Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Into the Heart of the Feminine April 28, 2015

Medusa-Caravaggio_(Uffizi)There is a thinking in primordial images, in symbols which are older than the historical man, which are inborn in him from the earliest times, eternally living, outlasting all generations, still making up the groundwork of the human psyche. It is only possible to live the fullest life when we are in harmony with these symbols; wisdom is a return to them.
– Carl Jung

This blog is based on my passion for self-knowledge and understanding the two great archetypal foundations of life: the feminine and masculine principles. My research, writing and inner work have shed a great deal of light on these mysteries. They’ve also shown me how much I don’t know. Luckily, I have many opportunities to learn.  One recently appeared in the form of a book I was asked to review. I’m delighted to share its deep wisdom about the feminine principle with you.

Into the Heart of the Feminine: An Archetypal Journey to Renew Strength, Love, and Creativity, is co-authored by Jungian analysts Massimilla and Bud Harris. In this outstanding and groundbreaking book, the Harrises use the myth of the Greek Gorgon Medusa to demonstrate the timeless reality of a profoundly destructive complex of images, symbols and themes known as the Death Mother.

Myths are born whenever a culture evolves into a new stage of psychological awareness. Exploring them provides healing and understanding of these developments that are trying to become conscious. Medusa’s myth emerged in Greece during a time when patriarchal gods were trying to assimilate and control the transformative aspects of the feminine principle. The Harrises have uncovered traces of this myth countless times in themselves and their clients.

Medusa was a ravishingly beautiful maiden raped by the god Poseidon in Athena‘s temple. The angry goddess transformed Medusa’s beautiful hair to serpents and made her face so terrible that the mere sight of it would turn onlookers to stone. This is a perfect symbol for the devastating psychological impact of patriarchy’s wounding and devaluing of the feminine archetype.

To quote the Harrises, the Death Mother “paralyzes our initiative, spirit, creativity, and vitality.” Her negativity “affects our culture in general, mothering in particular, and our ability to like, nourish, and take loving care of ourselves.” Unfortunately, it also cripples our ability to meet the emotional needs of our children. Thus do many of us, women and men alike, grow up feeling so unloved, unlovable, depressed, and deeply disappointed in life that we pass on the same curse to them. What’s more, “When the feminine principle is repressed into our unconscious, it becomes part of our collective shadow, and this shadow projects itself as a longing, or even a demand, for power.” Many of us experience the negative consequences of that particular beast every day.

UnknownWith Medusa’s story as guide, the Harrises demonstrate that to bring the feminine into our world, we must begin in a personal way. Only by taking the time to reconnect with the wholeness of who we are—and dreamwork is a primary way—can we learn to value the feminine and have it become reborn within us. This point is illustrated throughout the book in stories about clients who have experienced healing by following the map for the journey outlined in Medusa’s myth.

This requires us to recognize our denial and face our fear of inadequacy, shame, rejection, and belittlement along with the underlying rage, grief and woundedness that give rise to these debilitating fears. With reflection we accept “the reality that we have been damaged by some of the primary attitudes and values in our culture.” This realization strengthens us to confront our personal Death Mother.  In the final phase of healing we learn to pay attention to our lives so that we can celebrate the transformation taking place by living a fuller, richer life.

I love this book.  You’d get a good idea how much if you could see the underlines and comments on practically every page. One of my favorite things about it, apart from the many “Ahas” I acquired about my own Death Mother complex, is the Harrises’ clear grasp of our current cultural mentality. We’ve become so rational, verbal and literal that we’ve forgotten how symbols and images carry a deeper reality than words.  We’ve lost the art of thinking symbolically. And as the authors say, “To lose this art is to lose the kind of grounding that enables us to experience the beautiful depths of love and the Divine presence that is potentially within our capacities.”

What greater loss could there be than that?

