BABA YAGA. A famous witch in Russian folklore, Baba Yaga was pictured as an old woman who lured people to her home where she cooked and devoured them. She especially liked to practice such cannibalism on young children. Much more a demonic monster than a human figure, she lived in a hut beyond a river of fire. The hut was surrounded by stakes set with human heads and was built on chicken legs, so that it could move at her command. She often flew through the air in an iron cauldron. She is clearly related to other night-flying, child-devouring monsters that later became associated with witchcraft in the traditions of Western lands, such as the Roman strix.
BACCHANALIA. A religious celebration in honor of the Roman god of wine, Bacchus, the rites, real or supposed, of the Bacchanalia became an important basis for the idea of the witches' sabbath in later medieval Europe. In ancient Greece, worshipers of the god of wine and fertility, Dionysos (who later became the Roman Bacchus), gathered at night, often in secluded wilderness areas. Their celebrations usually involved a number of women led by male priests, and entailed rites involving the consumption of wine, ecstatic dancing, and animal sacrifice. The god, Dionysos, was represented by a horned goat, a traditional symbol of fertility. The celebrations were often associated with sexual frenzies. In Roman times, the Bacchanalia became so associated with uncontrolled revelry, sexual activity, and immorality, that it was outlawed by the Roman Senate in 186 B.C.E. The description of a Bacchanalia by the Roman historian Livy became an important literary model for the later idea of the sabbath.
BACON, ROGER (ca. 1213-1291). An English Franciscan philosopher and scholar, Bacon was one of the most important natural scientists of the Middle Ages. In particular, he studied alchemy, astrology, mathematics, and optics. He developed a popular reputation as a sorcerer because of his unconventional scientific experiments and his pursuit of occult learning. There is no evidence, however, that Bacon was ever significantly interested in matters of demonic sorcery (as some medieval scholars were), and he certainly was never associated with witchcraft in any way.
BAMBERG WITCH TRIALS. The scene of some of the most severe witch-hunts in the German Empire, the persecution of witches in and around the city of Bamberg was particularly intense during the reign of Bishop Johann Georg Fuchs von Dornheim, the so-called Hexenbischof or "witch-bishop," from 1623 to 1633. Bishop Johann established a large staff to carry out the hunt for and prosecution of witches, and he had a special prison constructed, the Hexenhaus or "witch-house," containing cells and interrogation chambers to hold suspected witches. The hunts in Bamberg began to spiral out of control, and many prominent citizens were accused. Eventually, the situation became so bad that an appeal was made to the emperor Ferdinand II. Finally, in 1630 and 1631, he issued mandates that proper legal procedures should be more carefully adhered to in all cases of suspected witchcraft in accordance with the Carolina law code that supposedly governed the entire empire. From this point, and especially with the death of Bishop Johann and other important persecutors, the number of trials in Bamberg gradually decreased.
BAPHOMET. An image of the devil or a demon as a horned, half-goat creature, Baphomet is of medieval origins. The word may be a corruption of the name of the Islamic prophet Muhammad (often incorrectly rendered as Mahomet in medieval Christian sources), conceived by Christian authorities as a demon or idol. In the early 14th century, the Knights Templar were accused of possessing an idol shaped like the head of Baphomet, which they supposedly worshiped. In the 19th century, the image of Baphomet was revived among occultists and enthusiasts of ritual magic. Perhaps the most famous image of the horned goat-devil was drawn by the French occultist Eliphas Levi, and the well-known British occultist Aleister Crowley took the name Baphomet at one point in his career. In the 20 th century, a version of the image of Baphomet—a goat's head inscribed in an upside-down pentagram—was adopted by the Church of Satan as its official symbol. The image has also often been associated with witchcraft, but no practitioners of Wicca or other forms of modern neo-paganism use the image in any way, although practitioners of modern Satanism continue to do so.
BASEL, COUNCIL OF (1431-1449). This great church council, held in the city of Basel in the first half of the 15th century, was an important center for the early diffusion of the idea of witchcraft across Western Europe. Several of the most important early theorists of witchcraft were present at the council or associated with it in some way, and clearly many clerics first learned of witchcraft while at Basel.
