Saturday, 8 January 2011

Hard Times for Romanian Witches – Michelle Lovric

Is anyone else enchanted by the Romanian witches behaving badly after being told that they have to pay 16 percent income tax? Are there any other writers out there now cursing themselves because they never managed to work such a relevant, emotive and morally satisfying storyline into one of their own children’s books?

For anyone who’s been sweltering under a cold stone the last 31 nights and missed the news – Romania’s economic crisis has inspired the government to cast a wider net for taxes. The witches have been caught up in it, as have the astrologists and fortune-tellers. According to the new decree, Romanian witches will now be obliged to do paperwork as they eek out (forgive me) their living: to itemize and produce receipts for their services, which include telling the future with corn grains, curing bad habits, casting love spells and preparing amulets against curses. A Romanian witch – known as vrăjitoare – usually charges around 10 dollars a consultation, though the fees can escalate dramatically once a client is hooked.

Romania, home of the Dracula legends, is steeped in superstition. Every village allegedly has its own witch. Only recently were witch adverts banned from Romanian television. Witches still advertise extensively in the newspapers. The New York Times reports that President Traian Basescu and his aides wear purple – believed to ward off evil – on certain days. The dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife apparently employed their own personal witch. Perhaps fear of witchly reprisals is the true reason why the original tax proposal was voted down last year.
But Romania’s recession has deepened. Needs must, and on January 1st the new tax law became official. Witches must own up and pay up, and even make pension contributions to the state now.

And like any fairytale witch worth her worts and warts, the Romanian covens are reacting with spleen, acrimony and the dark arts. It’s time for the tax man to be afraid, very afraid.

As the old joke goes, ‘What do you say to an angry witch?’
The answer: ‘Ribbit, ribbit.’

Some of the Romanian witches have threatened to throw poisonous mandrake into the River Danube. Others plan to cast spells on the government and the president, using ingredients including cat excrement and dead dog.

How will it all end? Will the tax-collectors be afflicted with boils? Will the Minister for Finance turn into a newt? Will the witches knit a tax loophole for themselves out of cat-fur and snake-gut lubricated with frogspawn? Will the witches file their tax returns written in invisible bat blood? Will the Romanian jails fill up with tax-dodging witches? Will Romanian accountants cook their books in gigantic cauldrons?

One intriguing aspect of Romanian witchery is the use of the ‘nine-times-married-knife’ that has been secretly hidden in the pockets of new husbands by their brides. Such knives are used to prepare concoctions of basil and frankincense. Will the nine-times-married-knives end up embedded in the flesh of those who passed the offending decree? I’ll bet those gentlemen are not enjoying reading their horror-scopes at the moment, and wondering whatever possessed them when they decided to tax the witches. ‘Why oh why,’ they are thinking, ‘didn’t we go for the quangos and the libraries like that nice Mr Cameron in Britain?’

We’ll probably have to wait until Midsummer to find out what happens. That’s the most potent date in the Romanian vrăjitoare calendar.

In the meantime – even if I can’t own this story, I’m a writer, am I not? So I can PRETEND that I do. And it’s a truth universally acknowledged that someone else’s book is always far easier to write than one’s own. I’m currently haunted by a scary deadline, so my current displacement activity involves fashioning notional plot refinements for the Romanian Witch Tax Hex File, confecting new Romanian witch tax jokes (‘A vrăjitoare walks into Inland Revenue and says ...’), deciding who’ll cackle the audio book, designing the website and the app, and scripting the You-Tube trailer.

As a priority, I’m looking for a title.

All suggestions are welcome.

Michelle Lovric’s website


catdownunder said...

I understand that the politicians only wear purple on Thursdays - obviously "Thursdays are for Thaumaturgy". :-)

Charlie Butler said...

Not a title, but how about a slogan for the witches' campaign? "Can we do it? Yes, Wiccan!"

Book Maven said...

Love it Charlie!

How about "Haggling for Hags" a self-help guide for witches.

karen ball said...

Fantastically inspiring - you HAVE to do something with this. Witch At Work instead of Men At Work in one of those triangle signs? I don't just magic spells out of thin air, you know - someone has to pay for the hazel. We should have an SAS brainstorm on your behalf!

Lynda Waterhouse said...

hubble bubble
tax deductabubble

Leila said...

Fantastic! :) I think a research trip to Romania is called for.

Katherine Langrish said...

Hilarious, Michele - your post has made my day!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, can't join in. Too busy paying tax.

Leslie Wilson said...

Lovely post, Michells. I did see the original posting with some amusement. Though I don't see why witches shouldn't pay tax myself.
How about
Hex-agony Angle? A little too geometrical perhaps.

Stroppy Author said...

Fantastic :-)