Seriously, don’t you love a witch’s Hero’s Journey from Practical Magic
Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Stockard Channing, and Diane Weist from Practical Magic are perfect witches. And Practical Magic (book and movie) is perfect for fall Halloween vibes.
It is also one of my favorites. I adore Alice Hoffman, but like so many, Practical Magic tops my list. It’s October and just a week out from Halloween, so there’s no better time to do a Hero’s Journey breakdown of this classic.
The first Owens witch, Maria, escaped a hanging with her magic. She was banished and cast a spell upon herself that she would never again feel the agony of love. That spell turned into a curse on any man who dared love an Owens woman. When you hear the ticking of the death watch beetle, the one you love is doomed to die.
Sally and Gillian Owens are the most recent in a long and distinguished line of witches.
Sally is blessed with the gift. And she never wants to fall in love.
Gillian has magic in her, but not as strongly as Sally. She can’t wait to fall in love.
Sally makes a list in her journal and casts the true love spell, but summoning a man with impossible traits. She’ll never find him, which is the point. “The guy I dreamed up doesn’t exist, and if he doesn’t exist, I can never die of a broken heart.”
Fastforward. Gillian leaves home with a guy. She wants to go where no one has ever heard of her. They cut their hands. “My blood. Your blood. Our blood.” They will be together forever, no matter where they are. (Foreshadow)
Sally misses Gillian. She wants to be “normal”.
The aunts say, “Being normal is not a virtue.”
Then she sees Michael. The aunts cast a spell so Sally can have a romance and be happy. They never thought she’d truly love him. She does fall in love with him, marries him, moves out of the aunts’ house, has two little girls, and is happy. People in town now accept her. Things are “normal. Life is perfect.”
Meanwhile, Gillian is living a wild life. And she’s fallen for a “cowboy vampire” Bulgarian from Transylvania, Jimmy Angelov.
Call to Adventure–
(11:00 minutes) The death watch beetle ticks.
Refusal of Call–
Sally tries to ignore it, but she keeps hearing it. She tries to find it, to destroy it. She tears up her house searching for it, because she knows what it means. Michael, who dared to love an Owens woman, will die.
She thinks he’s escaped it when a group of bikes narrowly misses Michael, but a moment later he is hit by a truck and killed (14:00 minutes).
Meeting the Mentor–
Sally goes to the aunts (Jet and Frances) and asks them if it was the curse. They reveal that they cast a spell. Sally is shattered. She wants him back using the old spell book. (Foreshadow)
“You brought him into my life. Now I want you to bring him back.”
Crossing the Threshold–
The new world (15:00 minutes). Call and the girls move back in
to the old house and Sally admonishes the aunts that her girls will never do magic. She denies her witchcraft.
Tests and Allies–
- Sally grieves. She can’tfunction.
- She looksat her scar, as does Gillian. They call to each other. Gillian drugs Jimmy Angelov with Belladonna so she can go see Sally. But Jimmy is possessive.
- She says Jimmy can survive the curse. She brings Sally out of her funk.
- Then Gillian is gone again.
- Sally emerges. She opens her shop: Verbena. Mails a letter to Gillian. (Foreshadow)
- She is upset with the kids in town taunt her daughters (Kylie and Antonia) like kids used to tant her and Gillian.
- The girls know they are witches and wonder why Sally doesn’t do magic.
- The phone rings and Sally knows it’s Gillian. Gillian is in trouble. Jimmy has been erratic and he punched Gilly.
- They see a blood moon. Gilly goes to get her tiger’s eye. Jimmy is there and holds them hostage. The Elvis song, Always on my Mind, plays on the radio.
- Sally puts belladonna in Jimmy’s tequila. Jimmy sings the song. He tries to choke Gilly. Then Jimmy passes out.
- But he’s dead.
