Oct. 11 (Bloomberg) — Margarita Rongen, who teaches spells and potions to witches in the Dutch village of Appelscha, says a court ruling that gave her trainees a tax break brought in hundreds of potential new recruits.
Rongen, 56, who offers the Netherlands’ only program that certifies witches, is getting applications from as far off as Australia and Dubai, she said. The court, in the Dutch town of Leeuwaarden, ruled on Sept. 26 that the 1,830-euro ($2,208) cost of her course is tax deductible.
“Many people who have reached a dead end come to me because they want to make a change in their life,” said Rongen, who’s been a witch for 37 years. “Now students know they will get their money back.” She spoke in an interview on Sept. 30 in her school’s shop, which sells products such as blessed magic candles for 6.95 euros apiece.
Rongen has for seven years run 366-day courses, each encompassing 13 full moons at the school she founded and called Heksehoeve, or Dutch for “witch farmhouse.” The court decision, which recognizes her training as a legitimate way of making money, prompted Rongen to sell weekend tutoring and English- language compact discs. She’s employed her son and his girlfriend, also a witch, to help.
Books including J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series and “Lord of the Rings,” by J.R.R. Tolkien, helped raise awareness about magic, Ronge said. She holds five-day summer camps for children as young as 12, where instruction includes how to make a “witch altar.” The altar holds items such as a candle, a saucer with salt and a small statue of “mother earth.”
Interest in witchcraft worldwide has been “resurgent,” according to the Web site Bible.com, which promotes the Christian religion. Bible.com cites the popularity of the “Harry Potter” books as a reason. The Columbia Encyclopedia attributes a revival in witchcraft partly to attempts at new forms of healing and a reverence for nature.
Among organizations supporting witchcraft, the Canoga Park, California-based California Astrology Association, formed in 1970, sells products including “love spells” and “witchcraft spells” and, according to its Web site, now has customers in more than 80 countries.
Rongen’s course “certainly helped me in my work,” Maaike Buurman, 39, a pupil at Heksehoeve and plaintiff in the case that resulted in the tax ruling, said in an interview on Oct. 4.
The decision applies to taxpayers in the Netherlands on condition the training is used to earn money, said Gera van Weenum, a spokeswoman for the Dutch tax authority.
The ruling was questioned by the Christian Democratic Appeal, the largest party in parliament, on Sept. 29. The party asked to what extent a course for witches may be deemed useful for employment purposes. It said it intends to address the issue again in parliament.
Marcel Burgy, a tax adviser at Berk, an independent member of Baker Tilly International in Leiden, the Netherlands, said the court’s ruling is logical.
“The plaintiff has clearly stated she’s going to use the witch course to further her career,” Burgy said in an interview on Oct. 4. “It wouldn’t have been tax deductible if the plaintiff had taken the course just for fun.”
Charlie Bruijsten, a tax adviser at Ernst & Young in Arnhem, in the east of the Netherlands, said Buurman qualified for the tax break because she took the course “with the objective of improving her position in the employment market.”
Rongen says she’s not aware of any other course for witch training in the Netherlands, which has no witchcraft association. Pagan Federation International, which has a Dutch branch in the city of Zeist, advises on performances of rituals at events including weddings and baptisms, not on witchcraft.
`Book of Shadows’
Buurman, an actress, enrolled in Rongen’s course so that she could teach about the Middle Ages and witchcraft in schools. Buurman also does role-playing as a witch at Muiderslot, a castle in the northwest of the Netherlands built near 1280.
Rongen, who speaks seven languages, including German and Italian, is adding weekend workshops at her school, which is in the north of the Netherlands, to meet demand.
Students who take Rongen’s full, 13-moons witch course meet nine times in the course of a year at Heksehoeve from Saturday until Sunday at noon.
During the nine weekends, learner witches practice aura reading, meditation and celebrating the full moon. They get four written assignments and record everything they learn in a personal volume called a “Book of Shadows.”
The course finishes with an initiation ceremony, during which each witch performs a ritual of her choice, such as stepping on twigs or reciting a poem.
Past students include psychologists and accountants, Rongen said, declining to provide identities.