Archive for the ‘Sovereignty’ Category

3: Druid & Christian — Samhuinn & Sovereignty   Leave a comment

[Part 1|2|3|4|5]

In a 2013 post I wrote that when I remember the ancestors,

I make my very own Samhain-on-the-spot, the veil between the worlds thins, and I converse with the dead, with the Otherworld, with the generations stored in my DNA and blood and bone.  Perhaps you could call it racism in the best sense of the word — a celebration of all who have gone before me and who, by living, have delivered me to this moment of my own life, as I write these words.  It doesn’t last, but it also endures forever.

Samhuinn is remembering and honoring connection. One reason it looms so large in Pagan practice is simply that the essence of ritual is connection, and successful ritual means good relationships. On social media like Facebook, we think that we decide if we’re “in a relationship” or not. Westerners in particular like to imagine we’re free, among many other things free to choose. But many of our relationships that matter most aren’t matters of choice. Our existence itself, as a part of this universe of beings, is the first and greatest example. So the biggest “relationship” question often isn’t whether but how: how will I maintain good relationships — with myself, with other beings, with the planet?

In language many Pagans would find congenial, Catholic priest and eco-theologian Thomas Berry writes* (in The Great Work):

…we will recover our sense of wonder and our sense of the sacred only if we appreciate the universe beyond ourselves as a revelatory experience of that numinous presence whence all things came into being. Indeed, the universe is the primary sacred reality. We become sacred by our participation in this more sublime dimension of the world about us.

“Religious naturalist” Loyal Rue makes an immense and related claim,** deserving (as I try to approach such things) neither acceptance or rejection at first, but simple meditation and reflection:

The most profound insight in the history of humankind is that we should seek to live in accord with reality. Indeed, living in harmony with reality may be accepted as a formal definition of wisdom. If we live at odds with reality (foolishly), we will be doomed, but if we live in proper relationship with reality (wisely), we shall be saved. Humans everywhere, and at all times, have had at least a tacit understanding of this fundamental principle.

And we see a movement among some Christians towards a center that Druids and other Pagans also strive towards. Michael Dowd, former fundamentalist and author of Thank God for Evolution!, writes:

I am an unabashed evidential mystic—a sacred realist, a Christian naturalist. Reality is my God and evidence is my scripture. Big History is my creation story and ecology is my theology. Integrity is my salvation and doing whatever I can to foster a just and healthy future for the full community of life is my mission.

In Arthurian tradition, the Lady of the Lake gives Arthur his sword, affirming his right to kingship, and she receives it back again when, mortally injured after the battle of Camlann, he is borne away to Avalon to be healed.

We can see the Lady as a exemplar of Sovereignty, right relationship to the cosmos. As a representative of the inward reality that lies behind our outward world, she initiates and instructs the king — metaphorically, the archetypal “royal line” in all of us. Demonstrating again and again through her actions that leader and land are one, she shows that psychic wholeness and healing can never be isolated or merely individual. We are communal beings. Hermits and recluses often report dreams filled with people, a compensation for their outward communal “drought”. The famous Grail question points to this same reality: “Who(m) does the Grail serve?” Not just the one who finds it or achieves it! The cheap and shallow English labels “winner” and “loser” simply do not apply.

If we connect with our ancestors in the largest sense of the word, with our physical forebears and also with anyone who has helped us to reach who we presently are and may become, we may begin to see that even in spite of what may be our best efforts to live only for ourselves, we still end up contributing to the entire cosmos. Whether that contribution makes us worthy ancestors to those who will come after us is another matter, and our individual and communal charge.

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Interlude — a different preview of Edinburgh’s annual and marvelous Beltane Fire Society Samhuinn celebration. Samhuinn can provide us with a mirror to see ourselves as ancestors (don’t we all “see through a glass darkly”?).

Here’s the link to the Beltane Fire Society’s Samhuinn 2017.

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Right relationship — the first ritual goal I will strive to keep in mind as I finish drafting my personal Samhain rite.

