[from Manx Notes & Queries, 1904]



There is a very old Manx proverb, so very remote indeed that its meaning has become a puzzle to the present generation of Manxmen, it runs thus

Tra ta’n gheay ‘sy villey,
Yiow shiu magh yn glass-ghuilley.


When the wind is in the tree.
Soon the lockman here will be.

The lockman is a sort of sheiriff’s officer who had charge of all prisoners and convicts, whom he kept under lock and key until their doom; his real name was guilley glesh, or glass, which, to suit the rhyme, is here reversed. We have similar proverbs and sayings in England. In London Notes and Queries, vol 9, p. 494 (1857), we read:~— " A labouring man in Grantham made the remark that in March and all seasons when the judge was on circuit, and when there are any criminals to be hanged, there are always winds and storms and roaring tempests."

Again, these ominous storms are alluded to in Cornwall, where there is a very popular notion that they unfailingly accompany Assize times, and there is a passage in Hollingworth’s " Childe Erconwold ":— Hast thou never read

When trees in calm air move, then speak the dead?

and in Willis’s Current Notes, November, 1855, in a note on "Thunder Storms on Great Deaths," it says

‘. When in 1658 the Protector Cromwell lay a-dying, there came a mad and ruthless storm suddenly. . . . ‘ Behold,’ said his friend, ‘ the rush of archangels to marshal into paradise my lord’s illustrious soul !’' 'Mark,’ said his enemies, ‘ how the demons of the air battle for the mastery of his spirit, and assemble to grasp it, when it glides away !

We know that Odin, or Woden, was the god of both wind and storm and war. To him the temple in Upsala was erected, and the great treasures were kept there. Every nine years the people celebiated here a great festival in his honour, when human and animal sacrifices were made to him. It lasted nine days, and the victims consisted of 99 men, 99 horses, 99 cocks, and 99 hawks. With their blood Odin was propitiated. The grove and the trees on which the slaughteied bodies were suspended were held sacred, and it was death to him who disturbed its precincts.

The above proverb takes us back to these old Norse pagan rites, before the introduction of Christianity had rooted out these dire customs. The sacrifices were principally made to propitiate him in times of war, or to appease him. It was believed that when the wind and storm played in the trees, that the god clamoured for fresh victims. We see, then, how very old our Mann proverb is. The Mann executioner was the fer chroghee or crogheyder, and the old fashion to deal with the condemned was to hang him up on the tree, just as the pagan Norse priesthood did with their human and other victims in the sacred grove of Upsala and elsewhere.



Keayrt dy row va ny ushagyn chaglym dy hoilshaghey da y chooilley cre obbraghyn va’d son jannoo. Va’d loayrt unnane ec cheayrt, ginsh quoad dy ein va’d troggal, as eve cha mie va’d laboragh. Tra haink yn drean beg dy inish cie oddagh ee jannoo dooyrt ee

Myr s’beg mee hene, myr keyl my chass,
Un eean jeig ver ym lesh ass.

The birds all met together once upon a time to tell of all the great things they could do. They were speaking one at a time, saying how many young they were rearing, and how good they were labouiing. When the little wren came to tell what he could do, he said

Though I am light, and my leg is small,
Eleven chicks I bring out for all.

That’s what the old people were saying.




When going out fishing in the herring season, it would happen that some of the boats were lucky and got plenty of fish, while other boats caught nothing. The result often was that great rows arose among the fishermen about such things. Suppose one or two boats fished well, there would be some of the others going in the night and and pulling a few straws of thatch off their houses (the successful men’s) and that took away all their luck with it.

Driving a Witch out of the Boat.

How the fishermen were driving the witch out of their boats when they were unsuccessful in catching herrings and thinking some harm had been done by a witch :—" In the evening when the nets were in the water, if it was calm, they got a lot of oakum and tied it on the end of a stick, then soaking it well with tar in the tar bucket, when the darkness set in they lighted the oakum and the tar, and the skipper took the torch and commenced at the stem-head, and the rest of the crew looking out for the witch. They were telling many lies over it, sometimes one would say he had seen the witch in this crevice, and another would say that she was in that crevice, and the skipper went with the torch to every place where they said the witch was, and put the burning torch in that place. Then the witch had to get away from the fire, and they kept on going from one place to another for a long time, until someone said the witch was gone aft. Then the skipper went aft with the torch, and put it in every crevice round the stern sheets until the witch was on the rudder head, he said, and then she had to get off that, too, from the torch, and jump into the sea. Then he threw the torch into the sea after her."

