Romania, a prime exporter of superstition and occult mythology, has recently announced that the professions of astrologer, witch, and fortune teller– as well as driving instructor,embalmer, and valet–will now be included in the labor code. Before this loophole was closed, people with these occupations had avoided paying taxes because of this omission.
Predictably, some are unhappy about this. One protest has included tossing mandrakes–a poisonous plant long associated with witchcraft and ritual practice, due to hallucinogenic properties–into the Danube River, in order to curse the government.
“What is there to tax, when we hardly earn anything?” [Alisia] said, identifying herself with only one name as many Romanian witches do.
Although the government’s move is motivated by financial strain rather than professional egalitarianism, others feel affirmed by the government’s recognition of their offbeat profession.
Yet on the Chitila River in southern Romania, other witches gathered around a fire Thursday 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 told The Associated Press 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.
While Wicca is often marginalized in news media discourse about religion and witchcraft is treated as a punchline in the United States, the Romanian cultural psyche takes a different approach. President Traian Basescu and his aides reportedly wear purple on certain days, for luck and protection. The Orthodox Church largely tolerates spiritualism.
Witches, fortune tellers, and astrologers are commonly paid 20-30 lei for consultations (7 to 10 USD), in cash and will be paying 16 percent income tax, bolstering health and pension programs.
Small fry, to be sure, but the move does create a foothold in the economy for these spiritualist professions–along with the controversy of whether this is legitimization or manipulation.
The tax rate seems oppressively large, but the interpretation of this as a symbolic gesture of recognization may be informed by the difficulties these trades had under Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu–outright banning.