Friday, January 7, 2011

A Tax on Witches? A Pox on the President

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

In the past, the less mainstream professions of witch, astrologer and fortuneteller were not listed in the Romanian labor code, and people who worked in those jobs used their lack of registration to evade paying income tax. Under a new law, they will pay 16 percent income tax and make contributions to health and pension programs, like other self-employed people.

A witch named Alisia, who was at the protest on the Danube, 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.

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. And the Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, had their own personal witch.

Still, witches say they have faced prejudice, and at least some praised the new government measure, saying it gave them official recognition.

One, Melissa Minca, spoke about the law as she and other witches threw corn into the icy Chitila River on Thursday to celebrate Epiphany.

Saying she was “happy that we are legal,” she began 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 suffering an economic downturn.

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

One witch who opposes the law, Bratara Buzea, 63, said Wednesday that 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.”

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