I’ll be honest, I’m a sceptic when it comes to clairvoyancy, fortune telling and the like. Having said that, I did once visit a witch doctor in The Gambia with a group of friends. They went in to see him one by one, and each came out having had some sort of positive prediction for their life. I, on the other hand, was told that I had a ‘bad spirit’ living in me, and that if I did not buy a red chicken and some salt and give it to someone within 30 days, the bad spirit would live in me forever.
This put me in quite a dilemma – on the one hand, I thought it was nonsense. But on the other hand, was it not best to just buy said chicken and salt on the offchance that he was right? I had quite some sleepless nights, but in the end I dismissed his criticism. So there may well still be a bad spirit in me…
But my scepticism is irrelevant to the clairvoyants, soothsayers, astrologers and fortune-tellers that are making serious money in Bulgaria. Recent data from the National Revenue Agency shows that there’s a tidy profit in being a prophet; these individuals have reported revenues of hundreds of thousands of levs; one fortune-teller was one of Bulgaria’s highest taxpayers (but I guess she could have predicted that…)
Superstitious practices were once seen as a revolt against the communist regime and banned by Bulgaria’s authorities. Now, their promises to solve lovelife issues, career problems or illnesses have made them hugely popular despite their often high costs. A poll in 2011 showed that some 30% of Bulgarians have at least once turned to alternative medicine (most often healers and herbalists) to solve a medical problem, while another survey suggested that every second Bulgarian believes in supernatural phenomena and fears having a curse put on them.
Babba Vanga was one of the best known fortune-tellers in Bulgaria. She practiced both healing (mainly through the use of herbs) and divination – she reportedly foretold events such as the Chernobyl disaster, the September 11 attacks and even Bulgarian grand master Veselin Topalov‘s victory in the world chess tournament (although it has to be said that she also made unfulfilled prophecies, and it has been suggested that in many cases her successful predictions came to light only after events occurred).
Regardless of the accuracy of their craft, inspiration can be drawn from the business sense of these individuals, who have apparently embraced modern technology and offer to lift curses via email, predict fortunes through ICQ and hold consultations by videolink. ‘Magda,’ for example, offers to cure infertility by ‘transmitting impulses’ over the telephone. The cost for three 45 minute phone calls is over £200.