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'Practical Magic' gave me the permission I needed to be magical

Astrologer Lisa Stardust says the 1998 movie helped her face the facts: She wasn't destined for an office job.
Bubbles with vignettes of Practical Magic on purple background
Kelsea Petersen / TODAY Illustration
/ Source: TODAY

Maybe it was my destiny to become an astrologer. Or maybe, I have “Practical Magic” to thank. The 1998 movie, based on a book by Alice Hoffman, certainly helped me arrive at my destiny more quickly.

Twenty-five years after "Practical Magic's" release, I look back at the night I went to see it with my mom as a turning point. The movie has a clear theme of embracing your unique gifts — even if those gifts run counter to the mainstream. For a budding astrologer and magical practicioner, the message couldn’t have been more impactful.

In the movie, two sisters — Sally (Sandra Bullock) and Gillian Owens (Nicole Kidman) — are introduced to their witchy heritage by their aunts, who take them in after their parents’ death. Sally and Gillian couldn’t escape from who they were, and neither could I. (Plus, as a Gemini, I can't resist a story about sisters; we are the twins, after all).

I was always drawn to the occult. As a kid, I used to drag my parents to the local esoteric store called “Past Times” to buy crystals, incense and books.

As a teenager, I leaned more into my interest in all things magic — it simply made the world feel more interesting. I could point out every constellation, rhapsodize about every tarot card and protect my energy by sprinkling black salt. I had moon circles with my friends in Central Park and cast spells to elevate my GPA. Like other witchy New Yorkers, I went shopping for white candles at Enchantments and sipped a whimsical coffee elixir at the Witches Brew in Hempstead, Long Island with friends.

My parents tolerated my hobbies and my growing crystal collection. The fact that I was hardly the first in my family to explore the intuitive arts helps: My dad hails from a long line of Kabbalistic healers; my great-grandmother on my mom’s side was a tarot reader in the Lower East Side of New York during the Great Depression. My grandmother lived by the teachings of astrologer Walter Mercado, regularly quoting him.

But for years, I mostly kept this passion quiet, for fear of what others thought. Not that I was so good at keeping a secret: People at school called my friend group “The Craft,” because we seemed like we were right out of the teen witch movie. Still, I went on to have “practical” jobs, working in the fashion industry and for a tea company. 

You could say I was a Sally Owens — the sister in "Practical Magic" who longed to be normal, despite a pull toward all things magic. One line from the classic ‘90s movie led to a revelation. The sisters’ Aunt Frances confronts Sally, saying, “When are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage!”

After years of office jobs, I had to face it: This wasn’t it for me. I wasn’t going to be a 9-to-5er. I was going to be an astrologer, and that was ... OK. 

Not long after watching “Practical Magic,” I started to take my hobby more seriously — came out of the broom closet, so to speak. As Aunt Jet says in the film, “There is a little witch in all of us,” and there was more than a little in me. Rather than shy away from what my ancestors and soul were pushing me toward,  I started giving readings professionally and launched a website.

The film encouraged me to walk toward, rather than run from, my pull for all things magical. It also inspired me to get intentional about all aspects of my life, including mending patterns around love.

Sally, as a girl, tries to protect her heart with an "Amar Veritas" spell — she wants to find a man who "doesn't exist," because if he doesn't exist, she'll "never die of a broken heart."

Her hyper specific list goes as follows: “He will hear my call a mile away. He will whistle my favorite song. He can ride a pony backward. He can flip pancakes in the air. He’ll be marvelously kind. And his favorite shape will be a star. And he’ll have one green eye and one blue.”

Mine was a bit different. I wanted someone who could "whistle any song, knew how to skateboard backward, ride a bike standing up, had hands the same size as mine (I have big hands), spoke in riddles, and could draw anything I asked them to.”

Unlike Sally, I wanted to find this person, to learn to love without trepidation — and like her, I eventually found someone who fit the bill, proof of magic and manifestation for both of us.

Sally ends the movie with a now iconic speech that speaks to her evolution in the movie. “There are some things I know for certain: always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder, keep rosemary by your garden gate, plant lavender for luck, and fall in love whenever you can," she says. She leaned into her gifts, and so did I.

Looking back on “Practical Magic's" 25-year anniversary, I’m happy I followed the tug all those years ago. I’ve never felt more connected to myself and others. I love what I do and the people I work with. I don’t have to hide who I am. I'm lucky that people accept me — but no matter what, I accept myself.

Believe in the spells you cast and the stories you tell. As the movie says, they “only have power if you believe in them.”