Daily Archives: November 6, 2011

Lemon Magic

Lemon Magic

Author: Janice Van Cleve

Lemon magic is a form of alchemy that has been practiced around the world in many different cultures for over 2500 years and it is still very alive and effective today. The word “alchemy” itself comes from the Arabic al-kimia, which is translated as the art of transformation. The fundamental ideas of alchemy are supposed to have begun in the ancient Persian Empire sometime before 500 BCE. In the Middle Ages its more popularized pursuits were alleged to be the transformation of lead into gold, the creation of the elixir of life, and the search for something called the philosopher’s stone. It was not until the Seventeenth Century that alchemy was itself transformed into modern chemistry.

Today in America, lemon magic is usually thought of as “turning lemons into lemonade.” There are various modern applications of this magic worked by different methods for different ends. One of the most common is “spin”. Spin is the reinterpretation of one set of words or events from a negative connotation to a connotation that is positive or at least neutral. It sometimes manifests itself as damage control. The alchemists who practice this art are called spin-doctors and they are found mainly in the arenas of government and politics, but they also proliferate as corporate lawyers and lobbyists.

Another application of lemon magic is in the business world. There it is found in mergers and acquisitions. The objective here is to identify struggling companies whose stock price is less than the value of their assets. When a target is found, corporate lawyers swoop in and devour the victim, absorbing it into their own company. Thus a liability for one set of investors is transformed into an asset for another set. A by-product of this process is usually downsizing and more people out of work.

These examples and many more demonstrate tangents of lemon magic where the effect is upon things and people outside of the magic worker. The magic worker remains unchanged in the process. However, the ancient art of alchemy went much deeper than this. It envisioned transformation of the alchemist herself with the ultimate goal of perfecting the state of humanity. Certain schools have argued that the transmutation of lead into gold is really an allegory for transmuting the imperfect human body into a perfect immortal body.

This, of course, ran counter to the concept held by official church doctrine that all human beings were corrupt, stained by sin, and condemned to hellfire unless they put their faith in the authority of the church and bought their indulgences. So alchemists dissembled the true intent of their work with cryptic symbology and vague rhetoric to avoid the tortures of the Inquisition.

Today we have no need to hide our alchemy, but often we don’t realize that we are using it. Turning lemons into lemonade by willfully changing our attitudes or perceptions toward the lemons is truly a transformation of magical proportions.

Starhawk – a well-known ecofeminist, author, activist, and priestess – defines magic as the art of changing consciousness at will. Aleister Crowley – poet, prophet, and magician – defined magic in much the same way. He called it the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will. These folks and others who have written about magic are not talking about parlor games like levitating tables and making coins disappear. They are talking about understanding ourselves and the world around us so well that by our wills we can make of our situation what we want it to be.

Doreen Valiente, who with Gerald Gardner was chiefly responsible for bringing Wicca and Witchcraft into the 20th Century, sums it up best: “By developing their powers, the magician or witch develop himself or herself. They aid their own evolution, their growth as a human being; and in so far as they truly do this, they aid the evolution of the human race.”

So changing lemons into lemonade is truly a magical act. By seeing and acting upon the positive opportunities that lemons present to us, we not only improve our journey through the world, but we make it a more pleasant place for everyone else. This is not about “looking on the bright side” like some Pollyanna. This is about acknowledging the whole package – bright and dark – and by will and energy making it useful.

For example, a friend recently called me about 7:00 pm. It was already dark and I was settling in for the evening. She said that her car had been towed. Did she sob about her misfortune? Did she anguish about the $200 it would cost to get it out of impound? Did she even ask me for a ride home?

No. She asked me out for a drink!

She happened to be in my neighborhood and we had not seen each other for a while. We enjoyed a lovely conversation, a couple of nice drinks, and I drove her to the impound place for her to retrieve her car. It still cost her $200 and a complete alteration of her plans and mine for the evening, but she transformed that lemon into a delightful reunion and evaporated the stress it could have generated. That’s lemon magic!

The same thing happened to me just the evening before. I was at the house of some dear friends on the other side of Puget Sound. That means I had to take a ferry to get back home. The ferry website said there would be a boat leaving at 9:45 pm but in reality the next boat was not until 11:40. By the time I got back to Seattle, it was nearly one o’clock in the morning and there were no busses. So I had to march two miles uphill through the center of town in the middle of the night to get home.

Did I get angry with the webmaster or the ferry system? Not at all.

It was an opportunity for additional exercise and to work off calories. It was a beautiful night and a chance to experience my city in its quiet stillness. Best of all, it underscored my health and stamina and confirmed that I could still depend on my old body to function. It even prepared me for two glorious hikes in the mountains later that week. Lemonade!

Some folks go to the gym to work out when Life hands them a lemon. They not only dispel the negativity via vigorous exercise, but also shed some pounds in the process. Others learn from their lemons and pass on their lessons in the form of teaching or they modify their own behaviors to avoid those lemons in the future. By all these methods, and others besides, people can transform their mis-fortunes into positive fortunes.

Now if we could only learn to transform our lemons into a deep rich Burgundy, we’d really have something!

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My Black Kitty

My Black Kitty

Author: Zodiac

I remember the first time I got a black cat. I was three or four years old and my uncle worked at a dairy farm. One day he found a black cat trying to steal some of the cream. He brought me out to his place to work and I took the cat home.

Although the cat was a she, I named it “Tio” which means “Uncle” in Spanish. I loved my black kitty with all my heart. My mother recalls times when I was clumsily carrying Tio around and the cat would scratch me because I was being too rough. Despite my crying, I told her not to yell at Tio.

Unfortunately it turned out that my father was allergic to the cat. Although he liked Tio too, we had to give the cat away. I cried and cried. My tender four-year-old heart broken.

It would be 21 years before I would get another cat. This time a yellow beast for Christmas from my wife. I loved the new animal, but still longed for pet of my youth: a black cat.

Imagine my surprise when I went to the pound. The first thing I discovered was that black cats were hard to get adopted. The second thing that surprised me was that most shelters don’t adopt black cats during the month of October.

