“Sometimes I feel like there’s a hole inside of me, an emptiness that at times seems to burn. I think if you lifted my heart to your ear, you could probably hear the ocean. And the moon tonight, there’s a circle around it. A sign of trouble not far behind. I have this dream of being whole. Of not going to sleep each night, wanting. But still, sometimes, when the wind is warm or the crickets sing, I dream of a love that even time will lie down and be still for. I just want someone to love me. I want to be seen. I don’t know…maybe I had my happiness. I don’t want to believe it, but, there is no man, Gilly. Only that moon.”
Sally’s Letter, Practical Magic
If you’ve never seen the movie Practical Magic, you, I am sorry to say, are enchantment-deprived.
Well, you may not be if your own life mirrors the film, or if you find an adequate amount of enchantment in whatever life you live, but in the sense of missing out on a visually-beautiful, charming, and bewitching spectacle, you need to see this movie. I don’t want to spoil anything, so you shouldn’t read on any further until after you’ve watched it.
(I’d also like to point out real quick for future reference that I typically spell the word as “Magick” but for the sake of the movie, I’m leaving off the “k” in this post.)
So why write a blog post about Practical Magic? Why a “witch movie”?
I haven’t mentioned yet in my blogs that I am pagan and have been drawn to witchcraft and all things “witchy” since I was a little girl. Apart from always being a tad bit obsessed with Halloween (and yes, I currently do have October on the brain), I remember when I was really young, I would get an old pot and fill it with water and leaves and acorns and anything else I could find in nature, and I would just stir my concoction and pretend I was making a soup or brew of some kind. I just found it natural to do this.
I didn’t learn until I was almost 20 years old that pagans and self-declared witches actually exist, I had never acquired any information on witchcraft up to that point.
I can’t even remember when I first saw Practical Magic, but I know it’s been a long time, and it’s a movie I watch again and again. The funny thing is, it’s not because it’s my favorite movie or anything – it’s on the list, but not at the very top. It’s not because I absolutely love the characters or the plot – I don’t. Sally and Gillian Owens definitely are the most compelling, not to mention they are major beauty inspiration for women – I have never seen Sandra Bullock or Nicole Kidman look as gorgeous as they do in these roles, aside from Kidman in Moulin Rouge maybe.
I love Practical Magic truly for the magic of it – the pure enchantment of the setting, the scenery, the music. The aesthetics, to put it simply. When you are in a “bewitching mood”, this is the movie you watch.
My other big reason is because I usually feel uplifted and gain more positive energy when I watch it.
Usually, not always. I put it on last month, but it didn’t have any effect on me. Clearly the magic wasn’t powerful enough to break through my most disheartening thoughts.
And I have to say my mood has gotten worse again lately, my depression has hit me really hard again in the past week – it’s been another serious low and bout of hopelessness. I just started feeling a little better last night.
So of course early this morning I had to have another dream of my ex, and then on the way to my aunt’s house, I wound up behind a truck with a large “Proud Veteran of the Marine Corps” decal on the back window staring at me.
I may keep backtracking on my “road to healing” but that’s how my emotional trauma works, especially in what is such a painfully raw situation for me. Practical Magic can’t do much with this magnitude of internal suffering. But it’s still remarkably relatable on many counts.
The Owens Sisters, too, go through loss, heartbreak, constant feelings of being misunderstood and misjudged, ridicule and cruel treatment. And above all else, an utmost desire to be truly loved.
Obviously it’s a fictional story and is set up for a positive theme and a light-hearted, happy ending and not the same fate I experienced. It is a quirky romantic dramedy, after all.
However, the movie enchantingly portrays the complex, mysterious qualities and supernatural power of femininity. It really is an uplifting tale about women, for women – the bond of sisterhood.
I, perhaps surprisingly, have never read the book by Alice Hoffman. I’ve never felt the need to, with my cinematic views of the characters imprinted in my mind and the spellbinding visual appeal you can’t get from the novel I’m sure. I have come across little tidbits online about the literary version and it was very unexpected to read somewhere that Sally and Gillian are supposedly “twins.” I don’t know if that’s accurate or not. It very well could be, if they’re fraternal.
