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Title: Roma.."Gypsy" Ways
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Autumn_Heather
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(Date Posted:01/08/2009 06:41 AM)
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THE RELIGION AND
CULTURE OF THE ROMA

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ROMA ARE ALSO KNOWN AS GYPSIES,
ROM, RROMA, and ROMANI

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History of the Roma:

The Roma people originally lived in north west India, and migrated to Persia from 224 to 642 CE. They lived under Arab rule in the Middle East from 642 to 900 CE, and eventually arrived in Constantinople.  Some authorities believe that there may have been additional migrations at a later date. By the 14th and 15th centuries, they had drifted into western Europe. Some emigrated from Europe to the US and Canada in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Following World War II, and lately the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, there has been an additional westward migration.

Most Roma settle down in a single location. Only about 5% of European Romanies are believed to be nomads.

There are three language groups within the Roma:

bullet the Domari in the Middle East and Eastern Europe,
bullet the Lomarvren in Central Europe,
bullet the Romani of Western Europe.

Within these groups, the Roma are organized into 4 main and about 10 smaller tribes or nations.

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Names of the Romani people:

Many names have been used to refer to the Romani people, including: Cigano, Gypsies, Gipsies, Rom, Roma, Romani, Tsigani, Tzigane, Zigeuner, and others. Most Roma identify themselves either by their tribal name or by one of the names beginning with the prefix "Rom". Frequently, a prefix with a double "R" is used, as in "Rrom". "...the Council of Europe has approved the use of "Rroma (Gypsies)" in its official documents (CLRAE Recommendation 11 - June 1995)"  Because of centuries of hatred, the name "Gypsy" has become a "derogatory, pejorative and offensive" name. It was invented by Europeans, who incorrectly believed that the Roma had their origin in Egypt.

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Persecution of the Roma:

They have suffered severe persecution throughout their history, particularly in Europe:

bullet Rumors were spread in medieval times that the Roma were descended from a sexual encounter between a Roma woman and Satan. Christians believed that a conspiracy of blacksmiths, wizards and women had been organized to attack the Church. Since many Roma were blacksmiths, the conspiracy theory expanded to involve the Romani. Another belief was that Roma forged the nails used in Christ's crucifixion. The Roma countered with the rumor that a Roma attempted to steal the nails so that Christ could not be crucified, but was only able to grab one.
bullet The Christian genocide against Witches during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance was also directed against the Roma. The courts seized and imprisoned them in Witches' prisons, often without even bothering to record their names.
bullet The Diet of Augsburg ruled that Christians could legally kill Roma. Meanwhile, the courts were closed to the Roma who were injured by Christians
bullet In 1721, Emperor Karl VI of what is now Germany ordered total genocide of the Roma. "Gypsy Hunts" were organized to track down and exterminate them.
bullet Roma were rounded up and imprisoned in Spain during 1749. They were considered a danger to society. A pardon was granted in 1763, and the Roma were released in 1765.
bullet In 1792, 45 Roma were tortured and executed for the murder of some Hungarians, who were in fact alive and observed the executions.
bullet It is believed that as much as half of the Roma in Europe were enslaved, from the 14th century until Romani slavery was abolished in the mid-19th century.
bullet During the 1920's, during the Weimar Republic, the Roma were seriously oppressed. They were forbidden to use parks or public baths. Roma were all registered with the police. Many were sent to work camps "for reasons of public security." When the Nazis took power, the Roma were further persecuted under the "Nuremberg Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor" In 1937, Heinrich Himmler issued a decree "The Struggle Against the Gypsy Plague," which increased police monitoring of the Roma.
bullet During the Nazi Holocaust, they were declared to be "subhumans". In 1941-JUL, the Einsatzkommandos were instructed to "kill all Jews, Gypsies and mental patients." A few months later, Himmler ordered that all Roma be deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau for extermination. Sybil Milton, a former Senior Historian of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum estimates that 500,000 Roma and Sinti persons were exterminated. This number is supported by the Romas and Sinti Center in Heidelberg.
bullet There are about 5,000 Roma survivors of the Nazi concentration camps. They did not share in the hundreds of millions of dollars given to other survivors.
bullet The hatred and physical attacks directed at the Roma within the formerly Communist governments of eastern Europe have intensified in recent years. They are heavily discriminated against in matters of education, employment, health care, and social services. They are a prime target of neo-Nazis and skinheads. Often the governments have done little to guarantee them basic human rights.
bullet The situation in Bulgaria in recent years is probably typical of the fate of the Roma in eastern Europe. During the Communist era, Roma culture was suppressed by the government. Their Newspapers and clubs were closed; their language was outlawed.  The situation has worsened since the overthrow of Communism. The unemployment rate amongst the Roma is many times the national average. A poll of ethnic Bulgarian adults shows that discrimination and bigotry is widespread: 91% believe that the Roma are predisposed to criminal behavior; 83 that the are "lazy and irresponsible." 59% would not live in the same locale as the Roma; 94% said they would not marry a Roma; 69% would not have a Roma as a friend. The latter two numbers have increased by 5 percentage points since 1992.
bullet The situation is similar in Romania.
bullet The situation in Serbia is particularly critical. During the 1990's, Serbian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Muslim religious groups fueled racial and religious hatred as a means of promoting their own status. The Gypsies have no affinity with any of the political-religious groups. They were attacked by all. Since mid-1997, neo-Nazi skinhead street gangs have been active in the cities. Random beatings and killing of Roma men, women and children have become common. Dragan Stankovic, head of the Roma community in Belgrade said:

"The discrimination begins as soon as our children enter school. Gypsy kids are made to sit in the back rows or sent to special-education classes. Many are tossed out of school. They are frequently ostracized and insulted by other children and teachers. Our young people cannot find jobs and our complaints to the police are ignored. We have always lived as second-class citizens, but we are not willing now to die because we are second-class citizens."

bullet The Roma in Kosovo may be the most oppressed of all. They appear to be hated by both the Albanian/Muslim majority and the Serbian/Christian minority. A series of articles about the Roma in Kosovo has been published by an anti-cult site. This web site claims that the Roma totaled at least 10% of the population of Kosovo. Yet they have been essentially invisible and have not been included in population figures.
bullet The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe describe the Roma as "the poorest, least healthy, least educated and most discriminated sector of...society."
bullet In 1997-MAY, President Clinton decided to not reappoint a Roma representative to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council. In effect, the many hundreds of thousands of Roma exterminated during the Holocaust have been killed twice: once by the Nazis using poison gas; and a second time by subsequent generations in the West, who have allowed the memory of the victims to fade into oblivion.

There are believed to be about 12 million Roma scattered throughout the world. It is impossible to estimate the total population with accuracy since many governments do not record Roma in their census figures. Also, many Roma conceal their ethnic origin out of fear of discrimination.

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Beliefs and Practices of the Roma

Many centuries in the past, the Roma were some of the last Goddess-worshipers in Europe. Their Goddess, Kali, was viewed as a trinity. Her symbol was a triangle. A male Horned God also played a prominent role. The similarities between ancient Roma belief and that of Wicca are obvious. These beliefs have long been abandoned.

There is today no single Roma culture. Nor is there general agreement on who should qualify to be called a Roma. Romani groups around the world hold different traditions, customs and beliefs. Groups that have settled in one location generally adsorb some of the gajikané (non-Roma) local culture. Most Roma have converted the religions of their host countries, typically Christianity (Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Protestantism), and Islam. Their formal religious affiliation is often supplemented by Roma traditional beliefs:

bullet the existence of Del (God)
bullet the existence of beng (Satan)
bullet the existence of bibaxt (bad luck) and of muló (supernatural spirits or ghosts).
bullet the power of good luck charms, amulets and talismans
bullet the power of curses
bullet the power of healing rituals
bullet Marimé is a state of impurity brought on a person by the violation of a purity taboo. It also means a "sentence of expulsion imposed for violation of purity rules or any behavior disruptive to the Roma community." Some Roma consider the part of a woman's body below the waist to be dirty or polluted, because it is associated with menstruation. In many tribes, women wear long skirts, the bottoms of which must not touch a man other than her husband.
bullet A pregnant woman is considered unclean. She must not give birth in the family home because it would then become impure. Sometimes knots are ritually untied as the birth approaches. This is believed to assure that the umbilical cord will not be tangled. After birth, anything that the new mother touches is later destroyed. This quarantine continues at least until the baptism of the baby.
bullet Newborns are baptized, usually in running water, when they are a few weeks old. Often, the infant is massaged with oil; this is believed to make it strong.
bullet A Roma typically has three names. The first is known only by the mother; it is given at the time of birth. Its purpose is to confuse evil spirits by keeping the real name of the child from them. The second name is conferred at the time of baptism, and is the commonly used name within the tribe. A third, different name may be given when the child is re-baptized in a Christian church. It has little importance, except when dealing with non-Roma.
bullet In the past, people were typically married between the ages of 9 to 14. This tradition has changed in many tribes due to the influence of the surrounding culture. Pre-marital sex is strongly forbidden. Marriages to outsiders are heavily discouraged. The wedding ceremony is usually simple. In some tribes, the bride and groom join hands in front of the chief or an elder and promise to be true to each other. In ancient times, they used be married by jumping over a broomstick in the presence of their families.
bullet When a person dies, relatives and friends gather around and ask for forgiveness for any bad deeds that they have done to that person. They are concerned that if such grievances are not settled, then the dead person might come back as an evil spirit and cause trouble. In the past, the widow might commit suicide when her husband died so that she could accompany him during the afterlife. Sometimes, the deceased's nostrils are plugged with wax so that evil spirits cannot enter and occupy the body. Clothing, tools, eating utensils, jewelry, and money may be placed in the coffin in order to help the deceased in the next world. The deceased's possessions are burned, broken or sold to non-Roma.
bullet They believe that a person can be reincarnated as another human or animal. Alternately, they might appear as a muló or "living dead", seeking revenge on anyone who harmed him during his life on earth.
bullet Many Roma rules of behavior relate to the use of water. They normally wash in running water, as in a shower. Baths are not used. Women's and men's clothes are washed separately, because of the impurities of a woman's body. Clothes of a pregnant or menstruating woman are washed furthest downstream from the camp, to avoid contamination.
bullet Women must not expose their legs. They wear long, multi-colored skirts.
bullet Out of respect for the importance of the horse in assuring Roma mobility, the eating of horse meat is prohibited in some tribes.
bullet Many Roma women, called drabardi practice fortune telling. But fortunes are only read for non-Romas.
bullet Other women are drabarni or drabengi and practice natural healing techniques.

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The Roma today -- some positive signs:

"On January 8, 1998, New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman signed into law Assembly Bill 2654, repealing that state's anti-Roma law adopted in 1917. Governor Whitman's signature effectively repealed the last anti-Roma law on the books" of any U.S. state.

A movement to adopt Christianity within the Roma of the U.S. and Canada started in the late 1970s. It replaced almost all of the original Roma beliefs and rituals. A Roma/Christian church opened up in Los Angeles CA in 1997. Since then more than 50 have been established; there is at least one in every major city in the U.S. As of 2000-MAY, 10 congregations have web sites.

The Western Canadian Romani Alliance held a symposium in Vancouver in 1998-MAY. Ronald Lee reported: "It is significant, that the Romani people who left India almost one thousand years ago have finally come as far west as they can in their westward migration. The Pacific Ocean in western Canada is the limit. It is also significant that Saint Sara, originally the Indian Goddess Kali/Durga/Sara worshipped by the ancestors of the Roma in India, has finally been brought to Canada and immersed in the Pacific Ocean by Roma who have fled the persecution in Eastern Europe to find freedom in Canada. The Roma people can go no further. In Canada, they must stand and proclaim who they are and demand the respect they are entitled to Under the United Nations Charter of Human Rights as an historic and original people. Many of the Roma who took part in the events were initially afraid to reveal their identity as Roma because of the stigma of the stereotyped 'gypsy.' But in Vancouver, they came forward and identified themselves as part of the new Pan-Roma movement which advocates that Roma of all backgrounds are one people with a common origin, a common history, a common persecution and a common destiny."