In the early 15th century, full-fledged demonic witchcraft, that is, witchcraft that involved not just the practice of harmful sorcery (,maleficium) against others, but also involved the worship of demons or the devil, apostasy from the faith, gatherings at a sab-
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bath, and all the attendant horrors that implied, was a fairly new and localized phenomenon. Some of the earliest true witch trials were only just beginning to take place, mainly in lands in and around the western Alps — the dioceses of Lausanne and Sion, and the territories of Dauphine and Savoy. The Council of Basel brought churchmen from across Europe together just to the north of these regions.
Several of the first learned authorities to write on witchcraft were present at the Council of Basel. Perhaps most important among these men was the Dominican theologian Johannes Nider. In his major work on witchcraft, the Formicarius (Anthill), he included several accounts of witches in the Simme valley in the Bernese Oberland, that is, the alpine territory of the city of Bern, and elsewhere in the diocese of Lausanne. He also wrote about the supposed witchcraft of Joan of Arc, about whom he learned while at the council from clerics who had come from Paris. The French cleric and poet Martin Le Franc was also at Basel, and there composed his poem Le Champion des Dames (The Defender of Ladies), in which he included a long section about witchcraft. Moreover, there is strong evidence to suggest that the anonymous clerical author of the Errores Gazariorum (Errors of the Gazarii), another important early description of witchcraft, was associated with the council in some way.
In addition, many ecclesiastical authorities involved in the prosecution of witches were present at the Council of Basel, for example George de Saluces, who was later bishop of Lausanne from 1440 until 1461, and under whose direction several witch-hunts were conducted. Also the inquisitor Ulric de Torrente, who conducted some of the earliest witch trials in the diocese of Lausanne, might have been at the council for some time. Most famously, Nicholas Jacquier, who later conducted numerous witch trials as an inquisitor in northern France, attended the council in 1432 and 1433. He also wrote the important treatise on witchcraft Flagellum hereticorum fascinario-rum (The Scourge of Heretical Witches) in 1458.
BASQUE LANDS, WITCHCRAFT IN. The Basque lands comprise a small region in southwestern France and northern Spain, lying on either side of the Pyrenees. They were the scene of some of the most intense witch-hunting in both countries. The major Basque witch-hunt began in 1609. In France, the judge Pierre de Lancre was appointed
to the Pays de Labourd and began to investigate cases of witchcraft. He quickly became convinced that the entire region was infested with witches. He wrote of thousands of witches gathering at great sabbaths, and he is often credited with executing up to 600 supposed witches, although in all likelihood the figure should be under 100. In Spain, cases of witchcraft fell under the jurisdiction of the Spanish Inquisition, and in 1609 the inquisitor Alonso de Salazar Frias was appointed to the regional tribunal at Logroño. Unlike Lancre, he was skeptical of many of the charges being made in the courts. In 1611 and 1612, he conducted a thorough investigation of the procedures being employed in witch trials in the region. He found many lapses in procedure and became convinced that many of the convictions being obtained were false. Based on his report, the central council of the Spanish Inquisition in Madrid, the Suprema, established much stricter oversight and guidelines for witch trials. By 1614, the severe outbreak of witch-hunting on both sides of the Pyrenees was over and the region was returning to normal.
BAYLE, PIERRE (1647-1706). An important philosopher, born in France and later a professor at the university in Rotterdam, Bayle was a strong advocate of liberalism and religious toleration. He treated the subject of witchcraft at length in his Résponse aux questions d'un provincial (Responses to the Questions of a Provincial), written in 1703. He did not deny the potential reality of sorcery or witchcraft, or the power of the devil. Instead he advocated a more moderate form of skepticism, arguing that many acts attributed to witchcraft could also arise from natural causes, and that human authorities could rarely, if ever, be certain in assigning blame to witches. He also felt that the excessive use of torture led to many false convictions in cases of witchcraft, that many convicted witches were in fact deranged or confused, and that authorities should not place so much credence in popular beliefs and concerns.