" As for the fishing, I never knew of any charm used for anything, as any sensible man would ask for God’s blessing ; but if times went hard against some folks they would foolishly go to certain folks that lifted herbs for the purpose, and the herbs would be boiled and everyone would have to taste it, and the remains would be sprinkled over the nets in the hold before shooting them, or stretching them full length in the sea or tide—heayn ny traie—and some would give a herb tied bits in a paper, or a piece of cloth, and it was to be put in the tail buoy* (mollag faman), and sometimes if the next neighbour would know the trick he would steal the buoy."


* Mollag—is a dog’s skin blown up as a bladder,; and used to float the herring nets




Cregeen, in his valuable dictionary, says :— " That the Manks had names of their own for the months is evident, as Mee ny Mannan, Mee ny Meayllagh, &c."

But here he stops, and whatever he knew about the matter has been lost to posterity. The former of these month names means " the Month of the Kid," and the latter might perhaps be translated " the Squally Month," or " the month that makes everything bare." To which months these names were applied it is hard to conjecture, probably March and April. July was sometimes called Mee Vuigh, or Yellow Month ; March was called Mee ny Mart or Mayrnt, and November Sauin or Mee Hauiney. Can any reader give any further information upon this interesting subject, or has any reader ever heard Mee ny Mannan and Mee ny Meayllagh made use of in colloquial Manx P





In any treatment of witchcraft and magic we have, of course, to go back to Druidism and the Druids, of which the Island had its full share. The Druids practised incantation of various kind, auguries by heavenly bodies, wind, clouds, smoke, birds’ flight, they announced the geese, or things unlucky for chief or tribe, and finally their power became so intolerant that in the sixth century it was proposed to banish them from Ireland but for the protection of Coluincille. Armstrong observes that all the principal families or clans in the Hebrides had their diuidh, adepts in divination and medicine, who foretold the future events, decided all causes, civil and ecclesiastical, and who besides devoted themselves to philosophy, astronomy, education, and the study of nature. In Gaelic, seunadair and geasadair, he adds, correspond to druids. From these spring our Manx fer obbagh, faaishneyder, bouch-chrout, fer ysseree, and the whole tribe of buitch and cailleach, or in more modern terms, the men and women in Man versed in leechcraft, " be-speaking," witching, fore-telling, and cursing or destroying. They have, however, dwindled down in our times to mere herb-doctors, bone-setters, magnetisers, and hypnotisers ; traces in the Island of actual belief in buitching or bewitching and the effect of the evil eye are still abundant, and have repeatedly come under my personal observation. The charms, of which there are many forms in constant use, are handed down from father to daughter, and from daughter to son ; the art is hereditary, only a few families possess the secret which descends from family to family ; they consist of written slips or formulas, whispered over the patient, and preparations of simple herbs, or powders, &c. The fairy doctors, as they are also called, pretend to encounter great difficulties when operating. Great darkness or horrid noises surround them when lifting the herb, their life and soul is in danger when they dispense their charms or work upon you. They generally work themselves into a state of excitement, the body shivering, and their muscles contracted, their eyes glaring and the face flushed and perspiring.1 I will cite a few cases of fir obbee and buitches known in the Island:—

1638. Jony Tear, 2 accused for administering strange herbs, Ballaugh.

1659. Jane Cesar, Kirk Malew, bewitching.

1690 Gilbert Moore , John Steon Picking herbs to forget, to blind, to obtain property, and strike people unknowingly

1712. Alice Knakell, Kirk Lonan, burning earth to ashes and giving same to cattle to procure more milk ; burning pieces of the petticoat to powder and give it for drink to get sleep.

1713. Alice Cowley, Ballaugh, a regular dealer in charms, dispenses mineral powders for procuring crops, remove barrenness, cure sick children, and selling love philter’s.

Coming nearer our own times the most striking personage was :-

Teare 3 of Ballawhane, whose power was known throughout the length and breadth of the Island. He had, and arrogated to himself, unlimited power over the birds of the air, and the beasts of the field ; he could cut off the fish ; he blessed the seed, and the net, and plough ; no farmer would begin his operations before calling him in He declared that by probing the secret springs of nature he could accelerate, return, or turn aside, at pleasure, the natural course of events. He could call evil spirits to his assistance.