I had considered the superstition surrounded the black cat. How a black cat crossing your path is unlucky is a common theme in children’s cartoons. And as a joke, I even named my black cat “Dreizehn” meaning “Thirteen” in German. But I never imagined how seriously it was taken. There is something strange that in the modern day when people are taught not to judge by things like skin pigmentation that the black cat would be stigmatized. After all, any biologist could tell you that a cat’s colorations are caused by the same biochemicals. Why the hate?

Believe it or not, originally black cats were considered lucky. The Pagan Egyptians worshipped Bast a Goddess who would appear as a (you guessed it) black cat. When the animal “crossed your path”, it meant the Goddess was watching you and protecting you. One could tell the Goddess apart from other black cats because she would always appear as a completely solid black cat. (Dreizehn is not the Goddess. He has white hairs in his otherwise glossy coat, but I digress.)

The Pagan Egyptians decided not to take any chances. Killing a cat was illegal in those times. The crime was taken so seriously that the punishment was death. Moreover they built an entire city to the cats. Worshippers would travel from miles away to bring offerings of milk and food.

Okay so where did all this unlucky stuff come from? Well a new religion called “Christianity” began to move in to the region. To the Christians all Pagan deities were the Devil or his Demons. They began to convert the population and the old Gods began to be rejected. Now suddenly a black cat following you around was a Demon trying to drag you body back to the cult and your soul to Hell. Like the Egyptians, the Christians weren’t going to risk it – only this time they were out to get rid of black cats.

The poor animals were condemned all because of their fur.

It’s strange because a later cult called “Islam” would once again revere the cat, black ones included. When Mohammed wandered the lonely deserts it was the wild cats that kept him company. There are stories of Mohammed cutting the sleeves off of his robes rather than disturb his sleeping feline pets. And from what I understand, it is against Islamic law to chase a cat from a Mosque.

But these are the customs of the Middle East where most people consider themselves Muslims. Not the West where most people consider themselves Christians.

So the black cat has to live with its reputation as a partner in Satan’s conspiracy to pull us all down. Which is strange because I guess “Satanists” sacrifice black cats on Halloween. I put Satanists in quotes, because I’m pretty sure these people are mostly stupid, mean teenagers trying to look cool for their friends. And it makes me want to VOMIT.

It somehow seems unjust that I had to give up my black kitty when I was four and live the rest of my life with a broken heart meanwhile some turd out there is killing their cat for fun. (My good Christian neighbors would probably fall out of their chairs if they read that I a witch of all people was advising not to sacrifice animals. But I digress again.)

Today I own several cats. Dreizehn is not too different from any of them. Maybe more set in his ways. He really likes being a house cat. He has a set routine that he likes. Dreizehn wants his canned kitty food at the same time.

We used to take him to a vet that specializes in cats. They told us that he has some of the softest fur they’ve ever seen. He also has these gold eyes. Just like the in the kids cartoons, when he’s in the dark all you can see is the two quarter sized discs staring out at you.

And like the Halloween decoration, I’ve seen him arch his back and put out his claws – but that was usually because he was leaning in to one of my pats. And I’ve seen him snarl and hiss, but that’s because I was trying to move him from the softest, warmest place on the bed and he didn’t want to move. And I’ve seen him skulk in the shadows, but that’s because he was hiding from the dog. And just like every other cat I own, there are times when he coughs up hairballs and misses the litterbox. But none of these things has ever made me want to hurt him.

My Dreizehn kitty is a loyal friend and a great companion. He seems to sense when I’m sad and comes running to my lap when I’m down. Dreizehn came running in to greet my son when we first came home from the hospital. Dreizehn jumped in the crib, took that “I approve” cat look and just purred and purred. Even today when my son cries out in pain or sadness, the black cat is usually the first one on the scene.

He’s one of the best pets and best friends I’ve ever had. If more people could just look past the silly superstitions, they’d learn that too.

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Space Clearing: A Fresh Look at a Classic Tradition

Space Clearing: A Fresh Look at a Classic Tradition

Author: Tess Whitehurst

Clearing physical clutter out of your space is like taking a wrecking ball to everything in your life that isn’t working, and to any obstacles that may have been holding you back from living your greatness and manifesting your dreams. Space clearing, on the other hand, could be compared to airing out a stuffy room, steam cleaning a carpet, or tuning a piano. It removes lingering negative and/or stuck energy from your space while lifting and fine-tuning vibrations in order to summon positive energies and conditions into your life.

For most of the time that humans have been alive on this planet, we’ve lived outdoors, or in temporary or natural shelters. Nowadays, our indoor areas are raised above the earth, which naturally absorbs negativity; from water, which washes away negativity; from a free flow of air, which blows negativity away; and from full sunlight, which purifies and disinfects negativity. Negativity accrues not only from our negative thoughts, words, and feelings, but also from the stagnation that’s a natural byproduct of modern indoor spaces. This is why all spaces can benefit from regular space clearings.

To keep your vibes clean and clear, to feel happy and harmonious in your home, and to feel completely safe and protected, I suggest doing this simple visualization every day:

Sit with your spine straight, take some deep breaths, and relax. Call upon Divine White Light to powerfully enter your home as a huge vacuum tube of white light. See it moving around the entire interior of your home, simultaneously burning and suctioning away all dark, heavy, stagnant, or negative energy. See it penetrating all the darkest corners rapidly and effectively.

Once this feels complete, ask the Light to fill your home completely. See it extend outside, under, and above your home so that your home is completely encompassed in and surrounded by a huge sphere of Divine White Light. Ask the light to raise the vibrations of every item and area in your home to a very high and clear degree.

After that, ask for a circle of angels to surround your home, preserving this sphere of light and directing the positive energies of love, serenity, and happiness inward. Then, ask for another circle of angels to surround the first circle of angels, and ask them to face outward, directing all negative energy outward and keeping you and the other inhabitants totally safe and protected. Thank the Light and the angels, and open your eyes.

(Please note: instead of just calling on the White Light, you can call on a divine being such as The Goddess, Merlin, or Archangel Michael to cleanse and encompass your space with the White Light if you prefer.)

For us magical folk, space clearing is important because we have to create the space for magic and miracles to occur in our lives. Before we go around doing money spells and such, we must make sure we have a clean, clear, magical space to do it in. We have to release the energies and conditions we don’t want in order to make the space for the energies and conditions we do want. Not to mention, clearing clutter and space clearing alone, when done with intention, can often be the most powerful magical acts we could possibly perform when it comes to creating joyful and harmonious conditions in all areas of our lives.

