Amandine (the first name has been changed) is seated opposite her marabout, in a hotel room.
It is the first time that she has met this man in a shirt and suit, broad shouldered, but "soft as a lamb, benevolent, reassuring".
At the end of 2020, he came from Paris on purpose to find, in Brittany, a desperate Amandine.
Nothing is going well in the life of this mother of a family.
In quick succession, she lost four relatives, and her husband left her.
The African marabout cannot bring back the dead, but he has promised to bring back the loved one.
Now he is chanting prayers in front of the thirty-something, who holds her bag firmly against her.
Inside are 40,000 euros that this man convinced her to bring.
The money is not for him, he repeated, she will walk away with it.
He just needs it to strengthen his magic.
"Persuaded to be damned"
Amandine slipped the tickets into a large envelope with a lock of her hair and lemons.
She also considered it prudent to bring a tear gas canister.
“I was afraid of being raped.
I never thought he would steal from me.
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The marabout asks for the egg.
“A week before, he had asked me to take one out of the fridge, to run it over my body every day.
I hand it to him.
He smashes it on the ground.
The liquid inside is all black!
“He tells me it's proof that I have bad karma.
I am then convinced to be damned.
The marabout takes the envelope of banknotes, quickly encloses it in a white sheet.
Amandine leaves with the tied package, but is forbidden to touch it.
"If I ever open it before he's done his job, not only will my man never come back, but he will be worse off to me and my loved ones because we don't play with magic!"
Coincidence: a few weeks later, her dog suddenly died.
For the marabout, this is further proof that Amandine is cursed.
Terrified - "the survival of my children was more important to me than my bank account" -, she siphons off her savings, an additional 20,000 euros, to finance her disenchantment.
It was only months later that she dared to untie the sheet to find a bundle of white papers.
In this hotel, the crook stole the money, just as he replaced the egg with another, rigged.
Several thousand "wizards" in France
Who has never come across an ad for a marabout, those leaflets that flourish in letter boxes, at the exit of the Paris metro and on the windshields of cars?
The spelling is uncertain, but the promises are enticing.
To believe them, these mages cure sexual impotence, prevent hair loss, ensure success in exams, attract customers to your business, stop tobacco addiction and make talismans of luck or protection.
But their great specialty remains the rapid return of the loved one.
“He / she will come back to you like a dog to his master,” says one of these announcements.
These wizards, who claim ancestral traditions, have nonetheless entered the digital age.
They offer their services on the Internet and even on the Instagram application, and consult via WhatsApp messaging.
How many are they in France?
Several thousand, according to the National Institute of Divinatory Arts (Inad) which, since 1987, works to moralize the medium of clairvoyance and to protect consumers from crooks.
“These marabouts are an international scourge, attacks Youcef Sissaoui, the president of Inad.
In their countries, this activity is practiced by pious men, and some heal people in need, without thinking of money.
But, in France, with rare exceptions, there are only scammers.
And they know how to take advantage of our loopholes, especially sentimental ones.
Cash to commune with geniuses
Stéphane (the first name has been changed) saw his wife leave overnight.
"When we seek a solution, we cling to any string," notes this sixty-year-old, who then contacted a marabout.
A first study is invoiced to him 30 euros.
He is spellbound, but a solution exists.
“I had to take photos with 10,000 euros in cash, candles, one of my T-shirts and one of my ex-wife's, for the marabout to agree to come.
Before beginning the ritual, the summoner asks his host to go get ... an egg!
Obviously, it is black on the inside.
“I was upset.
Someone had brought me bad luck.
The marabout told me that he had to go to the forest, to commune with the spirits.
He took the cash with him, promising to come back soon.
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The thief has flown away, Stéphane comes out of his stupor and understands the deception.
He will never see the wizard again, but manages to reach him on the phone.
He is asking for 3,000 euros more to complete his mission.
Stéphane will not give in.
Photos that are then used for blackmail
Sometimes the case even turns to blackmail.
Yasmine (name has been changed), 32, unemployed, has a crush on a friend and imagines that magic could promote their romance.
She finds a marabout on the Internet.
He answers him from Benin.
As always, the first consultation costs a few tens of euros, but the problem requires disturbing the spirits, for the sum of 400 euros.
For lack of results, Yasmine decides to stop the costs.
“The wizard sent me a picture of his daughter in the hospital.
He said it was my fault because I hadn't finished the job.
Then, the man threatens to warn the police and to disseminate on social networks the photos of Yasmine and her friend that she had entrusted to him for the ritual.
Yasmine will agree to pay against the promise to erase the clichés.
Some crooks don't hesitate to ask desperate women for naked pictures of themselves - supposedly for spirits - in fact, only to blackmail them afterwards.
