11 March 2012

LIFE: Your Life in Their Hands

SARONNO, Italy - Milanese fortunetellers are furious with the city of Milan. I’m not talking about fraudulent fortune tellers (see This Italian Life Blog Life” Mother and Daughter, Together Again (in Jail) posted Jan. 15, 2012), and other slickeroos of that ilk who ply their trade in the middle of the night on local TV stations. I’m talking about  Tarot card readers, palm readers, psychics and astrologers who have a license to sell their services from wobbly card tables set up along the pedestrian only streets between the Duomo and the Brera District in center city Milan.  
A Taro Card Reader at Work
What they are upset about is the increase in “permit” fees they have to pay the city in order to use the city’s streets as their place of business. The fee is known as the ‘use of city land tax’.  According to Marcello Basile, President of the Fortunetellers of Brera, fortunetellers already pay between 600 to 7,200 euros a year to the city just to not be hassled by the city police, and now the City wants to raise the daily rate from 3 euros a day to 21 euros a day. 

The increase has created quite a stir, not only among the fortune tellers and astrologers, but also among the street artists, like those guys you see wearing gold robes and Egyptian pharaoh masks who stand along the streets as stiff as if they really have been dead for the past 3,000 years. Unlike the portrait painters that you find under the porticoes across the street from Milan’s Duomo, the fortune tellers etc. do not charge a fixed rate, but must depend on the generosity of their clients. And that is the crux of the problem according to Signor Basile. He says it’s unthinkable for the city to place him and the other street “entertainers” in the same category as the portrait painters. 
Human Angel
Unfortunately, the increase has already been put into effect, and no one from City Hall has been willing or able to come up with a satisfactory solution. So Signor Basile is determined to fight on. The fortune tellers, astrologers, psychics and palm readers got together and decided on an emergency line of defense policy. 

“What we are going to do,” said Signor Basile, “is express our outrage in a demonstration in front of City Hall. In addition, we will try to organize all of the people who work in jobs that involve the use of  city land, for example: truck drivers, food vendors and other vendors, like those who sell lottery tickets, souvenirs and flags and maps of the city. Anyone who uses city land to promote their business. All these categories are affected by the new regulation that imposes this exaggerated increase in fees.”  
Working the Street in Milan's Brera Area
It may be regulations like these that keep many of Italy’s “maghi” underground, away from the prying eyes of the Fiscal Police and the Italian tax system. There was a recent case in Chiavari, a small resort town in Liguria, where a mother and daughter were being investigated for fraud and extortion. According to the indictment, the two “maghi” took advantage of a woman from Chiavari who was determined to regain her husband at any cost. 

The victim of the fraud reported the two women to the police saying she had paid tens of thousands of euros for magic potions and secret love rituals before discovering she was being deceived. The attorney for the two “maghi” denied any wrongdoing and said that the searches conducted by the Fiscal Police failed to turn up any evidence of fraud – other than the money the victim paid them. 
"I Can Cure All Your Ills- Just Send Money"
The Fiscal Police are now looking for other victims in the Chiavari area who may have been fleeced by the two women but so far they have not been successful. However in the Sampierdarena section of Genoa, another case has come to light of a woman known only as Chiara, has been consulting a “mago” for a problem she has been having with a competitor. In other words, the competitor is doing much better financially than she is, and she was looking for a way to reverse those roles. 

The psychic or “mago” she consulted, this time a man, performed several “voodoo” type rituals, a waving of hands, a crossing of photos all the while chanting secret mystical passages and giving her such sage advice as to “follow her instincts.” After a few weeks and a few thousand euros later the woman realized she wasn’t getting the result she wanted and complained to the police. The psychic was brought up on charges of fraud and is currently awaiting sentencing. 
The Divine Otelmo
Talking about being brought up on charges, my all time favorite “mago” has to be Marco Amieto Belelli, better known as the Divino Otelmo. He, along with Vanna Marchi, were my introduction to the Italian world of wizards and psychics back in the early 90's. The guy was a phenomenon. He used to rail against the Catholic Church for their anti-gay policy and at a certain point he started his own church, the Church of the Living and managed to attract over 20,000 followers. He also founded a political party, made a CD of 15 songs, one of which was entitled Prendi la Fortuna (Get Lucky), wrote books, had a program on Spanish TV and generally speaking, did quite well for himself. 

The last I heard he had been found guilty of defamation of character and aggravated assault by the Court of Calgari (Sardegna), for attacking a TV producer who portrayed him as a failed magician in a made for TV film. That was in 2005, and two years later the charge was reversed and dropped.
"Now Let Me See...."
I guess it’s human nature to look for a silver bullet to cure all your ills, enact your revenges, make your husband fall in love with you again, or not, and all the other maladies of humanness, but when you finally realize you’ve been had, how do they find the courage to go to the police? It’s not like it’s a secret that these people are shysters, now is it?

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