Updates: 2/8/11: Another law threatens that Romanian readers may be fined if their predictions don’t come true! See here. Even The New Republic featured a thoughtful article on the legislation issues—calling it Voodoo Economics.

1/11/11: The law taxing witches and tarot readers has been passed and the lawmakers are being cursed as promised, according to this BBC account and video report. Other Romanian witches see the tax as an official acknowledgement of their profession. [Thanks to Vicki.]

9/9/10: The law mentioned below did not pass as lawmakers feared getting cursed reports CBS News.

From the English language Al Jazeera TV comes this report on a controversy in Romania regarding gypsy fortune-tellers (who also call themselves white witches). Madame Radika reads the tarot in Part 1 and Part 2 for two young women. Can you name the deck? The program discusses the new laws against the advertising of fortune-telling as well as the typical escalation of costs for removing curses (that make the practitioners wealthy). Part 2 shows a second reading and a Midsummer Night Ritual intended to help the young women through love spells (warning – graphic chicken sacrifice included in Part 2). All-in-all it is a fairly unjudgmental reporting of practices that some may find disturbing and exploitive, nevertheless the practices are comparable with indigenous magico-spiritual and shamanic techniques in other parts of the world.

The above video is interesting to contrast with this one on “The Witches of Los Angeles.” Are the practices essentially the same or different? How?

Added: Having recently experienced a Nepalese shamanic healing in which divination was the first step, I am more aware of the similarities present – although colored by the different cultures and involving quite a difference in the amount of money that changes hands. It seems to me that a big problem is not in the practices themselves, which can be very helpful and often mark major turning points, but the problem occurs when the situation becomes exploitive.

What constitutes exploitation is seen differently by everyone. For some – any kind of magico-spiritual divination, fortune-telling or healing is exploitive. For others it is when money is involved at all, and yet others would see it as occurring only when deceit is involved and/or the money exceeds the value of a comparable service. Yet many shamanic practices involve sleight-of-hand and other deceits deliberately as a way of by-passing mind-sets that might hamper healing.

I present these materials as a way of questioning assumptions we all have about the practice of tarot. If we fear questioning these things then we risk not really understanding all the implications of what we do as tarot readers.