On 2004-MAY-01, ten countries joined the enlarged European Union. Some four million Roma have become citizens of the EU with the right to live and work throughout union.

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RE:Roma..
(Date Posted:01/08/2009 06:44 AM)

I AM ROMANY

A United States Doctor tells his story

By Terrance Lescault

MY YOUTH

"Dirty Gypsy!"

I grew up in a small town in England. In that working-class town there was a distinct separation of classes. Many of those who felt they were in the upper classes (often determined simply by a home address rather than any real class distinction) looked down on what they perceived as lower classes. And those who were treated as the lowest of the low were the Gypsies.

"Dirty Gypsy!"

The rocks that the other children threw at me when I was going to and from private school (that's the same as "public school" in the U.S.A.) didn't hurt as much as the slurs and insults. I never understood that behavior. I hadn't done anything to them. Neither had my parents. My grandparents had lived in central Europe, so they couldn't have done anything to hurt them either.

Children can be so cruel. The constant abuse did several things to me. First, I learned how to fight. Second, I learned independence since none of the other kids would play or do schoolwork with me. But at the same time, the slurs and attacks from so many people influenced my young mind to think that there was something wrong with me simply because I had been born to one set of parents and not another. I came to hate my Gypsy heritage. Later, I realized that I had come to hate myself.

When I was twelve, my father won the lottery. He had seen the pain and suffering I had gone through. Although he had stood up to it himself, he didn’t want me to experience it any more. So, like the archetypal Gypsy, we packed our things and moved to a place where we thought we wouldn't feel the bitter lash of thoughtless hate. We moved to San Diego, California, U.S.A.

Children, thankfully, have short memories. They can get into a violent fight with a playmate and five minutes later be playing together again. The slurs and attacks were gone. People accepted me for what I was. Nobody hated me for the accident of my birth. At least, that's what I thought. The self-hatred I felt was buried but not gone.

Having been brought up in England, and thus having a British accent (even if it was not the "proper" British accent of the newsreaders on the BBC or the out-of-place Cockney heard at Renaissance "Faires"), really helped me. Whenever a conversation got around to backgrounds, people would talk about being Irish, Italian, African, German, Japanese, Russian, and so forth. With my accent it was obvious that I was English. Nobody asked further than that. Nobody needed to know that I was what those children used to call me, a "dirty Gypsy."

I graduated high school and went to college and medical school, eventually becoming a pediatrician. Maybe something inside me wanted to be able to help those kids who had thrown rocks at me. Or maybe, in some way, I wanted to help the child inside of me who was still hurt by those childhood taunts.

MY SEARCH BEGINS

My medical practice grew and I became quite successful. In 1994 I met and married Melody, the most wonderful, talented, and beautiful woman I had ever met. We separated in 1997. As she left she told me, "I love you. But I can't stand the anger you feel about yourself, especially when you direct it, for no reason, at me. If you can ever resolve those feelings, let me know. Just don't wait too long."

So here I was, a 32-year-old man with a successful professional life but a rapidly crumbling personal life. The first month after Melody left I fell into a deep depression, only able to barely fulfill my professional obligations. But I was strong enough to realize that I loved Melody and wanted to get her back so things could be like before. No, that’s not exactly right. I wanted to renew our relationship so it would be even better than before. And I knew that the only way to do that would be to get more in touch with me.

Familiar with (and perhaps dependent upon) traditional western healing practices, I started to go to a psychologist. A year later, and after seeing two different psychologists and one psychiatrist during that time, I was only slightly better and many thousands of dollars poorer. I told my disappointment to my current psychologist, Dr. Elliott. He told me that if I was unhappy with therapy, I might try some alternate approaches. He reminded me that we had discovered the main cause of my problems resulted from the abuse I had experienced as a child. I just couldn’t get over it. He looked at me and asked me what turned out to be the most important question of my life: "Who are you?"