And, one of the cool things about starting a regular space clearing practice is that it’s a very effective way to begin to exercise and strengthen your psychic and intuitive abilities. Most people, whether they think they’re psychic or not, can pick up on “vibes.”

You know, we say things like, “the place had really good vibes, ” or “I got a weird vibe from him, ” etc. Space clearing is a way of clearing out bad vibes and creating good ones, so when we notice this happening, we’re actually using our sixth sense: and every time we use it, it gets stronger.

While the visualization above is great to do every day as a maintenance measure, it’s also good to do the methods I’m about to describe on a regular basis to really keep the energy healthy and vibrant in your home. You might do one or several of them every couple weeks or so, as you see fit. They can be done alone for a quick clearing, or in combination with each other.

I’ll begin by discussing each one individually, and then give you some ideas for how to put a few of them together if you want to do a more thorough clearing.

Please note: cover food and beverages before you begin to clear so that the negativity does not enter them. (Water and salt are particularly absorbent.) Remember to do so for pet food as well.

Oh! And make sure to drink water before and after.

Clapping

Clapping is a quick and easy way to break up and dissipate stuck or stagnant energy with sound. Simply move around the perimeter of each room and area in the space, clapping loudly. Pay special attention to corners, areas behind doors, or anywhere else where you might imagine that energy would stagnate. (Think of energy as flowing like a brook or a stream though the space. Areas where energy might get stuck would be the areas that would accumulate leaves or trash on the surface of the stream. Areas that are usually dark are also spots with slow-moving or stagnant energy.)

If you clap a few times in an especially stagnant area, you can usually hear the claps getting clearer as the energy dissipates.

White Sage

Burning white sage powerfully removes negativity and lifts vibrations to a very high and clear level. To do this in your space, open the windows and light a bundle of dried white sage so that it’s burning like incense.

As you do this, say, “Spirit of Air, I call on you.” Move around the perimeter of each room/area, letting the smoke move around the space. (Carry a dish under the bundle to catch ash and embers.)

When you’re finished with the room, move the smoke around your personal energy field to cleanse away any negativity that you might have absorbed. Then, thank the Spirit of Air and extinguish the bundle by sealing it in a jar.

Fire

Have you ever felt a bad vibe in a room with an actual wood fire burning in it? Probably not. This is because fire powerfully burns away negativity like old, dead wood. If you don’t have a fireplace in every room (which I don’t assume you do) , you can place a large red candle on a plate (ideally soy or vegetable wax) , and surround it with a ring of sea salt.

Place the candle near the center of the room or area and light it as you say, “Spirit of Fire, I call on you.” Close your eyes and visualize the fire from the candle filling the room, burning away all negativity. When the visualization feels complete, carry the plate with the salt and lit candle to the next room or area and repeat.

When you’re finished, extinguish the flames as you say something like, “Fire, you were a great help to me, and I thank you.”

Sea Saltwater

Salt water powerfully neutralizes negativity. Fill a clear glass with spring or well water and dissolve one teaspoon of sea salt in it. Hold the water in both hands and visualize very bright white light coming down from above, entering the crown of your head, moving down to your heart, out your hands, and into the water.

Visualize the ocean as you say, “Spirit of Water, I call on you.” Pour the water into a mister (it’s okay if it doesn’t all fit) . Now, move around the perimeter of each room or area, spraying the mist lightly throughout. If you like, you might imagine a powerful ocean wave moving through your house as you do this.

When you’re finished, pour the remaining water down the drain and say something like, “Spirit of Water, you were a great help to me, and I thank you.”

Table Salt

A dish of non-iodized table salt, placed in a central location in a room, is a great negativity absorber. To cleanse your entire home with salt, get a dish for each room and area and fill each with a substantial (yet not necessarily large) amount of salt.

As you pour the salt, say, “Spirit of Earth, I call on you.” Then place one in each room or area. Each time you place a dish, hold your hands over it and empower it with the intention to draw all negativity from even the farthest corners of the room. Leave the dishes for 12-24 hours.

Then, thank the Spirit of Earth, flush the salt down the toilet, and wash the dishes thoroughly.

Quick Clearings

It’s good to perform some sort of clearing at least once a week or so, and any of the above methods can be done independently or paired up for a quick and informal clearing. But to perform my favorite quick-yet-effective space clearing, just clap and then burn sage. You might want to finish with a quick prayer or visualization to empower the space with harmonious energy: just ask for or envision all the conditions and feelings you’d like to experience in the space.

Thorough Ritual Clearing

Once a year or so, and during special circumstances like when your home changes residents or you move into a new space, it’s good (and fun!) to do a thorough ritual clearing. This is a great one.

Begin by creating an altar in a central or otherwise convenient location. This can be on a table, desktop, or countertop, or, if you already have an altar, you can use that area if you like. On the altar, place a mister of sea salt (created as above) , a dish for each room and/or area, non-iodized table salt, a plate or large candle holder with a large red candle on it, and a bundle of dried white sage. Also place an incense holder on the altar, and any kind of incense that you like.

Now, sit or stand in front of the altar and take some deep breaths, relaxing every muscle in your body. Feel the weight of your body on the earth and focus on this until you feel really grounded and solid. Close your eyes, hold your hands in prayer pose, and say a prayer.

Acknowledge/summon any helpers or deities you’d like, or just pray in order to clearly state your intentions to yourself and the Universe. Pray from your heart, and state in simple and clear terms what you’re about to do. You might say something like:

I now ask for the help of my guides and angels as I perform this space clearing. It’s my intention to clear all negativity from this space in order to experience sparkling vibrations and harmonious conditions, and to create the space for happiness, joy, love, abundance, success, and all the desires of my heart to flourish. Because I have asked for divine assistance in this endeavor, I know that I am perfectly receiving it now, and for this I give thanks.”

Light the candle and the incense to signify that the ritual has begun. Begin to clear the energy by clapping loudly in each room and area as described above.

Now, light the bundle of sage so that it’s smoking like incense. Face east and say, “Spirit of Air, I call on you!” Now, cleanse with the sage as described above.