This evening my wife and I will gather with another couple a few miles away.  We’ve shared several of the “Great Eight” festivals before, sometimes with a formal ritual, at others with that most ancient ritual of all, friendship, food and fire. One partner of the couple often faces a difficult time at Samhain, due to her psychic awareness and to past bad experiences with the day. So for us sometimes the kindest ritual is not to celebrate Samhuinn in any formal sense at all, but simply to be present and grounded ourselves, and to help be grounding for her.

A fire can help burn away negative energy, and making a practice of imaginally gathering and tossing into the fire any negative energy, to be consumed and returned to its elements for the cosmos to rebuild into healthy and balanced forms, is appropriate work. Doing it physically and unobtrusively can also be part of maintaining the fire.

A blessed Samhuinn to you all.

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*Berry, Thomas. “The Wild and the Sacred,” in The Great Work. New York: Harmony/Bell Tower, 1999, pg. 49.

**Rue, Loyal. Religion Is Not About God. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2005, pg. 135.

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Avalon of the Heart   Leave a comment

“Go ahead”, writes travel writer Rosie Schaap in an article in today’s (27 June 2017) New York Times, “say their names:”

Avalon and Tintagel. Believe deeply enough, and they might emerge from the mouth as through an enchantment-induced vapor, as though borne on the breath of a dragon. (Especially after at least four people have corrected your pronunciation of Tintagel: Be gentle with that “g,” it’s tin-TAJ-l.) And, indeed, these two sites in the southwest of England are epic and romantic, the stuff of myth and mystery.

Strip this opening paragraph of its hemming and hedging, its “mights” and “as thoughs”, and you have a compact magical working, a true spell, ready made. You know what setting you need, that will invite and launch you, right? Light incense or a candle, invoke with the two names, visualize being borne on the breath of a dragon, and you arrive in the southwest of England without the need for British Airways, Heathrow or Gatwick, customs or currency exchange.

Feel the mist cool on your skin, see the green and pleasant land, hear the clash of swords as you pass the guard, hear seagulls and curlews crying, as you walk out onto the spit of land where the gray stones of Tintagel Castle tower again. Yes, you’ve been here before. What’s the message for you this time? What do you need to know that has brought you here? What offering will you make in return for the gift you receive? Offer it with your thanks. Then return, return, return.

If even a feather of the wing of magic brushed your cheeks, you felt it. What is “real” on the other planes, after all, but what we pay attention to, what we animate with our love and creativity, our desire and energy? We practice the real to make it real, or else we let it go for something else that draws us more strongly. Our call.

“Myth and mystery” are “stuff” indeed — the potent formative ingredients for an “enchantment-induced” reality. (Aren’t ALL realities induced by something? Why not choose and shape for ourselves what that something is, rather than accepting a mass-produced substitute? We’ve given too much away, and now feel the lack yawning and gnawing inside. Reclaim!)

Leap with me here, to that old Foreigner song from the 70s — “I want to know what love is”. It always struck me with its odd assumption that anybody else must know better than I do what love is. Why?

I wanna know what love is
I want you to show me
I wanna feel what love is
I know you can show me.

I’ve got just one question: Who’s this “you”?! With my experience of love as with my reality: why let anyone else ever determine it, at the very least until I know theirs is superior to mine?! Take a look around: just how worthy are many of these other claims to a superior reality? Do we like what we’re seeing?!

Indeed, as Lou Gramm goes on to sing, “I gotta take a little time, a little time to think things over. I gotta read between the lines …”

I swear this on the midsummer Sword of Light: I will not abdicate my spiritual sovereignty to anyone for anything less. I will practice love, as I practice reality, accepting the best I can achieve. Because as Lou also sings for us all, “I’ve traveled so far to change this lonely life …”

I have this sneaking suspicion that they’re versions of the same thing, love and reality, siblings of the same mother. Funny how love and reality so often harmonize. What we love is what is real for us. If one’s going well, usually the other is, too. They’re what I do to myself, for myself, as I do to and for others. And as they do to and for me. You who teach me, I keep learning from You what love is.)

Yearning is the first step that lets us know we need more — you hear something of that yearning as Lou sings — that we’re dying a little each day without it, that what yearn for is something we’ll recognize when we experience it. But we have a say in how we get there, and that effort will shape what we experience when we arrive. As we do, every day.