Even as an identical twin myself, I know how many ways sisters can be unlike each other.
The Owens Sisters’ looks and personalities couldn’t be more different.
Gillian is the eye-catching red-headed, feisty, playful, “exciting” sister. She is also a bit reckless with her life and doesn’t make the best choices. There’s no denying that she is, well, a slut.
The flirty temptress mischievously charms men. Her numerous romantic relationships are shallow and short-lived, and in some cases, extremely toxic. While on the surface she appears to be confident and enjoying her carefree lifestyle, she’s looking for gratification in the wrong places and I think her superficial ways are actually all part of her defense mechanism. Gillian knows people won’t accept who/what she really is and so she chooses to run before she can be abandoned.
Sally, on the contrary, is the earthy, dark-haired, responsible and reserved sister that longs to fit in with the community and wants to conform to “normalcy” to be accepted. This is dumbfounding to Gillian, the Aunts, and Sally’s own daughters – not only because they take advantage of being witches, but because Sally’s gift of magic is so strong. Much stronger than Gillian’s.
This fact mixed with their polar-opposite personalities causes some underlying resentment between the two sisters that eventually boils over and spills out.
Sally thinks Gillian is a self-centered trainwreck and Gillian thinks Sally is a withering woman afraid to be her true self.
Are these accusations correct?
They verbalize their opinions in temper, but they both hit the nail on the head with each others’ faults and weaknesses. Sometimes anger does reveal the truth.
Sally lacks vitality and self-acceptance. Gillian lacks stability and substance.
Both women’s internal conflicts stem from the fear of being hurt – of going through more heartache and losing those they love. Sally is flagrantly afraid to love a man in trepidation he will be taken by the “husband-killing Owens’ Curse” – she resents being a witch because of said curse and how it has devastated her life, and for the stigma surrounding her as a inherently-shunned outcast of society.
Gillian’s insecurities are on a more subconscious level – she takes wild risks, engages in impetuous behavior, and eventually lands herself in trouble, all for the unrealized purpose of seeking thrills and chasing temporary highs to mask her own pain and emptiness. She doesn’t know love with a man, she knows artificial relationships of roller coasters and little depth. Her most intense relationship is still the opposite of love – it turns too intense and is dark and twisted, and ultimately, life-threatening.
Two beautiful sisters – longing for love and happiness – and going about life in two different ways. One is vivacious and daring and throws caution to the wind without considering the dangerous consequences. And the other is self-contained, socially-awkward, and in secret is extraordinarily talented, but she plays things way too safe.
All women who watch this movie can probably identify with the risky chance-taking of extrovert Gillian or the hidden strength of introvert Sally.
I personally can relate to both, I consider myself a mix of their traits and qualities. More so Sally because I am very responsible and reliable with that same empty existence and giant hole in my heart. But I am also quite impulsive, I take chances, and I speak my mind with full knowledge and acceptance of who I am. I’m driven by emotion and logic. And I, too, am petrified of the abandonment, heartache, and sadness that seem to always be looming on the horizon for me.
Naturally, the movie ends on a good note with everything worked out and everyone much more in balance, but I actually don’t care for the romantic message it finally conveys:
“Fall in love whenever you can.”
That’s a bit loose for me. A little too superficial. Practical Magic’s take on love and relationships is very different from mine, but then again, so is the rest of the world’s. Even when it’s not involving witchcraft, so much of it all is “smoke and mirrors.” Giving your trust and your heart to someone is a very delicate matter – I would advise “Fall in love when your heart is helpless to stop it.”
That’s not foolproof either since strong feelings can mislead us into false declarations, but all we can do is listen to our womanly intuition and to the desires of our yearning souls.
The torture of conflicting emotions can feel like an unbreakable curse in itself, when the adamant voice inside you is telling you one thing and the evident circumstances are telling you another.
Every day is a struggle for me to accept this curse, and I can’t even tell you how often I wish I had some real “practical magic” and mystical abilities that could undoubtedly clarify all the confusion in my mind. There’s just so many things I need answers to. I need to know and understand. I want hope.
I think Sally’s letter said it best when she wrote “I don’t want to believe it, but there is no man. Only that moon.”