On the other hand, he once declared in my presence, " he would not move from 12 o’clock at night till cock-crow for the love of his life or anything." He seems in his person to summarize the essence and nature of a very ancient druid.

Speaking of witches, it is still believed in the South and the North amongst unsophisticated farmers, that these old women can at pleasure transform themselves into hares, they can injure your person, cattle, farm produce, and health, upset your bargains, endanger your property ; and you can only kill or shoot them with a crooked silver coin ; and to escape their spells and evil eye—collect the dust and earth from under their sole, and burn it to ashes and throw it into the fire or water, or rub over the victim of their craft with the dust. " Fasting spittle " is another precious recipe used in cure.

The late Rev. T. E. Brown truly sings : — 

. . . these ould things
That’s selling charms to sailors*-rings,
Papers . . . . hung about the neck.
But there is odds of charms
A sort of blessin’ ; but some is a cuss
Most bither . . . cussing
Plough and harra, stock and crop,
Nets and lines . .
And harbs 3 they picks them
The right time of the moon and they ll take and mix them.

Now of the Pishag, or charms, there is great variety, and most have been described by Mr Moore 4 and myself. We have them

" To get blood, stop blood of men and horses, to cure toothache, elfshot, for scalding, straying, frghtening, loosing, for the nightmare, thefoot falling asleep, sciatica, erysipelas, king’s evil, for warts, for obtaining a fresh tooth in lieu of the decayed one, &c. ;" further:

" For bewitching the milk, horse, cow, pig, baby, against the fairies. the buggane, and evil spirit ; for protecting the boat, stable, and house, and you put a curse on the smell even".

The Amulets are stitched in your clothes, such as a brooch, &c., or you wear 5 it on your person, such as the rowan, or tie it in the cow’s tail, or hang it over your door, &c. Holed stones, or beads, were worn round your neck, and some of the Pishags had to be consumed by fire or water, or were buried in the soil, or stuck in the hollow trees, or left abroad to decay, or were left with or transferred to the object to be operated upon ; and consisted of bits of scrips, and written paper, rags, shells, stone, coin, pins, potsherds, blood, hair, spittle, clipping of the nail, bone, matter, or effinvia, of coial, or were communicated by touch, or effected by fascination of the eye, or images of wax or clay, and accompanied by the singing, or whispering and murmuring of spells, in-vocations, imprecations, and prayers, vows and oaths, such as guesag, rhusag, sheean, and orradh, and the crosagh.

The Mann Pishags belong to different periods, and have been derived from various sources, viz., those which may be traced to very early times, such as

1. " I will take the true spirit and cast from me the black spirit (spyi-ryd doo) . . and I shall never be the evil spirit (drough spyrryd).
Moore, Folklore,
p. 97.

2. " The black blood running . . . I will take it and it shall be mine."—Moore Folklore

3. The Invocation to the Spirits of the Church Stiles, and the houghs (ny Keimee as ny cughtee).—Moore, Folklore.

4. The allusion to the ‘ three young women who came over the water " (three mraane aegey haink harrish yn ushtey), which reminds us of the deae matres,5 the cultus of which was brought over by the Teutonic auxiliary legions from the Rhine, and the sculptured altars of which frequently occur in Northumbria along the Roman wall.

5. The Pishag against Elfshot : " If it came out of the earth, or the air, from under the tide of the sea . . . . let it return back again."— My Folklore, part I., p. 169.

Some of which may go back to Druidical times. The next batch, of which there are numerous instances, refers to those which are also commonly spread over ancient Northumbria, including East Scotland, Cumberland, Westmoreland, Lancashire, and Yorkshire, and of Norse and Anglo-Saxon origin, and those that fall within the sphere of mediæval and Catholic times. To analyse or enumerate the latter two classes specifically would take too much space. We see what great interest attaches to the collection of these chaims, and how necessary it is to record even the least scraps, and particularly those relating to early Goidelic times in the Island. I have also added for comparative purposes, a list of the derivations which may help to throw some side-light on their formation

.*See also Folklore of N.E. Scotland, by Gregory.

1,2 This seems to be the same family.

