In modern day Russia people seem to often regard magic with skepticism. Witchery and superstitions are seen as the folly of the old times. But is it really all in the past and does it truly have no influence on contemporary society? However serious and logical we all may want to be, it is rather naive to assume that we are completely free of the belief in supernatural. In every family legends and tales have been told to children by their parents and grand-parers, some daily rituals and traditions were performed. This all stays in our memory as we grow older. Often our subconscious nurtures some of them without us even noticing.
You can still say that even nowadays mystical and arcane does play a big role in everyday life of a Russian person. Every newspaper always has a section with horoscopes, a lot of people often use natural remedies and herbs when they feel sick instead of taking pills or in addition to it. Even the most level-headed parents sometimes turn to magical forces when doctors fail to help their child. There are many adds in newspapers, on the television, and on the internet, where some sorcerer offers their help in curing almost everything from cough or stutter to drug and alcohol addiction. This sounds weird, right?
Why would people trust them, especially in our day and age? But the funny thing is, in Russia you are sure to find at least a couple of people among your friends who were once taken to a village witch to cure them from something when they were young. Another popular witch service here is attraction spells and, unfortunately, curses. The prices often vary but it seems safe to say that an hourly rate of a psychic in Russia is approximately the same as one of a good certified therapist.
The amount of the tv shows that are centred around mysticism is also impressive. Almost every country has a channel or two dedicated solely to such themes and Russia is no different. But here you can also find prime time programmes about psychics on the main tv channels. For example, the famous “Battle of Psychics” that has been running since 2007 and is currently airing it’s 19th season.
This is a show where mediums, wizards, and shamans take part in challenges to prove their unusual abilities. Each episode one of them goes home and the winner of the season gets a grand prize and popularity. Kind of like “Project Runway” but for psychics. The show has once became so popular that it gained several spin-offs such as “Psychics carry out an investigation” and “Psychics. The Battle of The Best”.
Some are certain this is all true and have been engrossed in it from the get go, others don’t believe it’s all real but still occasionally watch it for fun. Once, there was even a show where mediums competed with real detectives to see who would be more effective in solving a crime. It must be said, that the detectives did win in the end.
Another peculiar sign that Russians are not really that unbelieving in supernatural is the amount of esoteric shops. Even small towns usually have one or two of those, where you can buy crystals and incense or get a tarot reading. The amount of mystical books sold are also impressive. In order to find them you won’t even have to go to a specific place.
In local bookstores there are always shelves filled with the latest autobiographies of “Battle of Psychics” contestants, manuals on palmistry with schemes and drawings, and colourful astrology guides. Naturally, Moscow and St. Petersburg are on the mystical frontline of the country and have numerous magical shops, astrologists, divinators, healers, and occult societies. St. Pete even has it’s own countrywide famous coven. All in all, it is certain that the fascination with the otherworldly and strange is as strong as ever.
The catch is that in all this abundance of the witchy things it’s becoming hard to see it all for what it actually is. Some people, even if they are not Harry Potter type of wizards, do preserve ancient religious traditions of their ancestors like shamans of the North. Others simply mess around with the gullible ones.