As you do so, continually chant, “With the help of the power of Air, I cleanse this house.” Extinguish the sage, or if it’s only smoking a little, you can let it continue to burn as long as it’s in a jar or somewhere safe.

Next, light the candle and surround it with a circle of salt. Hold the lit candle and plate in your hands, face South, and say, “Spirit of Fire, I call on you!”

Cleanse with the candle as described above, and as you do so, chant, “With the help of the power of Fire, I cleanse this house.” When you’re finished, place the still-lit candle back on the altar.

Pick up the saltwater mister. Hold it in both hands as you face west, and say, “Spirit of Water, I call on you!” Mist each area as described above while chanting, “With the help of the power of Water, I cleanse this house.” Set the mister back on the altar.

Put some of the table salt in each dish as described above. Hold one dish in your hands, face north, and say, “Spirit of Earth, I call on you!” Place a dish of salt in each room and area while chanting, “With the help of the power of Earth, I cleanse this house.” Return to the altar.

Put your hands in prayer pose and empower the space with your intentions by chanting aloud all the conditions you’d like to experience. You might say: “Love, Harmony, Success, Abundance, Peace.” As you vocalize each word, envision the energy of the word resonating throughout the house, shifting the molecules to match its vibration.

When this feels complete, face north. Say, “Spirit of Earth, you were here, and I thank you!” Face west and say, “Spirit of Water, you were here, and I thank you!” Face south and say, “Spirit of Fire: you were here, and I thank you!”

Face east and say, “Spirit of Air: you were here, and I thank you!” Now thank any of the forms/facets of the Divine that you summoned during the opening prayer. Then, say “Thank you, thank you, thank you. Blessed be. And so it is.” Extinguish the candle and incense to symbolize that the ritual is complete.

Now, I am really serious about this: immediately after the ritual is complete, you must lie flat on your back on the ground. (If you have a private yard area where you can lay outside on the grass, this would be best, but if not, the floor to your house or apartment will work just fine.) This is because space clearing rituals raise and shift energy in such a major way that you have to get your equilibrium back ASAP. Even if you think you feel fine, please do this. It’s important for re-establishing rhythm and coordination in your mind, body, emotions, and immune system.

Once you’re lying on your back, envision/feel/imagine your personal energy field. It will naturally have a lot of excess energy in it. Imagine also that you’re lying on the earth, and allow the excess energy to grow heavy and fall downward where it’s absorbed by the earth like rain (even if you’re not on the ground floor, this will still work) . Your personal energy field will remain, just the excess will move downward into the ground.

Once this feels complete, get up and eat something nourishing and substantial like some sort of grain or a root vegetable. This will help to integrate you and restore your balance and connection to the physical plane.



Footnotes:
Kingston, Karen. Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui (Broadway 1999) .

Kingston, Karen. Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui (Broadway 1997) .

Lin, Denise. Sacred Space (Ballantine Books, 1996) .

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What Should I Put In My Book of Shadows?

What Should I Put In My Book of Shadows?

Author: Bronwen Forbes

The most common question I’ve seen on various online forums and been asked by my own students is, “What should I put on my altar?” The second most common question is “What should I put in my Book of Shadows?” For some reason, the Book of Shadows – like an altar – is something that most Pagans are scared spitless about “messing up.” They will go out and buy a lovely bound blank journal from their local mega chain bookstore or a leather-bound notebook with a pentacle carved on the front, and do absolutely nothing with it for years.

I freely admit that I am guilty of this; I have *both* a bound blank journal from my local mega chain bookstore *and* a leather-bound notebook (black leather, no less) with Celtic knotwork carved on the front and they are both, well, basically blank. My excuse is that my handwriting is lousy and I don’t want to “mess them up.”

The first step toward the fulfillment (literally and figuratively) of a Book of Shadows is to determine exactly what a Book is and what it does. A Book of Shadows is part poetry collection, part journal, part dictionary and encyclopedia, part recipe book and part ritual construction guide (I’ll go over these in a minute) . Depending on your own interests and practice, some of these parts may be bigger than others in your own Book. What a Book of Shadows *does* is keep all of this information in safe, easily referenced place.

Does it actually have to be in book form? Nope! My journal and leather notebook are blank, but I have a four-drawer file cabinet stuffed (and I do mean stuffed. Trust me, I recently moved it halfway across the country) with printouts and photocopies of articles I’ve found useful to my practice and my writing in the past or that may be useful in the future; copies of poems I think might be nice to read in ritual someday; notes on how to teach a basic Tarot class; handouts from workshops I’ve taken on Norse spaeworking, knot/string magic, and drumming; and scripts from old rituals I’ve led or attended, just to name a bit of it.

I guess you could say I have a File Cabinet of Shadows. It may not be pretty, or open to the exact file I need just by asking like the Hallowell sisters’ Book did on Charmed, but it’s mostly organized and I can find what I need in it pretty quickly. Also, as a recent flash drive accident reminded me, I can access the material in my file cabinet for years without worrying about hardware or software malfunction, unlike folks who prefer a Disk of Shadows or something similar. Also, barring an unlikely full-house-immersion flood, the material in my File Cabinet of Shadows will be around for a long, long time.

So let’s talk about the specific stuff you can put in your own Book. As you read more and practice more, you’re likely to run across bits of poetry that you think would be great to use in ritual. You might even be inspired to write some poems of your own. Your Book is the perfect place to store them.

If you do a lot of tarot or rune readings for yourself or others, or if you incorporate specific cards in your rituals, you can – and probably should – record your reading in your Book of Shadows. That way you can go back and look at it weeks or months later and see how accurate your predictions were. If you work with your dreams (interpretation, etc.) , your Books is a good place to record those, too.

There is so much material to absorb when you first start on the Pagan path. When is Samhain, and how do I pronounce it? What’s an athame for, and how do I spell it? When do I use a boline? What’s a thurbile?

You can make notes in your Book so you can look stuff up again later – much like you took/take notes in class. Writing this information down also helps you keep it all straight in your mind.

If you take a Paganism/Witchcraft 101 class and the teacher gives you handouts, either get a three-ring Binder of Shadows (not a bad idea, actually) and stick them in there or find some way to get the information from those handouts into your smaller Book.

If you like to blend your own essential oils or incense, or are an herbalist, your Book of Shadows is the perfect place to write down recipes you like and also make note of recipes or blends that didn’t work as well as you’d hoped.

