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Occult business hooks 12.5 million Italians

Around six billion per year spent on psychics, faith healers

21 December, 15:31
Occult business hooks 12.5 million Italians (ANSA) - Rome, December 21 - More than 12.5 million Italians flock to psychics, faith healers and clairvoyants every year, roughly 35,000 per day, a study by a consumer group that helps the occult industry's victims said on Tuesday. Telefono Antiplagio's annual report, Magic and Occultism 2011, found Italians spend at least six billion euros per year, much of it under the table, on advice, insights into the future and solutions from roughly 120,000 purveyors of occult services.

The group added that these estimates are conservative. ''This data refers only to regional estimates based on 20,000 operators who advertise. The (real) numbers are actually higher,'' said Giovanni Panunzio, the founder of Telefono Antiplagio. ''There are another 100,000 operators who work through word-of-mouth''. Telefono Antiplagio said it receives about 1,000 calls annually on a helpline it has run for 17 years for people who have been swindled or damaged by the industry. Fifty-one percent of the users are adult women, while 38% are adult men and the rest are teenagers or even children. Clients have an average age of 42 and most do not hold a high-school diploma.

Sentimental troubles drive 52% of people to turn to occult practitioners, while economic issues account for 24%, health problems 13%, and trouble with the law and requests for protection generates the rest, the survey said. ''A crisis is the main reason a person turns to magic,' explained psychiatrist Paolo Cianconi. ''There is a physical, psychological, social need, which is also tied to an attraction toward powers alternative to (normal) human ones, to find support in the mysterious to resolve problems''.

Lombardy residents are particularly susceptible to the sector's allure, the study found. About 180,000 Milan residents shell out 90 million euro per year to magicians of various types, it said.

The most skeptical region seems to be Valle d'Aosta, which is on the Italian side of Mont Blanc, where around 2,000 people spend about one million euro on the occult per annum. The Telefono Antiplagio report warns Italians intent on using occult practitioners ''not to speak with charlatans about one's private life, not to meet them alone and to record any conversations with them''. The group alleged that psychics and other occult consultants frequently commit fraud, extortion and medical malpractice, as well as exploiting the mentally handicapped and violate clients' privacy. The report also advises against cash transactions and encourages victims to have the courage to file criminal charges.

Panunzio went as far as to call on publishers who sell advertising space to occult operators to stop doing so. ''We understand it's a business, but if they'd renounce this income, it would be a noble gesture,'' he said.