Russian MPs have backed a bill that bans anyone who calls themselves a witch or a wizard from advertising their services in the media in an effort to combat a controversial national obsession with the occult.
According to the Orthodox Church, Russia has 800,000 practitioners of the occult, many of whom advertise in newspaper small advertisements offering cures for alcoholism and spells to lift curses and return errant husbands for a fee. One report claims almost one in five Russians have consulted occult ‘healers' but MPs have warned they are risking their health and possibly their lives by trusting in such quackery. They say it is time the country grew up.
In a tragic incident this summer, a four-year-old boy in Russia's Far East suffocated to death during an exorcism ritual carried out by a local healer who was convinced the boy was possessed by a demon.
"Citizens, if they have the money, are even sometimes promised elevation to a new level of evolution," MP Tatyana Yakovleva told the daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper. "Only last year in Moscow 300,000 people turned to the services of wizards and healers according to the Interior Ministry." Cancer specialists complain that many of the patients they see have already spent their life savings and wasted precious time on trying to cure the disease with a witch or a wizard. When the money runs out, they say the mystic informs the unfortunate patient that it is "God's will" and tells them there is nothing more that he or she can do.
The bill, which needs to pass two more votes before it can become law, would also oblige anyone claiming to be able to solve people's health problems to prove their claim and get a licence to operate from the health ministry. MPs say such licences would only be conferred upon genuine practitioners of alternative medicine and that nobody would be licencing witches or wizards.