given an e-book version to I did not have a copy of those to test and so I highly recommend buying a hardcopy of this book. Even though I have an e-book copy I’m planning to add a hardcopy to my wishlist for this reason and because it is such a gorgeous book.

Book Review of The Illustrated Crystallary by Maia Toll - My review for the Illustrated Crystallary by Maia Toll a gorgeous book guiding you through rituals and reflections for 36 Magical Gems and Minerals.

Conclusion

You might be wondering why I’ve only given this book a 4/5 rating since I seem to be gushing about it so much. While I am very impressed with it, it’s not quite at the completely blew my mind away level which one other book (in a similar vein) has managed to do.

The Illustrated Crystallary is much more than just a book about crystals, and as I hoped, much more than just a book with pretty pictures. It’s a collection of resources all over the world, a melding of multiple cultures,  spiritual philosophies, and historical facts collated to help guide the reader through whatever they need. That may be a dark time, trauma or just getting through one day at a time because that in itself is an accomplishment. The world is a dark and unnerving place right now, and books like The Illustrated Crystallary offer a new approach to looking at how we’re feeling. I appreciated the way Toll included information about stress, specifically about how our bodies are hardwired for fight-or-flight mode and how this affects our body. I previously learned about this on an NHS course about stress and it’s something that, in my opinion, needs to be more common knowledge.

So if you’re feeling a little lost right now The Illustrated Crystallary may be a unique and interesting way to think more mindfully and practice some self-reflection. I’m certainly going to give some of the rituals and reflections a try.

Author of The Illustrated Crystallary, Maia Toll
Meet the Author

Maia Toll

MMaia Toll is the author of The Illustrated Herbiary which won an Indie Award, a Nautilus Award, and has been on the Pacific Northwest bestseller list. While published in 2018, the seeds for The Illustrated Herbiary and the other books in The Wild Wisdom Collection (The Illustrated Bestiary, October 2019 and The Illustrated Crystallary, September 2020) were planted years earlier when Maia 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 psychology of working with humans and illness. These experiences reawakened an interest in natural philosophy and mysticism which had been a large part of Maia’s academic studies at The University of Michigan and New York University.

Translating the lessons of the natural world for the modern seeker led Maia to open a small shop called Herbiary in 2006. Herbiary now has locations in both Asheville, NC and Philadelphia, PA. Maia has been featured in a PBS special, had a recipe published in The New York Times, gotten photographed by National Geographic Traveler, and been called “a real life Professor Sprout from Harry Potter” by Forbes magazine. She has taught Botanical Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, West Chester University, and Pennsylvania Hospital. She regularly teaches at conferences and festivals where she encourages people to use patterns and metaphors from the natural world to help them understand and grow within their own lives. Maia lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with her life and business partner and their two ridiculously spoiled dogs

You can find out more about her work over at her website. You can browse her books on Goodreads. Or connect with her on social media; she’s on Instagram!

Books by Maia Toll

Interested in more books by Maia Toll? Check out a selection of titles in my store.

You can also find other books by Maia Toll, including her two other Illustrated Guides available on Scribd the world’s original online reading subscription service. You can sign up using my referral code and get 2 months of free reading right now!

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Over to you

I hope you enjoyed reading a for a slightly different book for a change! I don’t often talk about my spiritual and Pagan beliefs here at Just Geeking By as they tend to be more of a personal thing, however, I will always continue to promote and review products that interest me. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this review, especially if you would like to see more non-fiction book reviews 🙂


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