You can also write down basic spellworkings as recipes, “Do this, then say that, then light the yellow candle, then do this…” Next time you need to do that particular working, the “ingredients” are all right there.

You can also write down the basics of how you’ve celebrated each sabbat/esbat. That way, when the holiday comes up again next year, you’ve got a record of what you did, what worked and what didn’t (you can write that down, too) , and you don’t have to reinvent the ritual from scratch. Also, if in January, say, you have a great idea for something to do next Samhain, you can write it down in your Book so a) you know where it is and b) you don’t forget it.

In short, a Book of Shadows is as individual as the person who makes it, and that’s okay. Let me repeat that: it’s okay to make your Book of Shadows uniquely *yours*. I have my File Cabinet. My husband, who learns best from watching other peoples’ mistakes, says that his Book (if he were to have one) would be page after page of “Don’t do” and “Never try.” Neither of us is particularly artistic (I’m even completely incompetent at scrapbooking) , but if you are, don’t be afraid to add artwork to your Book.

If you are an accomplished scrapbooker, use those skills to make your book even more personal. If you’ve traveled to a place that has particular spiritual significance for you, put some of the pictures you took or postcards you bought in your Book.

Couldn’t you just download one of the Books of Shadows on the Internet? You could – but I don’t recommend it. And that’s a subject for a completely different Witchvox article for another day.

In the meantime, my File Cabinet of Shadows needs dusting!

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How Do You Draw Your Pentagram?

How Do You Draw Your Pentagram?

Author: Brunhilde

If you’d like to initiate a lively discussion among Wiccans, just ask us how we draw our pentagram and why we draw it that way. Our answers and explanations will fly fast and furious. First of all, what is our orientation of the star—one point up or two? For Wiccans the single point up orientation is the standard position. There is a short time when we feature the pentagram in its two points upward orientation; when an initiate into a coven enters their Second Degree of training. But for most purposes, the orientation of our pentagram displays one point up. But beyond that general preference, how do we draw it? And why do we draw it that way?

Different Strokes for Different Folks

An investigation of past practices by different authors reveals a wide variety of drawing choices and explanations. Most agree that the five points of the star can represent Spirit, earth, air, fire and water, with the top point designating Spirit. However, they differ on their placement of the four elements. They also differ in the manner of drawing the pentagram. While many begin the pattern by starting at the top (Spirit) , some do not.

Wherever you position each element around your pentagram will influence your drawing of it, especially if you are aligning your star to invoke a particular element for magickal work. Vivianne Crowley, author of Wicca (2000) , outlines a ceremony for consecrating ritual objects. She starts at the top (Spirit) , with her first stroke moving down and to the right—the point she designates for fire. She is drawing the “invoking pentagram” of the element fire. Her second stroke is drawn diagonally up and across to the upper left for air, then horizontally across to the upper right for water, then diagonally down to the lower left for earth, then back up to the top. She finishes by drawing an additional “sealing stroke, ” from the top down to the lower right point again.

Raven Grimassi (b. 1951) , author of Italian Witchcraft: The Old Religion of Southern Europe (2005) , outlines a rite of dedication for those pagans who wish to become practitioners of Stregheria, the Italian word for the religion of witches. As part of their initiation ritual, Grimassi instructs the seekers to anoint themselves in the manner of the pentagram. His sequence is the same as Crowley’s: forehead—right breast—left shoulder—right shoulder—left breast—forehead.

Raymond Buckland (b. 1934) , author of Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft (2004) , details a different manner of drawing the pentagram. Instead of drawing the first stroke down to the lower right, he moves down to the lower left, then diagonally across to the upper right, straight across to the left, down to the lower right, and back up to the top.

In his book Witchcraft From the Inside (1995) he features the classical pentagram image taken from old books of magick, with the figure of a man standing with arms raised sideways and legs spread apart, with a five-pointed star superimposed on top of the figure. The various points of the pentagram display the astrological symbols for Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, not directions or elements. He states that this pentagram is a symbol of the life force, a very positive symbol.

Janet Farrar (b. 1950) and Stewart Farrar (1916-2000) , authors of A Witches’ Bible: A Complete Witches’ Handbook (1996) describe their version of diagramming the pentagram for use in sabbats. Their sequence of strokes is the same as Buckland’s. In their discussion of an opening ritual, they describe two methods of drawing the pentagram. The first method comes at the beginning of the ceremony. It is called the “Invoking Pentagram of Earth.”

The element of earth is placed at the lower left point of the star. It is delineated by the Priestess as she (1) starts at the top and (2) draws a diagonal line down to her lower left to earth, (3) then up and across to her right, (4) then horizontally to her left, (5) then diagonally down to her lower right, and (6) up again to the top. She finishes by adding a final sealing stroke; drawing down again from the top center to her lower left point.

Their second method of drawing of the pentagram occurs towards the end of the ceremony, when the Priestess draws the “Banishing Pentagram of Earth.” It is a reversal of the invoking pentagram. She begins (1) at the bottom left of the star, (2) then draws the line up to the top center, (3) then diagonally down to her lower right, (4) then across to her upper left and (5) horizontally across to her upper right, (6) then diagonally down to her left, where she started. Again, she finishes the act by retracing the line from the lower left to the top center, the sealing stroke. The Farrars state in a footnote to their text that they are basing their pentagram strokes on the practice followed by the members of the Golden Dawn.

Doreen Valiente (1922-1999) , author of Witchcraft for Tomorrow (1993) , uses the same method as that described by the Farrars and Buckland. She provides additional information by detailing the reasons behind the sequence of her strokes. Valiente states that the topmost point of the pentagram is regarded as representing Deity, the divine Source of life.

The first stroke starts from the top and proceeds down to the lower left, representing life descending from its divine source into the lowest and simplest forms of living matter. The second stroke ascends up and across to the right, representing the ascent of life from primitive forms, by the process of evolution. The third stroke moves across to the upper left, representing man’s earthly progress, his accomplishments on the physical plane. The fourth stroke moves diagonally down to the right point, signifying the fall of man, as his focus and his pride in his material achievements leads him into danger. The final stroke rises back up to the topmost point, indicating that because mankind descends from a divine source, he will always strive upwards to reunite with that source.