The victims are often believers
Do you have to be an idiot to let yourself be cheated like this? "It is not because we have followed long studies that we cannot believe," recalls sociologist Romy Sauvayre, who has analyzed the manipulation at work in sects. Mechanisms also used by marabouts, such as bombarding the potential follower with love, showing warmth to create a bond of trust. “Often, everything starts with a request,” continues the sociologist, author of “Believe in the incredible” (PUF, 2012). You just need to meet someone who says they can solve your problems. "
Amandine, who defines herself as an "intelligent" and "strong character" woman, wanted to get her husband back.
At all costs.
“Heart problems are the first weakness of human beings,” confirms Youcef Sissaoui, from Inad.
A lonely person clings to the first Jesus who passes.
We also need a favorable ground.
The victims are often believers - Amandine is Catholic - and therefore, by nature, more receptive to the idea of invisible forces that overtake them.
From there to empty his bank account?
“It seems unreasonable if we observe it from the outside,” continues the sociologist.
But in this particular universe of beliefs, to which the follower then adheres, everything makes sense.
In all, an engineer paid 550,000 euros
Karima (the first name has been changed) now fears going to prison. To pay a marabout, she embezzled nearly half a million euros from her business. In 2016, his niece ran away. The 40-year-old, an engineer in the North, calls on a first African wizard, and the teenager reappears after three days. “I thought to myself: maybe it works. "
Years go by and Karima is worried this time about the behavior of a colleague. She is convinced that this woman is using magic to bewitch the rest of the staff. She consults clairvoyants, who arouse her suspicions. Karima is ready to do anything to protect this SME, where she occupies a position of responsibility. Return to the marabout to resolve the situation. He asks her for 1,000 euros, gives her a "product" with which to wash herself, demands more money. But nothing changes.
Convinced that this marabout is a charlatan, she contacts a second. This one soon persuades her that the evil is on her and demands 500 euros, then 1000, then 5000… and always more. “If I didn't continue, spirits would turn on me. I was afraid. She empties her accounts, multiplies the credits. When her father dies, she doesn't have a penny left to pay for the funeral. Soon, cornered, she bangs in the cash register of her company. “He kept telling me:
Take, take, take, it's just to do the job and then we'll give the money back
When her company discovers the pot aux roses, Karima is laid off.
In all, she paid 550,000 euros.
An investigation will finally be opened, following the embezzlement, and the marabout will be arrested.
"I am ashamed of myself," breathes this woman, collapsed.
She attempted suicide earlier this year and is now awaiting trial.
In turn, I wanted to try the experience
The marabout receives me at his home, in a djellaba.
I wanted to try the experiment, and I chose it on the Internet, at random.
The apartment is tiny but the decorum studied.
A white candle is burning on a piece of furniture.
Hanging on the wall, large fabrics bear inscriptions in Arabic.
Traditional instruments, dishes, jars sit enthroned on a table behind the man.
He sits on the floor and invites me to do the same.
Problem? He is much younger than the marabout who shows off on his website. “My father came back to the village, in The Gambia, so I'm doing the consultation,” he says. It took a pretext for this meeting, so I explain wanting to find an ex. I am lucky: "The sentimental problems, it is my specialty", entrusts the marabout. On the phone, he asked me to provide a photo. I found one where I smile with a former companion, let's call her Marie. Finally, he will forget to ask for the photo, but not his 40 euros payment.
I put my hand on a sheet of paper so that he traces its outline, briefly, with a pen, and I tell my story.
"An invisible evil spirit has entered your marriage," he diagnoses.
This spirit has taken Marie away from me, but the mage can fix that, and fast.
“You can spend the weekend together,” he promises.
"How much can you give me today?"
We are Wednesday. The wizard looks powerful, so you might as well take advantage of it. I talk about my job, complain about a promotion that doesn't come. “You are stuck. It's the wrong spirit. I can do the cleaning. The price: 1,150 euros to pay for the “products” demanded by the famous spirits. I tick on the sum. "We must not look at the money, we must look at the situation, the love side, the work side", he says learnedly, and promises, while waiting for me to pay, to weave a circle of protection around Mary. in order to prevent him from falling in love with another. "How much can you give me today?" He insists.
Before letting me go, he rummages through his jumble and pulls out a jar filled with a mixture of burnt incense and mysterious plants. I have to repeat my first name seven times inside the container, Marie's too. He grabs some paper towels on which he places some of his fragrant preparation and hands it to me. I have to come back with it at the next session and, above all, not show it to anyone, at the risk of weakening the magic. But I did not go back to see the marabout. Therefore, Marie did not call me, and I am still awaiting my promotion.