AILSA CHANG, HOST:
When you open your door to trick-or-treaters next week, odds are you will see a witch or two. In Romania, you do not have to wait for Halloween, but the witches there are all about the trick, not the treat. Joanna Kakissis reports.
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JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: It's impossible to miss this witch's house in the village of Mogosoaia. For starters, there's a big poster of her right outside. It reads, the most powerful witch from Europe, Mihaela Minca. She walks through a beaded curtain and introduces herself.
MIHAELA MINCA: (Through interpreter) I'm a very strong witch. Magic is very powerful in my family. I can solve any kind of problem in life - with love, success, anything.
KAKISSIS: She's in a floor-length dress - black with bright flowers. Her hair, also black, is tied by a sparkly baby blue scarf.
MINCA: (Through interpreter) What I do is beautiful and dangerous. It is a fight between good and evil.
KAKISSIS: She cuts tomatoes and cheese for what she calls an interview snack. We sit in her dining room on gold-painted chairs that resemble thrones. Her phone buzzes with clients.
MINCA: (Through interpreter) There are customers who ask me to split up couples. They ask me to destroy people. And there are several spells I can do with black magic. But I learned from my grandmother that too many evil spells will always turn against a powerful witch.
KAKISSIS: And some Romanians do believe in the power of witches. Sociologist Dani Sandu cites a 2014 survey.
DANI SANDU: About two-thirds of Romanians believe in demons, curses, enchantments and spirits.
KAKISSIS: He says these beliefs come from the Eastern European tendency toward fatalism. This is where witches find their niche.
SANDU: It's probably the equivalent of the modern-day life coach. They commercialize the feeling of being in control of one's life and of one's destiny.
KAKISSIS: Witches are controversial. A few were sued for blackmailing their clients. And seven years ago, Romanian witches made international headlines for cursing politicians who tried to tax them.
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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Foreign language spoken).
KAKISSIS: That's Mihaela Minca's own mother-in-law on video making a potion out of cat poop. After that, the politicians dropped the tax. Surprisingly, Minca wishes they hadn't.
MINCA: (Through interpreter) Being taxed would prove that this is a respectable profession. My daughter is finished high school. I'd love it if they could open their witches' offices in Bucharest.
KAKISSIS: Like most witches here, Minca is Roma, a stigmatized minority in Europe. Most of her clients are not. Her work in magic supports her husband and kids. It's allowed them to build a house in Romania and live for a time in Los Angeles, where she says she has many clients.
We walk to her backyard office, where chickens strut past a table filled with crystals, scythes and dried herbs. She raises a bell, pours water into a bowl and chants.
MINCA: (Through interpreter) Let there be luck. Let there be peace. Let there be happiness. God bless. Let it be so.
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KAKISSIS: I'm relieved she doesn't charge for this good-luck spell because her spells are not cheap. I ask her, how much would it cost to put a curse on my editor? Six-hundred dollars, U.S., she said. And the witch Mihaela Minca is careful to say that she gives no guarantees. For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Mogosoaia, Romania.
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