Starhawk (b. 1951) author of The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess (1979) also teaches an invoking and a banishing pentagram design. Her sequence of strokes is akin to that of Buckland, the Farrars, and Valiente. Further, she advocates using the pentagram in a variety of ways as an aid to visualization and meditation exercises. Depending on the exercise, each one of the five points of the star can be assigned to different ideas. For example, in an exercise she calls the “Pentagram of the Pearl” she designates the top point of the star as the concept of Love, the upper right point becomes Wisdom, the lower right point is Knowledge, the lower left point is Law and the upper left point is Power.

The seeker is told to meditate on these concepts, as they move clockwise around the pentagram, to think of the meaning of each word and how it interacts with the words adjacent to it. She also encourages the seeker to lie down in the pentagram position, with their head as the upper single point, to feel the points as part of their being. She states that during meditation in this fashion, one may also become aware of imbalances in their personal well-being, in relation to these concepts.

Silver Ravenwolf (b. 1956) , author of Solitary Witch: The Ultimate Book of Shadows for the New Generation (2003) discusses the various historical origins of the pentagram. She states, “If you draw the design from the top down, you are saying that Spirit comes down to matter, and if you draw from the bottom to the top, you are symbolizing matter in its highest form. The horizontal line across represents our development of intellect and the connection of force and form.”

She designates the element of air at the upper left, water at upper right, earth at lower left and fire at lower right. She also details several methods of drawing the pentagram to invoke/banish different elements.

The Case for Consistency

Many Wiccans trace the design of their pentagram in the same manner every time they draw it. What might change would be the orientation of their top point (Spirit) towards a specific direction—north, south, east or west—if they wish to invoke the spirits of a particular element during their ritual. This attention to a particular element can sometimes be found in lunar ceremonies, esbats. The zodiac sign occupied by the moon on the night of the ritual influences Esbats. And each of the twelve zodiac signs corresponds to one of the four elements, earth, air, fire and water.

For example, if their ritual is celebrated during a Full Moon in the sign of Scorpio, they may focus on the element of water. The goal of the esbat could be to ritually charge water for use in future ceremonies. The Priestess could cast the circle, and then stand in the quarter of the circle that is assigned to water—west. She might face west and draw a pentagram by orienting the top point of the star towards the west, paying homage to the moon in Scorpio and the energies of water.

Also, pentagrams created to invoke and then banish specific elements don’t have to begin at the top point. For example, if you are employing an invoking pentagram of air, you might begin at the point across from air on your star and make your first stroke travel towards the point of air. At the end of the ritual, you will banish that same pentagram by beginning at the point designated by air and make your first stroke move away from there.

Reflector on the Roof

For me, like many Wiccans, the pentagram is a symbol of the feminine divine and a sigil for the planet Venus. Since grade school, my hobby has been astronomy. As a child, I spent many nights on the roof of my home, with my little 3-inch reflector telescope, mesmerized by my view of the heavens. (My mom would make my dad put me on the roof because she was afraid some wild animal would bite me.) Venus quickly became one of my favorite subjects for observation. Sometimes she was close and large. Other times she was far away and faint. I could discern all of that, even with the limited capabilities of my little telescope. Sometimes she rose in the morning just before the sun. Other times she appeared at dusk just as the sun had set. She even changed shape, exhibiting phases like the moon. I was hooked!

Asymmetrical Pentagram

Although my pentagram traces the path of the planet Venus, I do not use the shape we can see her outline from standing on our planet. That view is rather distorted. It does not have the shape of a symmetrical five-pointed star, because we are viewing it from within the same orbital plane as Venus; we are moving parallel to her motion. An analogy would be to imagine that we were standing on the ice of a skating rink with stadium seating. We are watching a skater move around the rink.

From our perspective standing on the surface of the ice in the same flat plane as the skater, they would only seem to be moving towards us or moving away from us. However, if we are seated high up in the arena, we can look down on the skater and see that they are tracing a pattern on the ice.

In similar fashion, I draw my pentagram from the viewpoint of hovering high above our solar system. That way, my pentagram has the more classic symmetrical shape.

Points in Space

Try to imagine yourself hanging suspended a few millions miles above the north pole of the sun, floating effortlessly in space. From your perspective, you can see the counter-clockwise spin of the sun. You also see the counterclockwise orbital motions of most of the planets and their moons, sweeping around in a celestial ballet. Now focus in on Venus and Earth. Watch their pas de deux.

It takes the Earth about 365 days to swing completely around the sun. Venus, being closer to the sun, manages the same feat in a shorter amount of time. And periodically, Venus is positioned precisely between the Sun and Earth. This alignment is called an “inferior conjunction.” Whenever she lines up on the other side of the sun, with the sun positioned precisely between us, she is creating a “superior conjunction.”

Because Venus and Earth take different times to complete one orbit around the Sun, 8 years must pass before the two planets are finally lined up back at the same point. In those 8 years Venus has completed 10 orbits around the sun as compared to 8 Earth orbits. And within her 10 orbits, Venus has achieved 5 inferior conjunctions and 5 superior conjunctions.

Connecting the Dots

I use the same sequence as Crowley and Grimassi, but my reasons relate to astronomy and conjunctions. My five pentagram points can use either the five inferior or the five superior conjunctions of Venus, in a row. Pick at random one of the two systems and start there. On paper, make a dot and label it the sun. Draw a large circle around the sun to represent the orbit of Venus. Put a point anywhere on that circle. That point will be your first conjunction spot and become the top point of your pentagram. Label it No. 1.

Next, put four more dots on the circle, so that all five dots (conjunction points) are equally distant from each other. Now you will draw your sequence of pentagram strokes. In doing so, you will mimic the orbit of Venus.

In order to draw the lines to your dots in the sequence that the conjunctions actually occur you must move from your first dot at the top down to the lower right point (2) , then up and across to the upper left point (3) , then straight across to the upper right (4) , then down and across to the lower left point (5) , then back up to the starting point at the top, where Venus returns to her original position in her orbit after 8 years. That sequence of strokes is my pattern; how I draw my pentagram.