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Sovereignty and Time   Leave a comment

sovereigntySovereignty, Lady of an inner realm which flows ceaselessly into this one, you birth, nourish and sustain us. May my deeds serve not my own will alone, but your larger shaping for the good of all. In my words here, in my deeds, thoughts, feelings and dreams, let that light and song and fire illumine where it can, whom it may.

If conditions here no longer allow for the manifold inner purposes and directions to manifest outwardly, physical life may well withdraw from one world, moving to another. Yet in spite of the uncertainty and dark despair that may arise in our hearts from time to time, this lovely, difficult, damaged world is far from exhausting its spiritual purposes.

As a sacred laboratory for experiences for many beings, and for spirit to inhabit all lives, possibilities and forms to know itself again, the world unfolds still, rich with potential. Both established forms yet with us and new ones coming into being offer choice, beauty, misery, destruction and growth. From the small to the great, from the inner to the outer, from seed and leaf to flower and fruit, through decay and transformation and renewal, it has ever been so.

True it is, that all realms touch, intermingle and answer each other. Events here send their ripples and taproots elsewhere for good and bad, and a shift there brings about a corresponding change here. The walls of the world echo. The great wonder is not that we have no influence on life, but that our influence often exceeds our knowledge. Day to day is not always the place to look for vision, though what we see elsewhere in vision and dream returns us here to labor anew.

Because that’s what makes a uni-verse, a one-turning. We are part of the work and movement of a marvelous many-faceted whole. It’s a measure of our priorities and the fading of the ancient heritage we have received and often abandoned in our pursuit of other things that many of us no longer know this in our bones, that we have to re-learn it through often bitter experience before we can begin again to make use of it to shape something better. But our cells know better, and our dis-ease may yet call us back to here and now, our suffering may still wake us to rebellion and questioning and discovery, our losses may perhaps stir us to compassion rather than endless lament and blame and surrender.

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The seed of ritual, planted. The promise of spring, uttered. The shaping of hands to make each thing happen, foretold and prefigured at the birth of each woman and man into this world, from the great family ranged behind and all around us, that family of blood and friendship and teaching in the other worlds. Ancestors, hear us.

Slowly we apprehend what is essential and what is not, the long journey fashioned and felt and followed as we abide in multitudes of forms.

For us, the essential thing is that there is everywhere a conception of the end and the beginning of a temporal period, based on the observation of biocosmic rhythms and forming part of a larger system — the system of periodic purifications (cf. purges, fasting, confession of sins, etc.) and of periodic regeneration of life. This need for a periodic regeneration seems to us of considerable significance in itself. Yet the examples that we shall presently adduce will show us something even more important, namely, that a periodic regeneration of time presupposes, in more or less explicit form — and especially in the historical civilizations — a new Creation, that is, a repetition of the cosmogonic act. And this conception of a periodic creation, i.e., of the cyclical regeneration of time, poses the problem of the abolition of “history,” the problem which is our prime concern in this essay. — Mircea Eliade, Cosmos and History.

Lady, we gather in your grove, where your blessing yields all seasons at once. You abolish time in each moment, directing us forward and back, to ends and beginning, seed and leaf and fruit and fallow time. You regenerate us constantly, your dark and bright moons, this daily sun, stars overhead — who cannot see it?

Often, we cannot. Teach us again, three by three by three.

“The Goddess of Sovereignty gives three drinks from her cup, purveying the white milk of fostering, the red milk of lordship and the dark drink of forgetfulness. These she offers successively in her aspects as Foster-Mother, Consort and Renewer” — Caitlin and John Matthews, The Arthurian Tarot, pg. 43.

Clothed in rags, we walk the streets of the cities and wastelands, forests and plains and mountains of Time.

Although now long estranged,
Man is not lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not dethroned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned … — J. R. R. Tolkien, “Mythopoeia”.

