Romanian witches rain toil and trouble on country's taxmen

Everyone curses the tax man, but Romanian witches angry about having to pay up are planning to use cat excrement and dead dogs to cast spells on the country's government, which has introduced a new levy on those practicing the paranormal.

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 even been known to wear purple on certain days, supposedly to ward off evil.

Romanian witches from the east and west went to the country's southern plains and the Danube river yesterday to threaten the government with spells and spirits because of the tax law, which came into effect on 1 January.

A dozen witches hurled the poisonous mandrake plant into the Danube to put a hex on government officials "so evil will befall them", said a witch named Alisia. She added: "What is there to tax, when we hardly earn anything? The lawmakers don't look at themselves, at how much they make, their tricks; they steal and they come to us asking us to put spells on their enemies."

The new 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 labour code. People who worked in those jobs used their lack of registration to evade income tax.

Under the new law, like any self-employed person, they will pay 16 per cent income tax and make contributions to health and pension programmes. But the law may be hard to enforce as payments to witches and astrologers are usually made in cash and relatively small.

Supporters of Mircea Geoana, who lost the presidential race to Basescu in 2009, blamed his defeat on attacks of negative energy by their opponent's aides. Geoana aide Viorel Hrebenciuc alleged there was a "violet flame" conspiracy during the campaign, saying Basescu and other aides dressed in purple on Thursdays to increase his chance of victory. They continue to be seen wearing purple clothing on important days because the colour supposedly makes the wearer superior and wards off evil.

Such spiritualism has long been tolerated by the Orthodox Church in Romania, and the late Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, had their own personal witch.

Queen witch Bratara Buzea, 63, who was imprisoned in 1977 for witchcraft under Ceausescu's 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 she planned to cast a spell using a particularly effective concoction of cat excrement and dead dog, accompanied by a chorus of witches.

"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." She added ominously: "My curses always work."

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