Whoever said that “absolute power corrupts absolutely” has clearly never met this babaylan. Celestina—Tina, for short—possesses so many babaylan abilities, we don’t even know where to start. Let’s see, off the top of our heads, she can . . .
1. Control the weather
2. Divine the future
3. Catch the sparkles of light on a pond and turn them into diamonds
4. Turn her house into a sentient being
5. Brew all sorts of useful potions and spell workings
6. Convince poisonous animals not to be poisonous simply by complimenting them
7. Deter mediocre men who try to hit on her at the farmer’s market with devastating put-downs (not technically part of her magic)
And what does Tina choose to do with all this power? Well, mostly she just hangs out at home, tends to her garden, and prepares for her weekly trips to the farmers’ markets in both the human world and the spirit realms. Oh, and when she has time, she also helps her niece, Corazon, with a basic education in the art of potion making as well as the Spanish colonization of the Philippines. Including how to properly curse those long-dead colonizers.
If only Tina had the warm and affectionate personality of her late sister, Althea. Then she would truly be the perfect aunt. Just, uh, don’t tell her we said that. And don’t tell her we referred to her as Celestina, either. She absolutely hates that.
Hands Off Approach
So why does Tina keep Corazon at arm’s length? For one, Tina can rely on the magic House to take care of all those annoying legal guardian duties, like cooking, cleaning, and tucking Corazon into bed at night. Two, she can also count on Corazon’s anito, Saso, to keep her company.
But it goes further than that. Tina continues to refer to hugs with Corazon as plague bridges and she offers her niece little more than a pat on the head as a sign of encouragement. Tina’s relationship with her own anito companion, Minda (an equally beautiful and intimidating Philippine eagle), proves that she’s not completely devoid of familial love. So, what is it about Corazon that inspires such coldness?
Could it be that Tina can’t relate to someone who shows almost no signs of manifesting into a powerful babaylan like herself? Or does it have something to do with the one thing in the world that babaylan magic has no control over: deep-seated sibling rivalry?
Why else would Tina stay in her room whenever the ghost Corazon’s parents come over for Saturday night dinners? You’d think that Tina would want some face time in with her dearly departed sister whenever she could get the chance.
Tina’s absence from the dinner table doesn’t seem to bother the Althea’s ghost very much, however. As long as Corazon is getting the care and attention she needs. Besides, Althea has always known Tina to be extremely stubborn. Or maybe Tina knows that a couple of ghosts probably shouldn’t be crossing over into the human world to visit their daughter, no matter how badly she and Corazon want them back in the land of the living.
As someone who enters the spirit realms at least once a week, Tina knows more than a thing or two about the nature of spirits, including how much to charge them for love potions. Most important, she understands how easily the delicate balance between both worlds can be disturbed. This at least helps explain why Corazon must keep these Saturday dinners a secret.
As for why Tina doesn’t join in? Her only response is, “They’re not my parents.” Can’t argue with that! But still we have so many questions . . .
Can You Keep a Secret?
While Tina and Althea may not have a lot in common, they both share a talent for storytelling.
When Althea tells bedtime stories, the night sky draws closer simply to hear her voice. Tina’s stories are just as spellbinding. But the night sky is always scared of what Tina’s going to say next.
One story Tina won’t tell is the complete history of Corazon’s family. What huge family secret is Tina keeping from Corazon? And what does it have to do with the true origins of the spirit key Corazon uses to call upon her parents’ ghosts? Or those recurring dreams Corazon has of Tina flying through the stars in a dress made of the night sky?
All we know is that the mirrors in Aunt Tina’s house see all. And eventually, the true reflections of its two inhabitants will be fully revealed.
But even then, you’d still better not use the name Celestina. Not if you want to remain on this side of the spirit realms, that is.
Want to learn Aunt Tina’s secrets? Be sure to pre-order your copy of The Spirit Glass today!