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“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride,”
(some wishes are horses – watch out where they stride!)
but my words are wingéd – they fly to your side
to wish you a happy New Year ’17.
It’s not for myself that I say it – I mean
may you flourish and grow, whatever the weather:
as long as we’re in this, we’re in it together.

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Image: Sovereignty.

A Winter Passage   Leave a comment

art-tarOne of the meditations for this time of year between Yule and Imbolc that I’ve set for myself deploys Caitlin Matthews’ Arthurian Tarot, a tool I’ve mentioned before on this blog. You can find a chart of the dates and cards my meditation associates with them at the end of this post.

[As promised in the post before last, I’m also reporting with this post on how well my outer and inner worlds match up with the possibility of regenerating ancient tradition.]

Working through the Major Arcana in sequence from the beginning, and using The World/The Flowering of Logres as a pivot to return to The Fool/The Seeker, the Tarot serves as an energizing and revealing series of meditations for the exact number of days between the Winter Solstice and Imbolc/Brighid’s Day, if I observe it on February 1.

The Arthurian Tarot works well for this purpose, because such use places Arthur/The Emperor on December 25, and in at least some versions of the Arthurian Mythos, Arthur was born on Christmas — he’s the Christmas King.

Thus, The Seeker sets forth on the Solstice, the day of greatest darkness — fitting for the beginning of the Journey, when almost everything seems shrouded, unknown. Though the Seeker stands on a precipice, he is not daunted, whatever the New Year brings — and in Arthur’s Court, it brings Gawain at least a deadly challenge in the form of the Green Knight. In this meditation series with the Arthurian Tarot, the Knight arrives on January 5 — fitting, since it’s the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and the holy feast of Theophany in the Eastern Orthodox calendar, when the divine appears to men.

With these encouraging correspondences emerging as I filled in my calendar, I felt I had sufficient personal justification to continue and to explore what this meditation series might have to offer. If you’ve worked with synchronicity at all, you know how sometimes signs can line up almost too easily. “One thing becomes another” in the realms of the Goddess, and we can lose ourselves in too-easy correspondences and mystic convergences, forgetting our initial purpose as we indulge in excessive woo-woo*. Or at least I can. Take heed, says inner guidance.

sovereigntyContinuing the series, the New Year begins with Sovereignty — a reminder that whatever the situation in the apparent world, we have the gift of being able to gaze into the other world(s) as well, using our divinely-bestowed power of double vision, and see  where true power and authority lie, and acknowledge and revere the one(s) who wield(s) them.

The Wounded King immediately follows, with the Washer at the Ford and the Cauldron coming next — all three most potent symbols and archetypes.

Yesterday was Prydwen, the ship Arthur takes to raid the Otherworld and, in at least some traditions, win the Hallows of Britain, analogous to the Four Hallows of Ireland. As the Chariot, and a card laden with challenges in the past for me, Prydwen’s appearance told me I wasn’t up to tackle either the card or the meditation sequence. Bad food had left me achy in the joints, weak, and — most telling for me of toxins in my system — facing repetitive and panicked dreams and claustrophobia on waking. The Challenger stood armed and working in full force. Worth noting in my record of this day, even if I could not meet the call to close meditation and inner work the card indicated. Bed instead.

But I also know that, as is the way of spirals, I will face it again and again in the future, and my apparent “failure” yesterday is no loss at all. It has given me valuable insight, and helped me refocus energies that have previously been scattered. Now I can identify clearly a weakness that till then I had successfully managed to deny.

Another of the quests associated with Prydwen in the Arthurian deck is Arthur’s pursuit of the giant boar Twrch Trwyth, also associated with the Underworld and the Goddess, possessed of Otherworldly treasures between his ears, and — key to me — a form of my totemic animal, and sign of a way back to the lesson still available to me whenever I am ready to take it and my Boar dances his eagerness to accompany me.

Today, though, it’s Gawain. gawain

In some senses the figure of Arthur’s nephew, the “most courteous knight”, represents for me an unmerited balance, strength and harmony. After all, I did not “pass” yesterday’s challenges of Prydwen and earn these qualities.

