Rudolfo Anaya uses the universal theme of magic in order to help you understand Ultima’s deep, spiritual personality, and to let you in on her Curandera ways. Magic has been used in many different ways and in many different cultures, and has led many people to believe it to either prevent things from happening or to make things happen. We see magic and mystisim throughout the day but do we ever stop to think maybe it’s all the real thing?
There is much to say about magic. It’s ways it can heal people, trick people or even scare people. Take Tenorios’ three daughters for instance they were known as the ones to use magic to scare people and set the most awful spells on them like they had on Uncle Lucas. Those magic ways would be used by what we’d call witches.* (Witches; ones who seem to be angry all of the time and who get thrills out of using their magical powers in bad ways other than putting good uses to them.)
Then there was Mystisim where Ultima came and put her powers to good use, always. She was a strong old woman who practiced the ways of Mystisim , other wise known as Curandera. (Curandera; one who cures with herbs and magic.) She had an owl that was known to be her soul, spirit and her bond to the time and harmony of the universe. It was given to her when she was younger, learning the Curandera ways such as Tony did with her.Picking her herbs ever so carefully, making sure they’re of the right strength and color. Showing Tony what was best and what wasn’t so when the three witches placed their spell on Uncle Lucas Ultima was the one to cure him with young Tony by her side watching over her like a hawk to learn the perfect ways. He also learned a little trick Ultima used with Voodoo dolls: by pricking dolls with needles would, actually slowly kill that doll was intended to represent. (A real person).
Magic also played a huge part in Tony’s life on deciding on what and who to be. With his mother wanting him to be a priest and his father wanting him to work on a farm and be like his family, Ultima and her magic seemed to cut the imaginary ropes that had been tied to each of his wrists pulling his back and forth between his mothers decision and his fathers. Magic had an affect on him that would last forever. Nor did he want to be a farmer or a priest but what his OWN heart led him to do.
“And I was happy with Ultima. We walked together in the llano and along the river banks to gather herbs and roots for her medicines. She taught me the names of plants and flowers, of trees and bushes, of birds and animals; but most important, I learned from her that there was a beauty in the time of day and in the time of night, and that there was peace in the river and in the hills. She taught me to listen to the mystery of the groaning earth and to feel complete in the fulfillment of its time. My soul grew under her careful guidance.” (Pg.15) These are a couple examples of the way Tony felt with Ultima and things he learned from her. “I had been afraid of the awful presence of the river, which was the soul of the river, but through her I learned that my spirit shared in the spirit of all things.” (Pg.15) He learned to be a soulful person with an open mind and many different ideas on ways to percieve life. On top of all that he grew knowledge, about him self, others and their views.
When Tony learned of his mothers ways of believing in God and being a priest she’d say things like “for the first time you will hold God in your mouth, in your body, in your soul-you will speak to him, and He will answer-” (pg. 179) but the truth is, when Tony actually did the whole communion God didn’t answer back to his flury of questions. It became more difficult for him to believe in God because he had tried all those years, learning all the ways and then when the point came to being able to SPEAK to Him, his hopes came crashing down like a bundle of bricks.
Now on the other hand, his fathers hand, all Tony really learned from him was to drink beer, work for highway road construction and keep a well maintained family life style. Himself and his wife being at total opposite ends with each other tried their bests to see eye to eye.
To draw this whole story to a conclusion you’d have to think of it from a open minded perspective. Even more, if you don’t believe in magic then it my be difficult for you to look at it in this way. Tony only being seven years of age, having the opportunity to know and learn from Ultima, witnessing all the gruesom acts of ones being murdered and others drowning.By having the extensive open mind that he carries, allows him to know and understand both his mother and fathers views but also be who HE IS and is growing to be.
It’s a universal theme because having to understand OTHER things and still believe what YOU personally believe is something everyone learns to do. Having Italian, Mexican and American culture in your back ground has you learning of all three cultures so you UNDERSTAND them but you can choose to believe anything you want. Tony has gained a wide perspective of knowledge. Being able to work the special magic and cure people with his knowledge and understand how they think and respect it. It is what Curandera ways are all about. I believe all people should have knowledge of other cultures because there are many different things to be learned and they could help you out in some way or other in your future. So keep an open heart and an open mind and you’ll be cured for life.