3 In 1487 we read that the women in Man sell wind, closed underthree knots of thread or more.

4 For instance, vervain., wooishlyn, luss yn aacheoi, luss y chiolg, luss ny kiare duillag, bollan fraill eoin, &c. ; of the herbs which poison, blind, and make forget, we are of course in the dark.

5 See Folklore of the Isle of Man, pp. 96-100 ; and My Folklore, parts I. and II ; Lior Manninagh; also sub. " Prayer." Folklore II.

6 The lucky or holy stone (a holed stone) was suspended to the tester of a bedhead to prevent the Nightmare (Ballacreggan) ; the lucky bone (in the form of a cross or Tau), taken from the sheep, was worn round the neck for good luck; the bollan bone was carried by the fishermen of the Island for the same puxpose.  

7 The matres were also Celtic (note by Principal Rhys).



Comparative list of derivations.

Drui, or druai, a druid, wizard, charmer.
Druiaghtagh, enchanter, charmer, wizard.
Fer druiagh, a wizard.
Druiaght, the charm.
Laue druiaght, chiromancy.
Marroo druiaght, necromancy ; also
Fer druiaght (Deut. xviii. 11), for necromancer.
Cloagey druiagh, the invisible cloak, rendering invisible at pleasure the person who wore it
Cowrey druicrgh, amulet(cowrey, mark, sign, symbol).
Cohuleen druidh (Irish), magic cap which makes the wearer invisible.
Gloine na druidh (Gaelic) the druid’s glass or the druid’s egg.

We have also the following order of wizards, conjurers, etc.

Fer obbagh (Manx), wizard, m, & f, (p1. fer obbee and ben obbee) ; see Lev. xix. 31 ; 1 Sam xxviii, 3; and obbeeys, witchcraft, Lev. xx. 6.
Ubag (Gaelic), an enchantment, charm, incantation, spell
Ubagaiche, one who subdues by charms and philters.
Upadh (Irish), sorcerer, witch.
Upaire, charm-monger.
Upog, witch.
Uptha, charms, philters, sorcery, witchcraft.


obair, work.
oibrich, to operate, work.

Then the Manx :-

Buitch, witch ; pl. buitchyn.
(from English craft), conjurer.
Buitcheragh , witchcraft (2 Chron. xxxiii. 6).
Buidseach, Buitseach (Gaelic), m, andf, a witch, wizard.
Bana bhuidseach, a she witch.
Buidseachd, a charm, witchcraft
Buitseachas (Irish), witchcraft.
Cuir buitseachd, to conjure.

Faaishneyder (Manx), wizard, juggler ; and

Spyrrydyn faishnee & fir faishnee 2 Kings xxi. 6).
Faaishnys, charm.
Fiosaiche (Gaelic), conj urer, and ban fhiosaiche.
sorcery, divination, fortune telling.
Faisdineagh (Irish), wizard, soothsayer.
Cran faistire, sorcery by casting lots.
Cranchar /lseojach, magical divination.

Fer ysseree=fer fysieree (Manx), sorcerer.
Cailleach* ny ghuesagh (Manx), the hag or witch of spells.

Cailleach vear,1 sends destructive tempests.
Cailleach ny faitheag, prophetess, witch.

Pisag, 2 spell, conjuration, amulet.
Piseach (Gaelic), success, increase, good luck
Piseach mhath ort, good luck to you.
Piseagaiche, sorcerer.
Piseog (Irish), witchcraft.
Piosage, sorcery, witchcraft.

probably from:

Pios (Gaelic), a piece, bit, fragment, a splinter, morsel.
Piseag, a rag, fragment of cloth, whether old or new. (Armstrong’s Gaelic-English Dictionary.)

Then we have the Manx :—

Guesag, spell, charm.
Giseag (Gaelic), charm ; geasag.
and gis or geis, enchant nent, vow, prayer.
Geasan, an oath, charm, sorcery.
Geis (Irish), incantation, charm, a custom.
Geasa, divination, religious vow,* oath, charm, guess.
Geasam, oath, vow.
Gens, conjuration, prayer.

Compare : geis, to divine, guess. German, wissen. gradh ghiseag (Gaelie), philter.