But as we all make this journey many times, we catch glimpses of each aspect as we proceed, arming and equipping us for the next spiral along the way. In the timeless realms, “after” can prepare us for “before.” Or to put it another way, success can bleed backward in time, if we are able to accept the gift. A vision of what is to come, of the future, and of what we already are, can sustain us through apparent disaster and despair by manifesting here what already exists on the inner planes.

More to come.

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*woo-woo: again, a technical and precise term of art.

IMAGES: Arthurian TarotGawain.

The Meditation Calendar

Dec 21: Seeker at the Solstice
Dec 22: Merlin
Dec 23: Lady of the Lake
Dec 24: Guinevere
Dec 25: Arthur – the “Christmas King”
Dec 26: Taliesin
Dec 27: The White Hart
Dec 28: Prydwen
Dec 29: Gawain
Dec 30: Grail Hermit
Dec 31: Round Table

Jan 1: Sovereignty
Jan 2: Wounded King
Jan 3: Washer at the Ford
Jan 4: Cauldron
Jan 5: Green Knight
Jan 6: Spiral Tower
Jan 7: Star
Jan 8: Moon
Jan 9: Sun
Jan 10: Sleeping Lord
Jan 11: Flowering of Logres

(Reversal and Return)

Jan 12: Sleeping Lord
Jan 13: Sun
Jan 14: Moon
Jan 15: Star
Jan 16: Tower
Jan 17: Knight
Jan 18: Cauldron
Jan 19: Washer at the Ford
Jan 20: Wounded King
Jan 21: Sovereignty
Jan 22: Round Table
Jan 23: Grail Hermit
Jan 24: Gawain
Jan 25: Prydwen
Jan 26: White Hart
Jan 27: Taliesin
Jan 28: Arthur
Jan 29: Guinevere
Jan 30: Lady of the Lake
Jan 31: Merlin
Feb 1: The Seeker at Imbolc

Grove Divination   2 comments

Over the past several days I’ve assembled the results of three forms of divination into what may seem a hodgepodge of craft but which serves the purposes I’ve felt called to work with. More about them in a minute. When even our choice of the means of divination we’ll use is itself potentially a matter for divination, we can quickly get lost in a hall of mirrors and never get out and actually do something. Turtles all the way down.

We’ll continue to make mistakes anyway, even with the best of divinatory insights. There’s small advantage in refraining from acting simply because our guidance is incomplete. It’s incomplete at the best of times. That’s not a weakness but the definition of the proper field for human action. The gods don’t want, need, or make puppets, after all. (Not most of ’em, anyway. Those that do, flee as fast as you can.) Deprive us humans of initiative and will and vision, and neither human nor divine sovereignty means much.

The first divination I already mentioned in the previous post: the turtle in our yard, crawling north. Near midsummer, a reminder of the North, of earth, of manifestation, of the vessel for all this heat and light — the realm of form. After I completed my work of mowing for the day, I spotted a fellow being on its own journey. End of story? No. Whatever we do individually, we’re also companions on the way all creatures follow, alive here in time and space. All things are themselves and signs. We, too, endlessly offer our existences as tokens, pointers, guides to others. Meaning is what we do. Our presences always carry a specific weight and effect.

One thing imprinted itself clearly in my awareness, a laugh at self. I’ve been turtle-slow to acknowledge this inner tug, this call for a grove, and to work with it. The turtle, blood warmed in solstice heat, vigorously crawled some five meters without pausing. Even I am faster than you these days, human.

The turtle or tortoise is absent from the Celtic-inspired Druid Animal Oracle, but it’s a living symbol among native peoples of North America. Turtle Island. Many tribal stories recount how turtle does its thing, swimming to the bottom and resurfacing. A guide, an opener of possibility. In the efforts of many spirit beings to create land for plant and animal life to dwell on, turtle carries on its back the earth that muskrat or duck or some other bearer brings up from the bottom. Carry the earth to us, for us, under us. Turtle carrier, guide, creature yourself, alive in this place, complete in your own being and purposes.