You can see Massimilla Harris speaking about the Death Mother at this link:   

Image Credits:  Medusa, Caravaggio.  Wikimedia Commons.  Cover Design of Into the Heart of the Feminine: Courtney Tiberio.  Cover Photo:  Anthony Cave

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

New Dreams About My Animus: Part II April 21, 2015

Wonder-129-School-Bus-Static-ImageIn last week’s post I shared two animus dreams from four years ago featuring helpful men. One made me feel loved, protected and deeply secure. The other was my partner in a creative, spontaneous dance performance that was fun, but unfinished. Hooray, I thought then. My animus and I are finally getting our act together!  Surely it won’t be long before I feel some closure on our relationship.

Four years later this relationship is still far from predictable, let alone finished, as the following dreams from a week ago illustrate.

#4630.  “I Want to Stop Driving the Bus.” I’m driving a yellow school bus down the road near my house when the light turns red.  I struggle to stop before hitting the black car in front of me. The bus finally stops inches away from the car. Why am I driving this bus? Stopping it is hard. Where am I going? Why isn’t Fred here to help me? I decide to abandon it in the parking lot of a nearby grocery store and walk home.

#4631.  “My Beautiful Green Shoes Need Work. I’m trying on a pair of green beaded shoes I haven’t worn in years. They resemble the low-heeled Capezios professional dancers wear. They’re very comfortable but the heads of four nails are sticking out from the bottoms of the heels, moreso on the right [masculine] heel than the left [feminine]. They feel sturdy enough to walk on, but they need work before I can trust my footing to be secure. I hope Fred will help me hammer in the nails.

These dreams made me uncomfortable. How did they relate to my waking life?  What was I doing four years ago that had me feeling so good about my animus?  What’s different now? Why isn’t he, (this time in the form of my husband who always has my back in waking life), there for me when my dream ego needs him?

UnknownI had no satisfying answers until a synchronistic occurrence this morning. Having just read last week’s post, Katalina commented:  “What an interesting evolution! What else is shifting / changing that might require the re-consideration of the relationship? In what areas of life is there a faint mistrust?…Funny that there is an audience – I have been thinking of you so much in the context of audience lately. That IASD conference coming up…[and her desire to attend my Friday night keynote lecture]…the theme of presenting to an audience – U wonder if you don’t trust him to be there for you when on stage?”

BINGO!  That’s it! Last week I was convinced there was a link between my older animus dreams and the two most recent ones, and dear Katalina intuited what it was!  My Writer/Teacher animus helps me manifest my thoughts in clear, organized, logical thinking. Four years ago this month he and I were working closely together to finalize my newest book for publication. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have his help and I often took a few moments off to thank him. Likewise, for the past few months I’ve been driving hard, preparing to address an audience of dreamers who want to learn what I know, and he’s been invaluable in helping me write my speech and create my powerpoint presentation.

Now that we’re finished with this phase of the journey, my animus has stepped out of the picture and my old nemesis, Self-Doubt, is using his absence to undermine me. I’m ready to get off the bus. I don’t want to “drive” this project to completion without my animus. Will we take up our graceful dance on the stage at the conference? Will I be wearing my repaired dancing shoes? Will he help me voice my standpoint to this live audience as well as he does in my writing?

The journey to self-knowledge and self-empowerment takes a lifetime. At this particular juncture I think I’ve been taking the masculine half of my soul for granted and he might be feeling a bit neglected. Now that I realize how much I need his help, I plan to lure him back with some long overdue inner work: a few active imagination dialogues and maybe a ritual or two! Like most men, he turns into a real softie with some tender, loving attention!

Image Credits:  Google Images

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

New Dreams About My Animus April 14, 2015

I’ve just had a pretty mind-blowing synchronicity I need to tell you about!  As I write these words, it’s early Monday evening, April 13, 2015.  This afternoon we returned from the beach having spent the weekend with two couples who traveled several hundred miles to attend an annual fund-raising event for the Atlantic Center for the Arts. They’ve left now, so I’m at my computer preparing tomorrow’s post.