"I’m Terrance Lescault."

"No, that’s your name. Who are you?"

"I’m a doctor, a pediatrician..."

"No, that’s what you do. Who are you?"

I felt perturbed. This was downright silly. "Why are you asking me this Zen question?" I think the exasperation in my voice was clear to him.

"Not a Zen question, a Zen Koan. A question meant to be pondered and thought about and which can lead to enlightenment. So think about it. You might also think about another famous Koan: 'What did your face look like before you were born?'"

I went away from the office, frustrated, disappointed, and unhappy.

THE DISCOVERY

Just as the abuse by the children had stayed with me for all these years, so, too, did Dr. Elliott’s questions. Who am I? I came up with all sorts of answers. And then it dawned on my that I had missed the most important one of all. I was a Gypsy. As I said that to myself, I also heard the taunts. I realized that in my mind I was not a Gypsy, I was a “dirty Gypsy.” I was wrong in thinking that nobody in this country hated me for being a Gypsy. I hated myself for being a Gypsy. Not just a Gypsy, I was a dirty Gypsy.

Dirty Gypsy.
Dirty Gypsy.
Dirty Gypsy.

And then I had the most important revelation of my life, a virtual epiphany. I had no idea what a Gypsy was. I had hated being called names so much that I had abandoned my heritage. I didn't hate myself, I hated what I thought I was. I hated what those children thought I was. My redemption, I realized, would only come when I discovered the truth about my background.

My mother had died several years ago, so I went to my father's house and talked to him. He showed me some pictures of Gypsy wagons his father and his father's father had used. He told me a little of the history of our family. But it was all so unemotional, almost cold. It didn't even seem like he was talking to me.

I went to the library and got a couple of old books by Charles G. Leland, Gypsies and English Gypsies and Their Languages, but I found them dated and too dry. So I went to a bookstore. They had reprints of Leland. I asked if they had anything else and I was directed to the New Age section. This bothered me because I had always thought that New Age meant imaginary and unreal. But I dutifully went through the section, expecting nonsense.

I picked up a book with the word "Gypsy" in the title. I glanced at the cover and dropped it in shock. I picked it up again and looked at the cover. There, in black and white, was a Gypsy wagon just like the ones I had seen at my father's house. It was even being drawn by a horse with thick legs and large hooves, something I had noted in the photos my father had shown me since I was used to seeing the delicate legs of race horses. I turned it over and saw the author, Raymond Buckland, sitting on the steps of a Gypsy wagon. He was a half-blooded Gypsy and had written other books on Gypsies.

But as I read more, my heart fell. The title of the book was Gypsy Witchcraft & Magic. I didn’t want to learn about what I usually called “woo-woo” stuff. I wanted to learn who I was. But a historian gives a compliment to the book on the back cover, saying how this really does cover gypsy life, so I decided to buy it and give it a try.

SOMETHING RINGS TRUE

The author of Gypsy Witchcraft & Magic begins by recounting the known history of the Romany people, along with the myths of why they wander. Of course, he shows that we came from India, not Egypt ("Gypsy" is derived from "Egyptian"). But then I started to read about the religious practices from an insider. It would seem that historically, Gypsies are Pagans. Many of us remain Pagan today. [Note: in reading back over this article I realized that I changed to acknowledge my Gypsy heritage by now referring to Gypsies as "we" instead of "they."]

I was brought up in what we called the "C of E" or Church of England. It is also known as the Anglican church. Although I considered myself a "good Christian," I was really somewhat of an agnostic. I enjoyed some aspects of my religion, but other things just didn't "seem right." By the time I was in my twenties, I would only attend church for weddings and funerals.

But this book presented something new to me. It wasn't the silly witches of movies and TV with their nose wiggling and poofs of smoke. Instead, it was the worship of a goddess or "Saint" known as "Black Sara." The male god is not anthropomorphic and is thought of in terms of being the Sun, Moon, sky, clouds, and stars. The devil is simply a negative force and not an evil entity.

