Dutch anger at tax breaks for witchcraft classes
Cobwebs cling from the wooden rafters. Dusty shelves are cluttered with glass jars of home-brewed potions, dried herbs and stone amulets. An oil cooker and a black cauldron sit in the corner, ready for the next full moon.
This isn’t a Halloween party – it’s Margarita Rongen’s year-round workshop in Appelscha, Netherlands and she is a tax-verified witch.
Dutch witches were guaranteed a financial treat when the Leeuwarden District Court reaffirmed their legal right to write off the costs of schooling – including in witchcraft – against their tax bills. Those costs run to thousands of euros.
The case, brought by one of Rongen’s students, is brewing political fury in the halls of Dutch government where a member of parliament for the ruling Christian Democrats demanded an explanation.
“It’s just because the word ‘witch’ was mentioned that they have woken up,” said Rongen, clad in flowing black velvet robes and draped in a chain of stone amulets and a wicca star. “This write-off has been around for a long time. Now it has the support of a judge.”
The court found on September 23 that a witch can declare schooling costs if it increases the likelihood of employment and personal income. It didn’t matter that witchcraft degrees are not formally recognised by the state.
Women accused of being witches were burned at the stake by the thousands across Europe, including in the Netherlands, during the 16th-century Spanish Inquisition. But now, self-procalimed witches live freely, and in this case, prosperously.
Rongen, a mother of two grown children, runs a school for witches, the “Witches Homestead”, in the northern Friesland province of the Netherlands. She has trained more than 160 disciples over the past four decades in “a religion that is older than Christianity,” she said.
Courses are held 13 weekends a year closest to a full moon when outdoor rituals are practised and potions boiled. Participants learn healing with herbs and stones, making potions, divination and fortune telling with crystal balls and hieroglyphs. They are taught to draw upon inner spiritual strength and tap natural energy from trees and plants.
The cost is ˆ170 per weekend, including reading material, lodgings and the tools needed for witchcraft. The full course runs to ˆ2,210 and is open to women and men over 18.
“Once you have become a witch … you can pass along the things you have learned,” said Rongen. “I have been a witch for 38 years and learned it from my father.”
Lawmaker Pieter Omtzigt was astounded to hear that the state was funding witchcraft and asked for clarification.
“If we spend ˆ1,000 on a witchcraft class, that’s ˆ1,000 euros we can’t spend elsewhere. There are 500,000 unemployed people in the country. We want to know why we are funding witches and where we draw the line,” Omtzigt said in an interview.
If the court ruling weren’t enough, the answer to his questions came last week in a letter from Junior Finance Minister Joop Wijn, who wrote: “Under the circumstances, the cost of a course to become a witch qualifies as school fees.”
Rongen, a witch since she was 16, doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about and invited Omtzigt and sceptical bureaucrats to visit her.
“If he would come here and try the divination rod and see how important it is to find things, see that it isn’t pleasant to have earth radiation in your house, feel the forces of the earth, that would be magnificent.”