updated 10/31/2005 12:14:40 AM ET 2005-10-31T05:14:40

Cobwebs cling from the wooden rafters. Dusty shelves are cluttered with glass jars of home-brewed potions, dried herbs and stone amulets. An oil cooker and a black cauldron sit in the corner, ready for the next full moon.

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This isn’t a Halloween party, it’s Margarita Rongen’s year-round workshop and she is a witch — according to her tax return.

Dutch witches were guaranteed a financial treat when the Leeuwarden District Court reaffirmed their legal right to write off the costs of schooling — including in witchcraft — against their tax bills. Those costs run to thousands of dollars.

The court found on Sept. 23 that a witch can declare schooling costs if it increases the likelihood of employment and personal income.

Rongen, a mother of two grown children, runs a school for witches, the “Witches Homestead,” in the northern Friesland province of the Netherlands. She has trained more than 160 disciples over the past four decades in “a religion that is older than Christianity,” she said.

Learning their trade under a full moon
Courses are held 13 weekends a year closest to a full moon when outdoor rituals are practiced and potions boiled. Participants learn healing with herbs and stones, divination and fortunetelling with crystal balls and hieroglyphs, and how to make potions.

The cost is $206 per weekend, including reading material, lodgings and the tools needed for witchcraft. The full course of 13 weekends runs $2,678 and is open to women and men over 18.

“Once you have become a witch ... you can pass along the things you have learned,” said Rongen. “I have been a witch for 38 years and learned it from my father.”

Lawmaker Pieter Omtzigt was astounded to hear that the state was funding witchcraft and asked for clarification.

He got an answer to his question last week in a letter from Junior Finance Minister Joop Wijn, saying that “Under the circumstances, the cost of a course to become a witch qualifies as school fees.”

Rongen invited Omtzigt to visit her.

“If he would come here and try the divination rod and see how important it is to find things, see that it isn’t pleasant to have earth radiation in your house, feel the forces of the earth, that would be magnificent.”

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