A few moments ago I remembered a note I put on my calendar several months back.  It says:  “Repost the post from April 30, 2011, ‘Dreams of the Animus,’ this April.” Thinking that was a good idea since I didn’t have a day ahead of me to write a new one, I copied the older post below.

Reading the first paragraph reminded me about the two dreams I had last night. Afraid I’d forget them, I stopped to record and work on them first.  That finished, I returned here to read the rest of the 4-year old post and schedule it for publication tomorrow.

I’m still stunned by what I read. Because last night’s dreams are a disturbing update on my dreams from this time 4 years ago! To understand why this synchronicity is especially uncomfortable, you need to read the older dreams first.

DREAMS OF THE ANIMUS:  A Re-Post from April 30, 2011.

Last weekend was special. I was born two days before Easter on Good Friday; but since Easter’s date is always changing, this year my birthday was the day before. April is glorious in Florida, so part of the specialness was getting to spend both holidays with my family in one long weekend at the beach. Another thing making it special was the dreams I had there. Of the two I recall, both featured my masculine side, or animus. Since one of my goals for this blog is to make Jungian psychology as relevant and helpful to others as it has been to me, I’d like to share these dreams in the hope of raising your awareness of your own inner resources.

Dream #4319: Passing Through a Threshold With My Animus. I’m entering an open doorway. A dear male friend (no one I know in waking life) is immediately behind me. His arms are wrapped around me, holding me gently. Our movements are so synchronized and easy that I can’t tell if he’s guiding or following me. Either way, it feels wonderful to be so close.

I awoke from this dream on my birthday. It was my first gift of the day. It said I am not alone as I move forward in my journey. Yes, I know I’m profoundly blessed to have a loving family, but the truth is, not one of them will ever feel my passions and emotions, understand my conflicts and yearnings, or experience my awakenings. It is my job to know and grow myself, not theirs. They have their own souls to make.

That’s okay, says this dream. Because my animus has always been with me he knows me completely; and because I have honored and empowered him, he will support me at the crossing of every threshold, even the one that opens to death. The comforting feeling of knowing my back is covered by this loving inner reality lingered all day.

Dream #4320: Dancing With My Animus. I’m on a small stage in an intimate room that feels like a chapel. I’m the female lead in a play; an attractive man is the male lead. We’re both feeling unsure of ourselves as we demonstrate a phase of a developing relationship in which neither partner completely trusts each other or their own feelings. We dance around the stage then he bends me over backwards and leans over me. We hold this pose and wait for the audience’s response so we’ll know what to do next. This play is an improvisation requiring spontaneous interaction and cooperation between the players as well as between the players and audience.

My birthday dream depicts one reward of accepting my masculine side. My Easter dream says this work is not over. The presence of an audience suggests that my other inner characters are interested in my soul-making drama. It could also refer to an outer audience which is watching and helping. Both interpretations feel right to me.

My ego’s passion is to know and relate to my whole Self; my animus’s passion is to help me manifest what I know in writing. The dream says we’re both still feeling our way in this partnership. The religious setting means our work together is sacred and archetypal. And the presence of an audience tells me the purpose of the dance between everyone’s masculine and feminine sides is twofold: to unite the opposites in our own souls, and to help all humanity birth this Sacred Marriage in the world.

Next week: So Is My Animus Doing His Job?

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

An Easter Visitation From Serpent Mother April 7, 2015

A blood moon rising over Lake Virginia.

A blood moon rising over Lake Virginia

What an exquisite time of year it is in Orlando. Easter weekend was especially lovely. Saturday night we went to the home of good friends, where, in the most gorgeous weather imaginable, we celebrated her 60th birthday with dinner in the backyard while watching the glorious rise of the astonishing red-orange “blood moon” over Lake Virginia. Afterwards, with the doors open to the cool breezes, we danced barefooted in the living room to his exquisite play list of the best dance music ever!! It was like The Big Chill—one of my favorite movies ever—all over again, except this time the music wasn’t Motown, it was “O” town!

