I don't know a single pagan who has watched this movie and not gone "I wish magick worked like that in real life!" Being able to blow on a candle to light it, having your tea/coffee keep stirring itself after taking your hand away...little things like that would make it all so much more, well, magickal.
While it is always The Craft that is lauded for its realistic spells/rituals (small wonder why--they actually had a priestess consultant on set!) Practical Magic does manage to get some realism in there.
First bit of magick in the movie: Maria's hanging rope snaps just as she jumps from the scaffolding. I don't know about you, but I'd say that's rather realistic. It's 'coincidental' when it takes effect, as so much magick can be explained as simple coincidence. Now I certainly wouldn't condone trying to hang yourself just to see if you can perform a bit of coincidental magick yourself--are you insane?!? Leave it to the movies, kids: they have their own brand of magic.
Second bit of magick: Maria's curse. She wants to keep herself from ever falling in love, but her intent and energy warps into "a curse on any man that dared love an Owens woman." She likely would have been better served by a spell to ease a broken heart, but by this point she is remarkably bitter which explains her choice.
Next is the love spell the aunts perform for a lovesick woman in the village. This one I think is both unwise and unlikely. One, there is a specific person the spell is to be worked on, which is exactly the WRONG way to go about a love spell. Two, they drive a needle through the heart of a mourning dove to accomplish it. Animal sacrifice in this day and age is rather looked down upon, and its near impossible to find a witch willing to utilize it. Doves are sacred to Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty. By piercing one of her sacred animals through the heart in sacrifice to her, I can understand how this might function as a love spell but would NEVER condone it. There are much simpler, less harmful ways. Leave the animal sacrifice to the ancients.
Gilly: What are you doing?
Sally: Summoning up a true love spell called Amas Veritas.
Gilly: I thought you never wanted to fall in love.
Sally: That's the point. I guy I dreamed up doesn't exist, and if he doesn't exist I'll never die of a broken heart.
Amas Veritas translates to True Love, so Sally's statement is rather redundant. She picks several flowers, and with each flower she names another quality that she would like in a man. For the record, this IS the right way to do a love spell, so I don't know why the movie thinks you have to name a specific person for a love spell to work. I mean, that's the way to make a love spell backfire! And I think it curious that she chooses white rose petals--then again, its not so mysterious since she's actually trying to NOT fall in love. Pink/Red would be romantic/steamy respectively, but white is that kind of untouched quality.
How many of you realized with this shot that the spell had taken effect? I mean, its kinda obvious that he's the one from her spell--there are all of the white rose petals from her spell scattered about, and he walking through them. I think it a beautiful visual representation of that tingle you feel in the air when a spell takes effect, and quite clever on the director's part (though he likely wasn't thinking about that. It's cinema symbolism).
I'm not even going to go into the resurrection spell...well, I will, but only slightly. Why the HELL would you bring someone back from the dead? Why do the Aunts have a spell like that??? For the spell, there is a black pentacle drawn upon his chest with a white pentacle covering it. Reasonable symbolism there, especially considering the incant:
"Black as Night, erase Death from our Sight
White as Light, Mighty Hekate make it right."
The black pentacle is concealed, hidden from sight as it is enveloped by the white pentacle of resurrection.
There is no purpose to rolling your tongue that I can divine--movie magic, what can ya do. For a while I wasn't entirely sure why they were supposed to drive needles through the eyes, but then a friend of mine came up with a theory--driving needles through his eyes would theoretically weaken him, allowing the spirit to be controlled. I suppose I can see that.
I do like the little Banishing potion Gillian and Kylie whip up. They make it as a simple syrup? Wouldn't everyone ingesting it have that spell cast on them then?
The only ingredients they give us in the movie for this are Blessing Seeds/Nigelis, and Milk Thistle. Is Nigelis even a real? Am I spelling it right? Google is not helping me...
In the end, the magick in Practical Magic is a bit hit and miss. Twisted the right way and with the right intent I suppose they could be perfectly functional spells, but I personally would find my own way of doing things. As I said before, there are MUCH simpler, safer ways of accomplishing the same thing. Still, they did fairly well for all that. And its the little unintentional magick that I really adore--how the aunts know the love lives of every person in town, how Gillian can seduce almost any man she wants, Kylie seeing Jimmy in the garden, how Sally's coffee keeps stirring for her. I also wouldn't mind being able to float safely down from a great height. Ya know, little things.
In any case Practical Magic has a soft spot in my heart. It's the spirit of it that I adore, the real feel of magic. For that, it doesn't have to be spot-on with its spells. I'll still watch it again and again, grinning from ear to ear.