By Marian Chiriac
In the first such case in Romania, two fortune tellers have been arrested for blackmailing public figures and are being held for a month pending investigation.
A court in Bucharest on Wednesday ordered the detention for a month of two so-called witches for alleged blackmail and extortion in a case involving a television star and other public figures.
The “witches”, know by their nick-names as Melissa and Vanessa, are accused of having tricked at least seven persons into paying hundreds of thousands of euros in exchange for good-luck charms and spells.
TV star Oana Zavoranu later filed a complaint saying she was tricked into paying 450,000 euros in cash and properties to the witches in exchange for spells.
Zavoranu said the witches sacrificed animals in graveyards and near rivers in order to gain her protection from the curses from her enemies.
The witches, who were first detained last week, but only for a day, claim Zavoranu is being spiteful because she asked them to cast a spell on her mother that would kill her, in spite of which the mother is still alive.
Judges on Wednesday decided that the women should be investigated under arrest so that they could not influence witnesses.
Belief in spells is a serious matter in Romania and witchcraft still plays a part in the country, which is well known as the fictional setting for Bram Stoker’s famous tale of Count Dracula.
So-called “white” magic, which is benign in intention, is widely tolerated, even by the Orthodox Church to which more than 80 per cent of Romanians belong.
A standard payment for a witch’s services is around 10 to 15 euros, with some other goods, such as food, drinks or packs of cigarettes, thrown in as extras.
Early this year, the centre-right government proposed changing the labour law to officially recognize the centuries-old practice of fortune telling as a taxable profession and, as a result, begin taxing seers and witches.
Legislators said the change would regulate witchcraft as a profession and protect people’s rights at the same time. In the end, the law on taxing fortune tellers was rejected by parliament’s upper chamber.
Many Romanians still believe in unseen powers. “I believe that some people have the power to help you if you have problems in love or business,” says Ioana Dumitrescu, a 37-year-old shop owner. “But they have to believe in God and have an open heart, and not be witches using bad practices.”