Sunday was equally balmy and breezy.  So between the traditional indoor Easter Egg hunt for our grandchildren (we’re still missing a purple egg containing a $5.00 bill; maybe they’ll find it next year), and our version of Easter dinner (featuring Grandma Raffa’s Italian spaghetti and meatballs), we relaxed on the deck.

Our house is on a small secluded island on the edge of a large lake.  Most of the island lies within in the city limits of our suburb, but our end of the road is governed by the county.  So the neighbors across the street, whose home straddles the dividing line, have chickens on the county side of their backyard.  On our side of the street, a canal edged with a cypress swamp runs behind the few houses and merges with the lake at either end. Our tiny enclave is so isolated by the water and trees that it’s easy to forget we’re surrounded by large neighborhoods near the big city.

It’s paradise to the critters with whom we share this space. Nearly every day I see pairs of wood ducks flying in to make a splash landing near their nests.  Or hear a kingfisher screeching as he races through the treeless air space over the canal like a noisy space ship trying to shake off an enemy from Star Wars. Or listen to the piercing whistles of the ospreys who surf the air currents over the swamp and lake searching for fish.  We have 8-hooter owls, great blue herons, green herons, wood storks, coots, anhingas and bitterns. Ginormous turtles have been known to lay their eggs in our backyard, raccoons try to dig them up, bass swim in the canal, and alligators rule.

So I wasn’t very surprised Easter afternoon when I heard a shout from the big kids who were playing volleyball in the side yard.  “Snake! Snake!” As we rushed over Alex was hopping through the grass like a dancer over hot coals. Sure enough, passing beneath the center of the volleyball net, a 6-foot long snake was making a slithery bee-line for the canal.

My son-in-law recognized it right away and told us it was a non-poisonous rat or corn snake.  We watched, mesmerized, as she slid over the sea wall, slipped into the water, sashayed swiftly across the canal and disappeared in the undergrowth.

Serpent Mother

Serpent Mother

Judging by the direction from which she had come, my guess is she was returning from a visit to the henhouse across the street. Do they like eggs? I asked him.  Oh yes. Aha! So Serpent Mother likes to celebrate Spring with Easter egg hunts too!

Why do I call this serpent “her?” Can I tell the gender of a snake at a glance?  No, I’m not speaking literally. Everything has symbolic meaning that reflects the inner life of spirit and psyche, and snakes are especially rich with associations.  Aside from being a common dream symbol of transcendence, life-giving energy, healing, and the Sacred Self, the snake has always and everywhere been associated with the archetypal feminine and the ancient goddesses who represented the Great Mother of all life.

The moon is likewise associated with the cool light of the feminine, as compared to the masculine sun.  And a full moon, pregnant with life-giving blood, rising over Lake Virginia on Easter eve, a day when my psychologically aware and spiritually mature friend celebrated her 60th birthday, has very special meaning for me.

Plus, the element of water is the feminine counterpart to masculine fire. The name Virginia (from the OFr. virgine, and Lat. virgo), means virgin, a chaste maiden or unmarried woman who has taken religious vows of chastity. And Serpent Mother’s synchronistic visitation on Easter Sunday reminds me of the virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, a Spirit Person who transcended the physical limitations of earthly life, thus symbolizing our hope for new spiritual life.

I hope your Easter was blessed with reverence for the Mystery of new life, and I wish you an especially meaningful Spring.

Corn snake image credit:  Wikipedia

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

The Benefits of Being with Nice People Who Do Nice Things March 31, 2015

IMG_5366There was a story in this morning’s Orlando Sentinel about the new book, “Beneath the Surface,” by John Hargrove. He’s a former senior trainer at SeaWorld’s parks who was interviewed for the documentary “Blackfish” after quitting his job in 2012. Apparently his book is opening old wounds in Orlando. People here remember Dawn Brancheau, a trainer who was battered and drowned by a bored, stressed-out orca in 2010. Many feel a deep sadness over this incident; some are still outraged.