- The blood moon foreshadows doom. (30:00)
- Gilly wants to use the curse to bring Jimmy back, but he’ll be dark and unnatural. “He’s already dark and unnatural. I don’t care how he comes back, as long as he comes back with a pulse,” Gilly said. (Foreshadowed moment from earlier)
- This time Sally is the voice of reason. She doesn’t want to do it, but they don’t feel there is a choice. They perform the spell.
- They bring him back, he tries to choke Gilly again, and Sally hits him with the tequila bottle. Now he’s dead again.
- They bury him.
- They keep it secret from the aunts.
- Phone tree day. Sally is never picked because everyone knows Sally is a witch. Gilly makes sure it’s Sally. The townsfolk hate her. (Foreshadow)
- The aunts make midnight margaritas. They realize it’s Jimmy’s tequila.
- The aunts sing Always on My Mind.
- Broom fell. Company’s coming. The aunts leave Sally and Gilly to clean up their mess.
- Kylie sees Jimmy as a ghost…the man under the roses. The roses grew overnight.
- Jimmy’s boots are visible, then disappear again.
- (55:00) The Gary Hallet State’s Investigator from Tuscan shows up investigating a case. comes searching for Jimmy.
- Jimmy is back.
- Sally struggles to lie to Gary.
- The townsfolk tell stories about Sally’s magic.
- Gilly feels Jimmy’s presence.
- Kylie, Antonia, and Gilly make a potion to banish Mr. Hallet. Kylie is good at magic. But the girls realize that Gary Hallet is the man Sally wished for as a child.
- Sally and Gillian have a huge fight.
Sally goes to Gary to confess. She tells him that Jimmy is in the spirit world haunting them. She asks him why he read her letter so many times (Foreshadowed moment from earlier). She says Gillian didn’t kill anyone. Gary infers that Sally did.
Gary promises to help Sally and keep her from harm’s way. They kiss. Sally sees his one blue, one green eye (Foreshadowed moment from earlier). She leaves, afraid of the curse.
Sally senses that something is wrong with Gilly. She races home. Gary follows her. They see Jimmy’s ghost in Gilly. He’s possessing her. Gary doesn’t understand, but he believes what he sees.
Jimmy tries to kill Gary. The sheriff’s star saves him. Sally says to him, “You killed a spirit, but that I killed a man.”
Garry confesses that he loves Sally. He’s loved her since he read her letter. She confesses that she sent for him when she was a girl. He does exist. What he feels is just her spell. Cunundrum. Would he stay because of her spell, or does she want him to stay because she doesn’t want to go to prison.
They believe Jimmy is dead. “Curses only have power when you believe in them. And I don’t…You know what? I wished for you, too,” Gary tells Sally.
When Sally comes back in, she realizes that Jimmy is still inside of Gillian.
It is not over. Now everything is coming to a head. The aunts are back.
The aunts say: “He’s squatting inside of her like a toad. This is what comes from dabbling. You can’t practice witchcraft when you look down your nose at it.”
“We have to banish him,” Frances says.
“Force his spirit back into the grave,” Jet says.
“We need a full coven,” Frances says.
“ 9 women. 12 is better,” Jet says.
“Do you have any friends?” Frances asks.
Sally uses the phone tree (Foreshadowed moment from earlier). She confesses to the women who have always hated her that she is a witch.
The townswomen all show up. Kylie and Antonia are part of it. The girls set the toads free (a reoccurring symbol).
“Pick a broom. Form a circle.” They cast the spell to rid Gilly of Jimmy’s spirit.
They fear they’re killing Gilly. Sally has an idea. She does the blood spell. Maria’s blood connects them. “Your blood. My blood. Our blood.”
This excises Jimmy. Gary closes the case.
Return w/ elixir–
Sally calls to Gary. He hears that call and returns to her. The Owens curse is broken, they think because the sisters clasped hands and Maria’s blood flowed threw them.
It’s Halloween. The town is gathered around the house. The three generations of Owens women are on the roof in witch getups
Recurring Motif: Toads/Black cat
When you’re done here, check out the rest of the Hero’s Journey Database!
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