Rhusagh (Mann), amulet.
Rosad , Rosachd(Gaelic), enchantment, charm, mischance, fatuity.
Raidseachas, enchantment, prating.
Raidseach, chief witch.
Rossachd (Irish), charm, enchantment.
Compare : raidse (Gaelic), a prater. raite, gibberish.

Duilgarnee ,Doalgaarhee (Manx), a charm, a darkness cast upon the eyes by witchcraft or to see everything double,

Dallaran (Gaelic), a bewildered person ; and dolbh, witchcraft ; Ball, dazzle, to blind ; doille, blindness.


* Cailleach originally meant a devotee, but afterwards a female disciple or nun, and finally descended in meaning to an old woman.

1- See Stewart, p. 542.

2 See Douglas Hyde’s Beside the Fire, 1890. Story of Bran, p. 17 : " Who made a fawn of her ? Oh, how do I know. It was with some of their Pishtrogues."

3 See ditto, " Tale of the King of Ireland’s Son," p. 21. He put him under gassa and (mystic) obligations, cur fuoi geasaibh (Irish), cuir fo gheasaibh (Gaelic).



We have another Manx charm A Charm against the Fairies.

Shee Yee as shee ghooinney,
Shee Yee er Columb-Killey,
Er dagh uinnag, er dagh ghorrys,
Er dagh howl goaill stiagh yn lie-hollys,
Er kiare corneillyn y thie,
Er y voayl to mee my lhie,
As shee Yee orrym-pene.

Peace of God and peace of man,
Peace of God on Columb Killey,
On each window and each door,
On every hole admitting moonlight,
On the four corners of the house,
On the place of my rest,
And the peace of God on myself.

The above charm seems to be long forgotten, not remembered by the oldest people in Island. It is, of course, not confined to Isle of Man; we have it mentioned in Guy Manering in another form. Meg Merrilies, he birth of the hero, breaks out, singing :-

Trefoil, vervain, John's wort, dill,
Hinders witches of their will,
Weel is them that weel may
Fast upon bt. Andrew's Day.

Saint Bride and her brat,
Saint Colme and his cat,
Saint Michael and his spear,
Keep the house frae reif and wear.

[so in the Songs of Scotland, by Allan Cunningham, 1825, vol. I„ p. 139, we have the spell:-

Who sains the house to-night?
They that said it ilka night,
Saint Bryde and her brat,
Saint Colme and his bat,
Saint Michael and his spear,
Keep this house from the weir.

And on New Year's Eve (Oidehe Challuin) of which see description in my Manx Folk Lore, I., p. 180* [Lioar Manninagh, 1897] Macgregor gives the rhyme in. Gaelic and English that was sung on that occasion :-

Mor phiseach air an tigh.

Good luck to the house.

Piseach air an teaghlach.

Good luck to the family.

Piseach air gach cabar is air gach ni saoghalt' ann,

Goodluck to every rafter to every worldly thing in it.

Piseach air eich a's crodh

Good luck to horse and cattle.

Piseach air na caoraich.

Good luck to the sheep.

Piseach air h'uile ni..

Good luck to everything

S'piseach air ar maoin uil'.

Good luck to all your means.

Piseach air beann an tighe

Good luck to the good. wife.

Piseach air na paistean

Good luck to the children

Piseach airgach caraide.

Good luck to every friend

Mor phiseach agusslaint d'huibh

Good fortune and health. to all.

Which approaches the Manx wish very closely in substance; perhaps the rhyme may have been sung in Man in olden times at a similar occasion and accompanied by the same ceremonies as described by Macgregor in his High-land Superstitions.




Shrean (Manx), a charm, fortune.

Seun Sian (Gaelic), amulet, charm to make a, warrior invulnerable, good luck, prosperity.

Scun (Irish), a charm for protection, prosperity.

Swyn (Welsh), a charm remedy, cure, medicine.

Swyno, to charm, bless.

Sweyn serch, a love charm.

Sion cloch buaidh (Gaelic), stone of virtue, power, a germ, charm.

Compare-Seinn (Gaelic), chant, warble ; and Sian, to raise one's voice gradually.

Sion, a scream, roar, voice; incantation, invocation.

Orradh (Gaelic ), a superstitious charm. Manx urradh.

Orraidheachd, superstitious ceremonies, enchantment (Armstrong)

Orra, amulet.

