|BY RICHARD DEMING
In a studio adorned with pictures of bones and
costumed wizards and witches on Tátra street, ancient
treatments for arthritis and asthma cost around Ft 2,500.
To foretell future diseases, the studio's
denizens examine palms or eyes for Ft 1,500.
"We've got people who do more basic tasks, like fortune-telling
or reading tarot cards," explains High Priest Cézár
Abafi, who presides over the studio. "And then we've got
more specialized and skilled witches who cast off bad magic
or are bone smiths."
Religion and business sometimes make strange bedfellows,
but in the case of one Hungarian organization of witches,
the faith is also a service conglomerate with expenses,
revenues, studios and customers.
The Hungarian Witch Association, 9,000 strong
and headed by High Priest Cézár Abafi, opened a studio
in Budapest in 1991 where witches gather to practice
their craft. Today, the association has five such studios,
two in Budapest and three elsewhere in the country.
involved in the Financial end of things mostly," says Cézár
(Cézár). "I make sure that the studio runs
without deficit and take care of any other day-to-day
Last year those studios took in Ft 18 million, up from Ft 4.5
million in 1992, their first full year of operation.
Of that, Ft 3 million came from another studio in Budapest and
Ft 2.5 million came from membership dues, which are Ft 300 every
three months. The rest came from the main Budapest studio.
The witches' studios
have a variety of sources of revenue. Actual courses in practical
witchcraft go for Ft 10,000 to Ft 20,000. To
attend, an aspiring witch pays once to reach a certain
skill level and meet once a week for
an afternoon. They stay in the course indefinitely, "graduating"
only with the attainment of a sought after talent, like
crystal-ball reading or spirit-conjuring. Witches make
house calls as well; it costs Ft 3,000
to have an apartment tested for positive or
At the main studio in Budapest, Cézár (Cezar) sits in a darkened
office behind red doors in a six-room apartment. There are
instruments of his avocation on his
desk, small metal gadgets used to find positive
and negative energy and silk banners inscribed with the symbol
of the religion, a five-point star.
Except for these effects, though, the room is not
exceptional, furnished with a
wardrobe, several chairs, a couch and a desk. Cézár
(Cezar), the 47 year old former buffet owner, sits behind
the desk in a green double breasted suit and matching bow
The witch's association was formed in 1989, when the change
in government allowed the legal practice of witchcraft in
Hungary. The association has opened the three studios
in Budapest and Győr, and newer ones in Pécs
and Debrecen. Cézár (Cezar) could not
estimate the total number of students
who take courses and cures from the studios.
At the Győr studio, he says a
six room studio
is filled with people from eight in
the morning until six at night every
week-day. At the main Budapest studio,
a steady stream of 300 people a month come through for
consultations, services or classes.
When an enterprise that offers services is also a religion,
and a sometimes unpopular one at that,
organizational matters can
become particularly tricky. According to Cézár
(Cezar), there has been a great deal
of dissension within the association's membership regarding
the best way to organize its studios.
The studio in
Budapest, for example, is registered as a religious
institution and thus is exempt from taxation.
In contrast, the one very active studio
in the countryside, in Gyor, currently takes in revenues
of Ft 500,000 a month. That site is registered as a
regular limited partnership and has to
pay the same taxes as any other business, including
the 25% VAT for its services. The witch association's
membership is debating how to register the two newer
studios in Debrecen
Cézár (Cezar) is the head of the association
largely because he was involved early on. When the organization
formed in Székesfehérvár in 1989, he
was voted to be the director of the
organization, along with a group of three others, until he
gets "too old or tired to
It's not a rewarding position, he says.
He doesn't receive
any compensation for his work, only expense money for
trips around the country and abroad, he says.
He makes his living, he says, through lectures and witchcraft
shows he performs out-side of the association.
Cézár (Cezar) claims that most of the money
his witches' association makes goes toward the maintenance
of the organization's studios,
his secretary and other expenses such as space rented
for the association's membership database and a small
library of literature.
In fact, he says, even the dozens of witches who offer
their services to the organization by teaching courses
and performing witchcraft for customers who pay their
no pay for their services. "They are usually licensed
to do something else, such as be a dentist
or other more typical professions,
but they come to practice their craft here,"
Cézár (Cezar) said.