So, why do I bother to trace my pentagram in keeping with the orbital motion of the planet? Because it resonates with me. It reflects my personal experience of life. It reminds me of why I took the Pagan path, because of Paganism’s devotion to the sky and the natural world. It recalls my early fascination with the heavens, a fascination that steered me ultimately to Wicca. Every time I draw my pentagram I can recall my youthful excitement under the starry skies and I feel the embrace of the heavens. At that moment my pentagram becomes more than a star; it becomes an energized, charged sigil.

Where, O Where Do the Elements Go?

Where do I assign my four elements: earth, air, fire and water? That decision is also a personal preference. I was born in the sign of Taurus, an earth sign. I like to connect my first line from Spirit down to my personal element, earth. Since the first actual Venus conjunction spot is down to the lower right, I designated that point to be earth for me. I also like to trace my strokes in the sequence of the chant: earth, air, fire, water. I wanted to be able to trace out the conjunctions and say the chant as I make my strokes.

So, air is placed at my third conjunction point on the upper left, fire is placed at my fourth conjunction point in the upper right, and water is placed at my fifth conjunction point in the lower left. Then I make one last stroke from water back up to Spirit at the top, which completes the sequence for Venus conjunctions and brings her back to where she started in space and in my pentagram.

Venus Makes Her Point

When is the next conjunction for lovely Venus? An inferior conjunction, when Venus is placed directly between us and the sun, occurred in March of 2009. The next two conjunction events will occur in 2010. The first one will be a superior conjunction, when Venus is lined up on the far side of the sun from us, in January. Then the next event, an inferior conjunction, will occur around the end of October, just is time for Samhain—a Wiccan sabbat and the beginning of the new year in the old Celtic religions—very auspicious!

Let Your Path Be Your Guide

If you have been initiated into an established circle, then you will draw it the way you were instructed. It is part of the tradition of your Wiccan community. But all those teeming multitudes of solitaries out there, like me, what do we do? Well you can purchase books from reputable authors. I have mentioned several in this article. You can certainly browse the Internet. There are several sites devoted to the pentagram.

But before you follow someone else’s example, think about what the symbol means to you. What do you want it to represent? How does the symbol resonate with you? Which of the four elements do you wish to assign to which points and why? Do you want it to focus on the element of your birth sign? How has your life experience influenced your ideas about the pentagram? What thoughts do you ponder as you move through your sequence of strokes?

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter HOW you draw it as long as your method incorporates meaning. Formulate your own approach to the pentagram, so that every time you draw it you are creating a symbol of power, blessing and protection. It will become for you a useful tool in your journey to achieving altered states of awareness. If your sequence resonates with you, then it is the correct way for you to draw it.

Blessed Be.



Footnotes:
SOURCES FOR FURTHER READING:

Buckland, RaymondBuckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft. Llewellyn Publications, 2004.

Crowley, VivianneWicca. Thorsons First Directions, 2000.

Farrar, Janet and StewartA Witches’ Bible: The Complete Witches’ Handbook. Phoenix Publishing, Inc., 1996.

Grimassi, RavenItalian Witchcraft: The Old Religion of Southern Europe. Llewellyn Publications, 2005.

Ravenwolf, SilverSolitary Witch: The Ultimate Book of Shadows for the New Generation. Llewellyn Publications, 2004.

StarhawkThe Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess. HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. 1979.

Valiente, DoreenWitchcraft for Tomorrow. Robert Hale, Ltd., 1993.

http://www.mikecrowson.co.uk/pentagram.html

http://paganinstitute.org/PI/ElementalPentagrams.html

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How I Became a Wiccan

How I Became a Wiccan

Author: Aset-Nuit

Everyone has their own stories of how they found their religion, whether it was hereditary or long searched for. Everyone has their own emotions behind how their religion makes them feel and why they chose to follow that particular path, and why it is so important to them. Without my religion and spirituality I feel that I would be in a much darker world with a pessimistic outlook on life. I would remain blindfolded and ignorant to the magick and amazement that this world has to offer; anyone can find it, anyone and feel, taste, hear, hold, and see it, only if they want it and open their eyes to it.

To do so is to be embraced by the true divine.

I had always been fascinated with witchcraft, fairies, magick, spirits and nature ever since I was tiny. I can remember making potions that would heal terrible diseases, and casting spells that would invoke fairies and nature spirits when I was eight years old; pottering about the garden collecting seeds, and berries to grind up and make potions, and building fairy houses in the apple trees.

I was well known for it, yet my mum used to joke and tease me about it – not in a nasty way but in a slightly patronizing way (I was eight after all) . Even though I believed in what I did and what I saw in the enchanting world around me, I was firmly told that it was make-believe.

Eventually I grew out of it. My interest in magick and nature was still within me but remained sealed tightly in a box in the corner of my mind, labeled “fiction”. Naturally I had been laughed at once I got to a certain age and so my thoughts diminished almost altogether on the subject.

In early secondary school, I went through a tough time and so eventually — after passing my short-lived rebellious stage and then my depressive Goth stage — I finally melted into a sad, yet peaceful Christian stage. I knew there was a God, or deity, and thought that Christianity was the only thing out there to reach it.

I called myself Christian even though I didn’t truly understand the bible stories. I innocently rebelled slightly with thoughts that maybe “God” was in the air and grass, and water, and sky, around us – a very Pagan thought indeed! (Although I didn’t know this at the time.) I was however still very comforted by the aspect that there was a God, and I felt safer when I prayed.

But soon, when things in my life got worse, I began to question Christian beliefs. (I began to ask the big old one: “If there is a God, why do we suffer?”) I could accept God, in some ways, (though there are so many things for me to question in the Christian view of God) yet I couldn’t really accept the Christian teachings and Jesus.

I was distressed and so when I heard the word “Pagan” on TV, I was intrigued. It had been a word that had appealed to me, yet I had never understood what it meant, or what it was exactly.

I was absolutely shocked when I found out that everything I believed in, that God didn’t necessarily have to be predominantly male, and that he might not just be a bearded man on a cloud, and that witchcraft, fairies and magick did exist, were common beliefs in an actual religion!

I thought I was just highly imaginative and lived in my own make-believe world. Imagine the feeling of being told that everything that you believe in, to the very core of your soul, was not real. You want it desperately to be real, yet you were firmly told that it wasn’t.

