Inside The Glorious World Of Romanian 'Witches'

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Potions, spells and broomsticks: Witchcraft is often seen in Hollywood films and Halloween parties – and not usually as a form of alternative health care. Yet in Romania, belief in magic is not regarded as hocus pocus. Many choose to entrust their problems to the supernatural rather that bear the stigma of seeking a psychologist.

Last year, Slovakian photographer Lucia Sekerková traveled to Romania to meet Maria Câmpina, the self-proclaimed queen of the fortune tellers, who are locally referred to as "witches."

Usually of Roma origin, these women are said to be able to read a person's future in his or her palm, in grains of wheat, or in the stars. 

Lucia made friends with Maria and spent time documenting the witches, their houses, and their trade—a profession has been passed down from generation to generation since ancient times.

The witches' houses are all about flaunting wealth, whether that means golden chairs or flat-screen televisions.

This is the house of a witch named Amalia, who at the time was training her niece in the art of witchcraft.

"In Roma communities, it's usually the men who support their families. Whether they make an honest living or not is an entirely different matter. Fortune telling is an ancient trade—the only one that Roma women are allowed to practice. It's also the only way Roma women gain respect and success within their communities. " says Lucia.

"In order to take Maria Câmpina and her acquaintances' pictures, I had to promise her the newspaper that I was working for would publish a full story about her, as well as give her the front page."

Lucia continues: "This way, I didn't have to pay any money for the photo session. Maria's photo did end up on the front page of SME, a weekly Slovakian newspaper."

Witches sometimes light candles to "open their inner eye" before casting a spell or looking into the future.

Potions are a huge part of the witches' culture.

Roma girls go to school until they are 18, but they're also taught fortune telling by their mothers, aunts, and grandmothers.

Each girl has to decide for herself if this trade is morally correct or not, because practicing it often entails taking advantage of their clients' naivety.

Many of these Roma women claim titles such as ‘queen of the fortune tellers’. Many claim to come from a long tradition of fortune tellers.

Some say they  have read the former communist dictator’s future. They mix the bits of information the client gives with generalities. And some are more skilful than others at telling a story.

The newspapers are full of advertisements from women promising to help with whatever problems you may have and promising your future will no longer be a secret.

"I just looked up their addresses and telephone numbers on the internet and in the papers, but it was pretty hard to convince them to let me take their picture."

"Some of them asked for money, others didn't. Anyway, most of them were willing to bargain. The prices ranged somewhere between 20 [$22] and 50 euros [$56] per session."

Despite the majority of Romanian people being Christian Orthodox, superstitions and beliefs are widely spread.

Although the Bible condemns divination and other such arts, in Romania fortune-telling is a common profession.

Crystal balls are often used for seeing into the future.

Lucia explains further: "These women have managed to accomplish something incredible..."

"They've built a modern business using ancient rituals originating from their ethnic background. Their customs are exactly the same as a century ago. What's changed is people's perception of them."

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