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Curses! Romanian government requires witches, fortune tellers to pay taxes

Romanian witches gathered around a fire to celebrate Epiphany while others cursed the government for having to pay taxes. Romanian witches gathered around a fire to celebrate Epiphany while others cursed the government for having to pay taxes. (Octav Ganea/Mediafax Foto via Associated Press)
Associated Press / January 7, 2011

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CHITILA, Romania — Everyone curses the tax man, but Romanian witches angry about having to pay up for the first time hurled poisonous mandrake into the Danube River yesterday to cast spells on the president and government.

Romania’s newest taxpayers also included fortune tellers — but they probably should have seen it coming.

Superstitions are no laughing matter in Romania — the land of the medieval ruler who inspired the “Dracula’’ tale — and have been part of its culture for centuries. President Traian Basescu and his aides have been known to wear purple on certain days, supposedly to ward off evil.

A witch at the Danube named Alisia called the new tax law foolish.

“What is there to tax, when we hardly earn anything?’’ she said, identifying herself with only one name as many Romanian witches do.

Yet on the Chitila River in southern Romania, other witches gathered around a fire yesterday and threw corn into an icy river to celebrate Epiphany. They praised the new government measure, saying it gives them official recognition.

Witch Melissa Minca said she was happy that we are legal, before chanting a spell to call for a good harvest, clutching a jar of charmed river water, a sprig of mistletoe, and a candle.

The new tax law is part of the government’s drive to collect more revenue and crack down on tax evasion in a country that is in recession.

In the past, the less mainstream professions of witch, astrologer, and fortune teller were not listed in the Romanian labor code, as were those of embalmer, valet, and driving instructor. People who worked those jobs used their lack of registration to evade paying income tax.

Under the new law, like any self-employed person, they will pay 16 percent income tax and make contributions to health and pension programs.

Some argue the law will be hard to enforce, as the payments to witches and astrologers usually are small cash amounts of $7 to $10 per consultation.

Queen witch Bratara Buzea, 63, who was imprisoned in 1977 for witchcraft under Ceausescu’s repressive regime, is furious about the new law.

Sitting cross-legged in her villa in the lake resort of Mogosoaia, just north of Bucharest, she said Wednesday she planned to cast a spell using a particularly effective concoction of cat excrement and a dead dog.

“We do harm to those who harm us,’’ she said. “They want to take the country out of this crisis using us? They should get us out of the crisis because they brought us into it.’’

“My curses always work!’’ she cackled in a smoky voice, sitting next to a wood-burning stove, surrounded by potions, charms, holy water, and ceramic pots.

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