My trainer and I talked about it this morning. I told him I’d gone to an Alan Jackson concert at SeaWorld Sunday afternoon at the invitation of dear friends.  He won’t go to SeaWorld any more and gives everyone who does a hard time. He can’t see why anyone would want to go to a place that holds these magnificent intelligent animals captive for the purpose of making money off them.  He doesn’t think their educational programs are justification for it.

I told him about a brilliant but deeply disturbing book I read years ago titled “The Sparrow” by Mary Doria Russell.  This fascinating mix of science fiction and theology highlights the moral dilemma of being a conscious animal that eats and hunts and experiments on other animals.  He says he’s okay with eating a chicken or cow and lower vertebrates because of their less well-developed brains and neural pathways.

We agreed it’s easier to eat an animal you didn’t kill.  I told him my grandpa used to chop the head off an occasional chicken, then Grandma would pluck and dismember it in preparation for Sunday dinner.  I saw one running around without its head once. I ate it the next day and liked it.  We decided kids who grow up on farms get used to this sort of thing. That seems a shame, somehow.

I said I read an article about how some scientists now believe everything has some form of consciousness, even plants.  Even rocks.  It seems we’re actually surrounded by, and part of a “sea” of consciousness. The cells of our bodies even have consciousness.

He said if that’s true, then if we didn’t eat anything that had consciousness we’d all starve to death.  He has a point. He likes the way Star Trek solved that problem.  People had learned to make food that was full of nutrients and tasted like anything you wanted, but it didn’t contain animal products.  Won’t somebody please invent that?  Quick?Meanwhile, I guess we just have to decide which forms of consciousness we’re willing to eat and which we’re not, then find a way to come to terms with it. Otherwise, we’ll all either starve or go mad with existential angst.

Sometimes, living in this world is hard.  Sometimes very hard!  Yet, I’m feeling mellow on this beautiful spring day. I think it’s a holdover from Sunday’s visit to SeaWorld with Sam and Eleanor.  When we got there, Sam took me to where people were learning to line dance and whispered something to the man calling out the steps. He came over, pulled me into the group of dancers, and stayed with me ’til I got it.  It was fun.

Eleanor without her Bubbalou's T shirt

Eleanor without her Bubbalou’s T shirt

After that, a woman asked me where I’d gotten the cool black “Bubbalou’s Bodacious Bar-B-Que” T-shirt with the pink dancing pigs on it. I told her Sam gave it to me. He owns Bubbalou’s, one of the caterers for the “Bands, Brew, and BBQ” weekend events SeaWorld sponsored throughout March. She wanted to buy one, but they weren’t selling them. I introduced her to Eleanor. She told Eleanor she’s a helicopter pilot from Alaska. She attends this event every year. It’s the only time she gets to enjoy country music because her family doesn’t like it. Eleanor took off her T-shirt and gave it to her. Sam gave her a ticket for a free Bar-B-Que dinner after the concert.

Sam had reserved front row seats at the concert.  Alan Jackson was wonderful. Afterwards, the bass guitar player gave me a free Alan Jackson guitar pick. It says “YEE HAW” on one side and there’s a silhouette of A.J. on the other. I plan to try it out on my ukulele.

I still eat chickens and fish and occasionally cows. I usually feel guilty about it. I don’t hunt or fish;  partly on principle, partly because I don’t like to shoot guns or put worms on hooks. I feel sorry for them. The worms and the fish. I ate Bar-B-Que by the lake after the concert. I had the rest for lunch today. It was delicious.

My trainer and friends are good people. They remind me of the wellspring of caring and kindness at the core of every psyche. I’ve been thinking about the Buddhist goal of “Joyful participation in the sorrows of the world.”  It helps some.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Terry Pratchett on Life, Death and the Hero’s Journey March 16, 2015

Our neighbor's tabebuia tree

Our neighbor’s tabebuia tree

As I write this, it’s March 16, one day after the Ides of March.  This time of year has long been celebrated by religious observances honoring the delicate tension between Life and Death.  Poised at the end of Winter, March 15 still lies in the margins of Death. Yet, just a few days from now, Spring will arrive with its promise of rebirth and new Life.