Orragkan (Irish), charms, enchantment. Compare also Irish -

Urra, strength, power.
Ortha, prayer, charm.
Compare - Oraid, prayer,

The amulet was worn round the neck or stitched in plaid or shirt and hose, or attached to the bonnet or cap.

In Gaelic* we have the-

Orra graidh, an amulet to provoke urnlawful love.
Orra chomais, an amulet to deprive virility, &c.

And lastly, the Manx-

Croshag (the cross), the great Christian Talisman against Heathenism with all its evil spirits and powers.

The above comparison and analysis will help to follow the evolution of th-a various contrivances in the working of the charms.

* See M'Alpine's Gaelic-English Dictionary for a long, and curious enumeration of these charms.



Gregor+ informs ris that "there was a class of people whose curses, or as they were commonly prayers, were much dreaded, and every one used the greatest caution lest they might call forth their displeasure. To do so was to bring down their prayers, and disaster of some kind or other soon fell on those who bad been so unfortunate as to fall under their anger, according to the nature of the prayer." A parallel to this is afforded in the Manx quee, which not only means to pray, intreat, but also to imprecate and to curse; they piously differentiate the latter, however, by writing it gwee, In Gaelic we have guidhe= entreaty, curse, and the verb guidh to pray and imprecate; and to distinguish the prayer from the curse, they have daoch guidhe=(bad prayer)=imprecation. There was malevolent and benevolent praying, and as Principal Rhys well puts it:* "The fact that a curse is a species of prayer, a prayer for evil to follow, is well exemplified in Manx by gwee, meaning both kinds of prayer; and Kelly thinks he has done a fine thing by printing guee, 'prayer,' and gwee,'cursing."' In Welsh we also find gweddio for pray, &c.

+See.Folklore of North East of Scotland, p. 35.
* See Folklore, March, 1892: "Manx Folklore," by Prof, Rhys, p. 86.



Ghaw Ving.-Between Fleshwick Bay and Bradda Head there is a " Castle" Rock, called Cashtal Rackley, or Beckley, and at its outside is a cave, Ghaw Ving, so named on account of the echo that it produces. I have no doubt that it has been a place where the old Manx repeated charms. When an infant was sick, and thinking it would die, they used to go to the Ghaw Ving for it, and repeat :-

Ghaw ving, Ghaw ving,
Cur jeed yn troo
Va'n lhiannoo ching jea,
As bee eh ny share j in.

Ghaw ving, Ghaw ving,
Put off the envy
The child was sick yesterday,
And it will be better to-day.

We have a similar account from the old fishing village of Runswick, in the North Riding of Yorkshire, near Whitby. There one of the Hobs is still said to haunt a cave, called the Hobcave. Anxious and superstitious mothers brought their ailing little ones, and as they stood at the mouth of the caves, cried

Hob, my bairn's gettent kinkcough,
Takkt oft, takkt off !

It is evidently of Norse origin. The Manx cughtagh is an evil spirit " whose abode was in caves by the sea, and whose voice was the coughing and whispering of the wavelets." It seems to me that the Manx charm was addressed to this cughtagh, which apparently corresponds to the Yorkshire hob. In Gaelic cogair=to whisper, listen, and coiq=a secret, mystery, council, advice. In the Scottish we have cow or kow'=bugbear, hobgoblin; hence bu-kow and cowman=devil. * See Jamieson's Scottish Dictionary.


Creaming the Well.

In the first part of my Folklore (vol. III, part IV., pp. 162-3) I gave a short note about a witch going to a running stream and muttering a charm, Bainney as eem yn dooinney shoh dogs, to increase her supply of milk and butter. Gregor + gives an account of a similar procedure from Aberdeenshire, which seems to supplement and amplifiy the Manx version. He says:-

Such as were envious of their neighbour's success, and wished to draw away their prosperity, creamed the well they drew water from. This act was believed to be particularly cacious in ensuring a rich supply of milk and butter to the one who had cows, and performed the act on the well of those who also owned cows. All the utensils used in the dairy were washed with part of the cream of the well, and the cows received the. remainder to drink. It was gone through in some districts on the last night of the year. In a fishing village a handful of grass was plucked and thrown into the pail containing the water.

In the Isle of Man the woman dipped a cushag in the stream, and sprinkled herself and all around her with water

(See Notes on Folklore of the North-East of Scotland, by Rev. W. Gregor, Lond., 1881, p. 159,




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