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January 9, 2011 8:45 AM   Subscribe

The Romanian government has changed its labour laws, and in doing so has added a number of professions which weren't previously recognised but which are now subject to tax. Car valets, embalmers and driving instructors are unhappy to be added, but their protests aren't likely to be as scary as those of the...witches.

Romanian witches are now regarded as self-employed, and subject to income tax and health and pension payments. Rather than marching or writing stern letters, they have threatened to curse the government, throw poisonous mandrake plants into the River Danube, and conjure spells using cat faeces and a dead dog.

This isn't the first time recently that witchcraft has figured in Romanian politics: when Mircea Geoana lost the presidential race in 2009, he blamed supernatural interference: "People who were working for Basescu in this domain were present to the right of the camera [during a TV debate]" Mr Geoana told local television. Mr Geoana was mocked in the press for being a bad loser, but the subsequent publication of photos showing a well-known clairvoyant and parapsychologist (whose specialities are said to include deep mind control, clairvoyance, and hypnotic trance) in the President's close company throughout the campaign. The President and his aides have also been known 'to wear purple on certain days in an attempt to ward off evil'.

In 2007 a judge was alleged to have attempted to cast spells on court staff, other judges and prosecutors. She was relieved of her position as court president and had her salary reduced for three months (although it's less clear how much of this was due to sorcery and how much to 'misplacing an important document'.

Not all witches are upset about the change, though. Gabriela Ciucur lobbied the government for professional recognition, and has become the first to officially register a company dealing with 'astrology and contacts with the spiritual world'.
posted by reynir (18 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Shades of the Reagans!

Not like spectres, I mean the leaders of a country sincerely believing in and acting upon this flim-flammery
posted by jtron at 8:48 AM on January 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Count yourself lucky, jtron. Reagan's flirtation with the occult went no further than not making a decision without consulting an astrologer. In my country, between 1979 and 1990 we had an actual member of the undead as our prime minister.
posted by reynir at 8:56 AM on January 9, 2011 [11 favorites]


to be fair our last Vice President was a litch of some kind.
posted by The Whelk at 8:57 AM on January 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh right I forgot about Archlich Thatcher. Cheney I think is more like a Demogorgon.

Also maybe you can help me, I hear about this "Jack Straw" - is he some sort of straw golem, like to keep birds away, except he joined Labour?

posted by jtron at 8:59 AM on January 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also after reading a couple of these links I was seized with a terrible desire to go to Romania and bilk the credulous. It's a good thing I'm a nice guy and also can't afford a plane ticket to Romania
posted by jtron at 9:01 AM on January 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess, for those used to brewing up spells, merely cooking the books should be straightforward.
posted by rongorongo at 9:12 AM on January 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also after reading a couple of these links I was seized with a terrible desire to go to Romania and bilk the credulous. be thrice-hexed and dead before the new moon.
posted by The Whelk at 9:13 AM on January 9, 2011


an actual member of the undead as our prime minister
And a member of her cabinet with "something of the night about him."
posted by Abiezer at 9:16 AM on January 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


As long as they're paying taxes, I'm cool with it. It's the charlatans who don't that bother me.

Its interesting too that they don't seem to see themselves as a religious group, as most of the 'witches' I've met in the USA do (affiliated with Wicca or something else). Especially in a country where some of them were locked up as late as a few decades ago:

Ms Buzea, 63, who was imprisoned in 1977 for witchcraft under the Ceausescu regime, gave a warning that her curses always worked.
posted by AdamCSnider at 9:23 AM on January 9, 2011


Ms Buzea, 63, who was imprisoned in 1977 for witchcraft under the Ceausescu regime, gave a warning that her curses always worked.

I am eternally amazed at this. I mean, apparently her curses weren't enough to protect her.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:29 AM on January 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you're charging money for services rendered, you should pay taxes; that said services are complete bullshit is irrelevant.

That said, I have a strong hunch that this witch-phobia is in fact thinly-veiled Roma-phobia.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:32 AM on January 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


Last time I was in Romania I had my fortune told by a Roma lady and her magical parakeet who predicted the future by picking out slips of paper from a box. It was kind of obvious that she didn't take her work seriously any more than a Chinese restaurant would believe in the fortune cookies it hands out.

I'm fairly sure that, much like in America and other countries, the practicing of witchcraft, palm and other psychic readings is very much a form of harmless entertainment and source of cash revenue (especially for Roma who might be excluded from other forms of employment). I'm not saying that there aren't some who genuinely believe in witchcraft, but the way foreign news articles tend to frame witchcraft (or superstition) as if it's some kind of widespread and deep-rooted cultural tradition in Eastern Europe (esp. Roma, who are mostly Christian) is kind of annoying. As a Romanian, I kind of get tired of the public imagination of Romania as filled with witches, vampires, and mysterious fortune-telling gypsies. (The truth is, vampires have never really been a part of Romanian folkloric traditions. The closest we have is the strigoi, but it's more like a zombie-thing and isn't that well-known.) But foreign interest in Romanian culture thrives on things like 'vampire-mania' tourism and the romanticized image of colorfully clothed, palm-reading gypsies with crystal balls and whatnot. So I think there's a tendency to exoticize in these news articles, especially since most Romanians don't give a crap if some politician thinks wearing purple will bring them luck.

Sys Rq, I do agree about the thinly-veiled Roma-phobia undertones though.
posted by adso at 12:43 PM on January 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm fairly sure that, much like in America and other countries, the practicing of witchcraft, palm and other psychic readings is very much a form of harmless entertainment and source of cash revenue (especially for Roma who might be excluded from other forms of employment).

It's not all fun and games. I know there are decent people in the business, but some shady people also work in the woo-woo field and actively build relationships with a victim until they can get large amounts of cash out of them. I don't know about Romania, but I would guess the same is true everywhere. Fleecing gullible people is something that paranormalism is particularly well-suited for.
posted by Xezlec at 1:19 PM on January 9, 2011


If you're charging money for services rendered, you should pay taxes; that said services are complete bullshit is irrelevant.

This is a very reasonable starting point, but you cannot ignore some interesting consequences. If the state via the IRS is officially recognizing me as a witch, can my customers sue me for incompetence if my services fail to produce results? If I register under some neutral description such as entertainment, am I deceiving them by claiming to possess supernatural abilities?
posted by Dr Dracator at 1:40 PM on January 9, 2011


Reagan's flirtation with the occult went no further than not making a decision without consulting an astrologer.

At least he consulted somebody.
posted by ninazer0 at 1:59 PM on January 9, 2011


It's not all fun and games. I know there are decent people in the business, but some shady people also work in the woo-woo field and actively build relationships with a victim until they can get large amounts of cash out of them.

Jeez, you make them sound like bankers.
posted by Ritchie at 2:58 PM on January 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not all fun and games. I know there are decent people in the business, but some shady people also work in the woo-woo field and actively build relationships with a victim until they can get large amounts of cash out of them.

They also make handy scapegoats should said victim, along with spouse and children, end up buried in the woods by bloodthirsty Bolsheviks. (To wit.)
posted by Sys Rq at 3:27 PM on January 9, 2011


Argh, adso! Your mention of the strigoi sent a shiver down my spine. My father was scared out of his mind as a child by his bunica's stories, and he kindly passed the terror down to me.
posted by houseofdanie at 10:42 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


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