Perhaps an intuitive awareness of the thin boundary between Life and Death is why this pair of opposites is on my mind today.  It started this morning when I took Izzie, my granddog, for a walk and was dazzled by Nature’s celebration of extravagant new colors and scents.  Then, when I returned to my computer and saw notification of someone’s retweet of a quote I posted on twitter last Thursday, I was reminded of Death.

“There are times in life when people must know when not to let go. Balloons are designed to teach small children this.” ~Terry Pratchett

Blossoms on our lemon tree

Blossoms on our lemon tree

Sir Terry Pratchett, a writer who sold over 85 million books around the world, finally “let go” last Thursday, March 12, 2015.  Despite his diagnosis of a rare form of Alzheimer’s eight years ago, he continued to write. According to one article, last summer he completed his 41st novel in the Discworld series in which he collaborated with friend and fellow author, Neil Gaiman.

The article continues, “Just hours after he died, Death, known for his signature habit of ALWAYS SPEAKING IN CAPITALS in Pratchett’s novels, appeared on his twitter account with this news: “AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.”

“Death…is one of the most popular and prominent characters of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. He appears in 38 out of the 40 Discworld books published so far. In five of them, Death is a leading character.”

Yes, he was fascinated with Death, but if anyone loved and celebrated Life too, this man did.

Azaleas

Azaleas

“It is often said that before you die your life passes before your eyes. It is in fact true. It’s called living.”

“So much universe, and so little time.”

Perhaps in reference to his early love for science fiction and his passion for creating comical fantasies with bizarre characters and other-worldly settings, he wrote:

“It’s useful to go out of this world and see it from the perspective of another one.”

An astute observer of human nature, a natural philosopher who asked the Big questions about Life and Death, and a moralist, Pratchett’s most endearing stylistic signature was his cheeky, yet vulnerable, irreverence:

“It’s not worth doing something unless you were doing something that someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren’t doing.”

“Human beings make life so interesting. Do you know, that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to invent boredom.”

“Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things.”~I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett

“‘And what would humans be without love?’ RARE, said Death.” ~Sourcery, Terry Pratchett

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Finally, Terry Pratchett was a terrific story-teller. Everyone likes a good story, but not all of us like the same kind of good story. For example, I know several inveterate book lovers who have no interest in mythology or some of the newer genres like science fiction and modern fantasy. I get the feeling some of them consider these to be cruder or more frivolous forms of writing than classics or “serious” contemporary writing. Being an avid fan of all three genres as well as many of the classics, I’ve often wondered why.

I think the answer lies in the parallel passions of readers and the authors whose books they adore. The great stories of mythology, for instance, generally have the most appeal for seekers oriented to philosophy, religion, and spirituality.

The same people also tend to love the works of writers like Dante’ (The Divine Comedy), Hermann Hesse (Steppenwolf and Siddhartha), Henry Miller (Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn),  and Kate Chopin (The Awakening), as well as more contemporary writers like Madeleine L’Engle (A Wrinkle in Time and A Swiftly Tilting Planet), John Fowles (The French Lieutenant’s Woman and The Magus), and Ursula Le Guin (The Left Hand of Darkness and the Dispossessed).

What these books, Terry Pratchett’s books, and the people who love them have in common is that their stories were written by, and filled with, the wisdom of an individual who, having faced the terrors of Death, travels through Life in search of meaning, authenticity, self-knowledge and spiritual awakening on what Joseph Campbell called The Hero’s Journey.

Rest In Peace, Terry Pratchett. It is fitting that you left us during this season of transition from Death to new Life. The new world being born will be a bit kinder and wiser because you were in it.

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Image credits.  Small Gods/ThinkStock, and The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents/ThinkStock.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

 
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