We could work out a new divination system following the shell markings of the turtle. The idea certainly isn’t new with me — it exists in various forms already. Anciently the Chinese oracle bones derived from turtle shells. But even as new tarot versions and re-workings of the runes and ogham make their ways into our awareness, so too does the power of all things to serve a dual potential as themselves and as symbols. We’re always ourselves, but linked as we are, we’re also more. We live and we signify.

A second divination: obstacles, multiple reversed runes, blocked energy. Taking the three divinations I performed as past, present and future, this second divination certainly outlines an accurate picture of the present. After-the-fact interpretative retrofitting of a divination? Sure … why not? Or take it as 1) existing causes, 2) materials, circumstances, contributing influences, and 3) consequences, results, practices to assist coming manifestations. Either way.

IMG_1379

Entering my potential grove from the northwest, and facing east. What have I let grow to block my way?

I’ve worked most with the Arthurian Tarot, so it seemed prudent to turn to this for the third divination, because I seek insight into constructing a Druid grove.

sovereignty

Sovereignty

I enter my potential grove space from the northwest, improvising an invocation and pausing at each of the quarters and then the spirit center to lay face down a card I chose by touch and guidance from the deck. I circle a second time to each quarter and pick them up and view them. Here are my cards: North — the grail king; East — Arthur; South — the Spear Maiden; West — 2 of Spears; Spirit center — Taliesin.

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Blending my two paths, dedicating each direction respectively, starting with the North, to word, thought, deed and feeling, all in the circle and presence of Sovereignty, of Spirit, I take the following reading:

 

GrailKing

Grail King

The Grail King, associated with the West, guards hidden mysteries, approachable through imagination, dream, feeling. Yet he shows up in the north, and also paired with words. He offers guidance to negotiate the path if I am alert. If I abandon a stubborn fixity and pay fluid attention to the earth, to my body, to our shared physicality, then needed energies will come for manifestation. I can help myself by writing the way, by wording my passage as I go, by welcoming, shaping, and passing along my share in the voice of awen.

Arthur, from the major arcana, occupies the traditional fourth Emperor position. The Matthews’ handbook* notes, “The primary feature of Arthur’s role is guardianship and defence of the land … His creative energy is fuelled by close Otherworld contact through the mediation of Sovereignty” (Matthews, pp. 29-30).

arthurIn the realm of thought, Air and the East, he offers a gift of dynamic strength, along with a clear reminder of where strength derives. The Matthews further observe, “Whenever he attempts to depart from his kingly responsibilities … or live a life of his own, he comes to grief” (p. 30). Once we walk a certain distance along the path, we can no longer validly make a permanent retreat from human life, much as a hermit-like withdrawal still appeals to me — has, for much of this lifetime.

The Spear Maiden, signifier for the South, “shows the way through impossible situations by her daring, often by disguise or by shape-shifting” (Matthews, pg. 78). Again, I need not insist on a particular form, but allow it to remain supple, fluid. And take boldness for my approach, not this listless, hesitant, intermittently indulgent and slothlike state that’s dogged me for over a year. Boldness fuelled by Otherworld/Innerworld contact. The work of the OBOD Ovate grade, which I entered formally at the equinox last fall with initiation, but haven’t really yet engaged.

Spears again for the West, this time the 2 of Spears. A theme’s emerging. Matthews’ text says, “The skilled organization of resources leads to the achievement of desire; intuitive synthesis; dynamic drive” (Matthews, pg. 74). South in the West: intuition, yes, but propelled by the fires of the South.

Sovereignty

2nd image of Sovereignty as a major arcanum

Finally, the Spirit-center, under Sovereignty. A fitting place for Taliesin to appear, chief of Bards, initiatory model for Druids. He represents transformation “of the mundane into the spiritual,” a worthy goal for the making and purpose of a Druid’s grove. He is ready to aid the seeker in contacting “the living wisdom of the Otherworld … [B]y prophecy and far memory, he can instruct and guide … well able to represent images to the receptive mind and forge connections in the waiting heart” (Matthews, pg. 32).

 

 

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Images: Sovereignty; Grail King; Arthur; 2nd image of Sovereignty; Taliesin.

Matthews, John and Caitlin. The Arthurian Tarot: A Hallowquest Handbook. London: Thorsons, 1995.

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