Then after years of letting your brain soak up this devastating information, you discover that — surprise! — it is all real. You could believe it all again! You become overwhelmed and hope swells in your chest…

Paganism was always of interest to me so I looked it up on the Internet. It was all very new to me: The idea that we could worship and love nature and have a female deity! The Sabbats interested me the most. It was really weird to see religious festivals celebrated on certain familiar days, with uncanny similarities. I had had no idea that the Christians had actually taken old Pagan festivals and traditions and used them in their own religion.

I think that when you find a religion, after seeing what is out there, you will know right away when you have found the one that is yours. I felt an immediate, emotional connection.

Halloween wasn’t just a day when I dressed up as a pumpkin. It was a spiritual time and an important holiday. Easter felt more personal and important to me as Ostara, the Spring fertility festival.

I soon went on to read about Wicca, a branch of Paganism. I was completely blown away! It was everything I had ever believed in.

As is usual in teens, I had found it difficult to accept myself for who I am. I felt insignificant compared to my “friends” and those around me. When I realized who I was, an eclectic Wiccan, I felt like ME. I felt whole. I had my answers, and had found the world that had since then, been hidden in the depth of my mind and heart, and that was now dancing before me in reality.

And nobody could now tell me otherwise.

My mum and sisters still mock me and my older sister asks me to do ridiculous and unneeded spells for her – which I refuse. I have to still repeat that Wicca ‘isn’t all about spell casting’ and that I cannot, and will not, cast a spell that is not needed, and even more so one that will force someone to fall in love.

When they mock, I sometimes even join in a little. I often sit and watch TV with a witch’s hat on, and ironically now, I dress up as a witch for Halloween.

Even though my family teases me, I know my mum is secretly proud. When she is asked about her kids she always tells them that her daughter is a Wiccan. Even though she doesn’t understand what it is, she knows that it is a gentle, kind, and compassionate religion.

I feel better about myself now, than I did when I was a Christian. On this note, I would never say that Christianity is bad or wrong! Granted that every religion has people who behave in ways that perhaps they shouldn’t and can be cruel, or corrupt. But I would also say that every religion, at the end of the day, is a pathway to the divine. They are all as valid as each other. You just need to find the one that is right for you personally.

Wicca is perfect for me and I think that it has always been within me.

 

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Special Kitty of the Day for November 6th

Luigi, the Cat of the Day
Name: Luigi
Age: Seven years old
Gender: Male
Kind: Tuxedo
Home: Riverton, New Jersey, USA
Luigi is a large, handsome and very friendly tuxedo cat. We adopted him five years ago from a cat rescue in a neighboring county. We were just recovering from the loss of our first tuxedo cat, Otis, and we wanted a playmate for our two other cats, Tabitha and Sadie. Luigi had a rough early life. He was adopted and then returned to the cat rescue. Sometime during his youth, he also injured his right rear leg, causing him to limp a bit. The leg does not slow him down, although it is hard for him to jump up on the bed or the window sill. For an eighteen pound cat with a bad leg, Luigi still gets around pretty well, especially when its mealtime or when he is playing with his siblings.

Luigi is very affectionate. When we are in bed or on the couch, Luigi will often curl up next to one of us (usually his Dad) and purr loudly–louder than any cat we have come across. He seems to do this particular when we watch the Phillies games or the news channel. Luigi will also demand that you pet him, usually by putting his paw across your hand. He will continue to demand his pets and scratches until either he gets bored or you get up. We often have to keep Luigi’s nails clipped in order to keep our hands intact. When we have visitors over, especially kids, he lets them pet him with little, if any, complaint.

Luigi now has two sisters, Sadie and Balto, and a little tuxedo brother, Dylan. When he and Dylan hang out togther or play with the laser pointer, they look like the feline version of the “Blues Brothers.” His oldest sister, Tabitha, passed away two years ago at seventeen years of age after battling diabetes for years. Other than the occasional spat with Sadie (they both think they should be in charge), the four of them get along pretty well. He has a healthy appetite, and he enjoys catnip.

Luigi has been a wonderful addition to our family, and we look forward to him being part of our family for years to come.

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Doggie of the Day for November 6th

Bungle, the Dog of the Day
Name: Bungle
Age: Four years old
Gender: Male Breed: Chihuahua, Blue Heeler
Home: Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Hi my name is Renae, and this is my dog Bungle. My fur child is the most special dog in the whole world, when he was a puppy he had doggie gastroenteritis and was told he had a small chance surviving, but they pumped him with fluids and got him to eat a little bit. I thought I was going to lose the puppy I only had for three days. Not only did he have gastro but he also had the opposite of diabetes, which meant I needed to give him a special diet of rice, chicken and vegdies with a bit of honey. You can see where they shaved his little leg, poor thing, but he is fine now, and all the fur – and more – grew back!

he makes everyone happy, tells me when he wants something, if its his dinner or if its a walk,. Hess my baby and I love him. Some nights he will sleep in between my husband and i, between our pillows, usually on one of our pillows.

Bungles personality is very bright and happy. He loves going for walks, he loves small animals, like our rabbit, he licks and snuggles him, he tries to play with everyone he can, but isn’t fond of nosey dogs. Bungle loves people, but only the ones he chooses. We got him from a pet shop here in Perth but the conditions were poor in the cage and he got sick. He is going really well now, though, apart from his knee problems he is perfect. He is very very affectionate loves cuddles and kisses, well he loves giving them, sometimes it gets very hot here and he gets lazy, he will lie on the floor, and as soon as you look his way, he wont move but he will wag his tail. If I start to cry he will stop what he is doing and come and sit with me and lick my tears.

Bungle loves his bones, ripping up paper/toilet rolls, he loves soft toys, at one point as a puppy he would pick up a soft drink bottle and carry it around. When we had weights in the backyard he would pick up the 1kg and 500gm weights and carry those around the backyard. he has many soft toys that he likes to rip apart and cover himself in the stuffing, which we end up having to clean up. Bungle can sit, stay, rollover, lie down, jump through hoops and sit without being asked, a simple hand signal is enough, or a piece of steak.

He loves tug of war with almost anything, he loves smackos which are popular dog treats, he knows the word smackos. He knows many words which I find funny. Some words are Tasmania, Walk, ‘wanna go to the toilet’ then he will run to the back door. Another one is ‘time for bed’ which follows a ‘trotting’ Bungle. He is very special to me.

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