That Old Black Magic

Stories about magic are as old the first humans gathered about the campfire, we read fairytales to children and teens gravitate to fantasy novels, but somehow no matter how old we get the fascination with magic and the otherworldly remains.   Whether it is the magic of love, of food or of birth, the link between women and magic is a powerful myth.

magic In Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic, orphans Sally and Gillian Owens, raised by their spinster aunts in a spooky old house, where Owens women who are believed to be witches have been blamed for all that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town. The girls grow up observing desperate women buying love potions in the kitchen and vow never to commit their hearts to passion, but fate has other ideas. There is a curse to be broken, a body to be disposed of, and the discovery of the oldest magic of all.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of the Waverley sisters, Claire and Sydney who spellsinherit their families mysterious gifts. Claire uses her innate knowledge of herbs and potions in her successful catering company but has yet to find love; while Sydney has run away from both her powers and her family. The bond between the sisters has been strained badly, so when Sydney and her young daughter Bay, show up at Claire’s door, on the run from an abusive boyfriend; Claire must use her magic to protect them.

The magic in Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel centers around the magic of food and the feelings it engenders in both the chef and the eater. The heroine, Tita, a master chef, was literally born in the kitchen. Following tradition, her tyrannical mother decrees that Tita as the youngest must not marry but must instead care for her mother in old age. When Tita falls in love, her suiter Pedro is forced to marry her sister and all the emotions that Tita feels are expressed through her cooking, so that the wedding guests burst into tears as they feel her pain. As the years pass, those who  eat her food feel her passions, her longing, her pain and her joys and act waterupon these feelings as though they were their own.

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