I had always wondered why God was thought of as being a male. Knowing that my ancestors worshiped the female as well as the male just felt right. The more I read, the more I felt like I was "coming home." I wanted to learn more about my heritage.

As a doctor, I am always looking for safe remedies to health problems. This book has several. I went to an herb store and purchased some herbs described in the book as well as a mortar and pestle. A week later I compounded a supposed headache remedy made from willow bark and St. John's Wort according to the directions in the book. I gave it to a friend of mine who was subject to migraines. He tried it and found that it worked for him. I don't know if it will work for others, but it did work for him. There were also herbal cures for eye problems, ear problems, mouth problems, asthma, common colds, stomach problems, bladder difficulties, and many more. I intend to investigate all of them with the help of friends and co-workers.

As I continued with the book I became more and more fascinated. I went past the section on using magic to get money because I have all I want. The next section had a part that intrigued me. Gypsies, of course, traveled in their wagons (or vardos) and would simply find a place to stay. A friend of the author's who went around with some Gypsies always found that the place they would pick would take on a "special ambiance that made him feel that they had picked the best campsite ever." This, he discovered, was because the tribe's Witch or Shuvani would use a broom called a besom (made from the twiggy growth of a birch tree) and "walk all around the camp sweeping outward, away from the vardos...brushing away the uncleanness, the badness...[it] had the power to turn any place into a warm and cozy campground." (p. 86-87)

Okay. I’m a well-educated, modern man. But I decided to give it a try. I went out and purchased a broom (I don't know if it was birch or not) and went around my house, sweeping from the center of each room to the walls. Then I went outside and swept from the edge of the house to the edge of my property. With each sweep of the broom I focused my thoughts on trying to send away any sort of negativity. I just imagined it in my mind. Of course, there was a scientific part of me which felt this was silly and wouldn't work, but I tried to keep an open mind about it. I went back inside and lit a fire (it was a cold night) and continued to read the book by the light of the hearth.

As I continued to read, I noticed that the room "felt" different. Maybe it was subjective. Maybe it was objective. But what I was reading was ringing true for me.

And I felt different, too. More secure. More strong. More sure of who I was. I was not a "dirty Gypsy" any more. I was — I am — a full-blooded Romany, a Gypsy, with a history that goes back many hundreds of years. For the first time in my life I was proud about who I was. I felt powerful. The taunts of those children no longer hurt me. It only made them look foolish, insecure and weak. They did not defeat me — I had survived and come out stronger.

THE RESULT

The major result from my experience with making practical use of Buckland's book is that I am a healthier person — mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I would encourage everyone to look into their personal past to discover the spiritual nature of their culture. I would also encourage everyone to study the cultures of others, too, with books like Gypsy Witchcraft & Magic. Through knowledge comes understanding, and through understanding comes peace.

And that new, inner strength brought me more peace with myself than I've had in a long time. In fact, I had a long talk with Melody about this and we're getting together later this week for dinner. I've really changed and I hope she will see it. Wish me luck.

Editor’s note:

Quotes used by permission.

We do not suggest changing the use of any medicines without consulting your medical practitioner.

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Autumn_Heather
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RE:Roma..
(Date Posted:01/08/2009 06:45 AM)

Known as "The Father of American Wicca," Ray Buckland was responsible for introducing Wicca to the United States. He was the author of the first American book on the Old Religion written by a witch - WITCHCRAFT FROM THE INSIDE - and has since written nearly forty others, including the classic BUCKLAND'S COMPLETE BOOK OF WITCHCRAFT.
 


"I love getting back to my roots. My father and his family are full-blooded Rom (Gypsy). Although we lived in a house, I grew up with stories from my grandparents of living life on the open road in a vardo (wagon). When today's mechanized life gets too hectic, I get wistful and an itch to hit the road. This lovely vardo was made by my pal (Rom friend) Pete Ingram, over in England, who lovingly restores these rare beauties."
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