BEKKER, BALTHASAR (1634-1698). One of the most important and perhaps the most thorough opponent of witch-hunting in the 17th century, Bekker was a Dutch clergyman. In 1690, he published the first volumes of his De Betoverde Weereld (The Enchanted World), which was soon translated into German, English, and French.
A rationalist thinker following the model of the French philosopher René Descartes, in this work, he exhibited a complete skepticism about the very existence of witchcraft, unlike many other opponents of the witch-hunts who chose to criticize only the faulty procedures of witch trials, which they felt were producing numerous false convictions, while still maintaining the potential reality of witchcraft in the world. Drawing on a new, mechanistic understanding of the universe, Bekker did not deny the reality of demons, but he did deny that they could exert any influence or power over the natural world or human affairs. Rather than attribute certain occurrences to witchcraft, he maintained, authorities should look for natural explanations for these events, whatever they were. Because demons lacked any real power in the world, there was no basis for the supposed pact between witches and the devil. For his beliefs, Bekker was labeled an atheist and ultimately was expelled from the Dutch Reformed church.
BENANDANTI. The apparent remnants of an ancient fertility cult practicing a form of archaic shamanism, the benandanti were people in the northern Italian region of Friuli who believed that they traveled at night in spirit form to battle witches. The name benandanti translates as "those who go well" or "well-doers." They consisted of men and women who had been born with the caul, the inner fetal membrane, still intact and covering their bodies. Such births are frequently taken as a sign of supernatural power in many cultures. Upon reaching maturity, the benandanti were initiated into their cult. On certain days they were summoned, while they slept, to travel in spirit form to battle witches, also in spirit form. The benandanti were armed with fennel stalks and the witches with sorghum stalks. If the benandanti were victorious, the fertility of the land and abundant crops in the coming season were assured. When awake and in their physical forms, the benandanti were also thought to have certain supernatural powers, especially the power to perform magical healing.
In 1575, the benandanti first came to the attention of ecclesiastical inquisitors. These authorities immediately suspected that the benan-danti were themselves witches, a claim that the benandanti vigorously denied. An inquisition was instituted, and inquests and trials lasted until well into the 1640s. Over this period, inquisitors did succeed, to some extent, in convincing the local populace and even some
of the benandanti themselves that they were in fact involved in witchcraft and attending witches' sabbaths. As was typical for Southern Europe, however, the trials were well-controlled, torture was rarely employed, and no major witch-hunt developed.
Scholars now agree that the benandanti are among the best examples of the surviving remnants of ancient pagan fertility cults in medieval and early-modern European society. The roots of the beliefs surrounding the benandanti are clearly ancient. By the 16th century, however, they had become thoroughly Christianized. The benandanti often maintained that they were summoned by angels to battle witches and that they were agents of God in this struggle against evil. They thus reveal how surviving fragments of ancient beliefs and practices could combine with Christian belief and notions of witchcraft.
BERKELEY, WITCH OF. The story of the witch of Berkeley supposedly took place around the time of the Norman conquest of England in 1066. The chronicler William of Malmesbury included it in his history of the kings of England, the Gesta regum, and the story continued to circulate throughout the medieval and early-modern periods. A powerful sorceress lived at Berkeley. She performed demonic magic and had clearly entered into some sort of pact with the devil. Upon receiving a premonition of her own death, she asked her children, since they could not save her soul, at least to try to protect her body after death by sewing it into the skin of a stag and placing it in a stone coffin fastened by three chains inside a church. On the first two nights after her death, demons assailed the church in which she lay and broke two of the chains. On the third night the devil himself appeared and commanded the woman's corpse to come with him. The body replied from inside the coffin that it could not, at which point the devil broke the third chain and carried off the corpse on an enormous black horse. Although horrific in its depiction of the connection between sorcery and ensnarement of a human soul by demons, the story of the witch of Berkeley does not contain any overt descriptions of the worship of demons or other elements of diabolism that would later come to comprise the stereotype of witchcraft.
BERNARDINO OF SIENA (1380-1444). One of the most popular preachers in the early 15 th century, Bernardino was a Franciscan friar
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who was active across northern Italy. He was particularly concerned with matters of immorality that he felt threatened to corrupt the entire community in which they were found, especially sorcery and witchcraft, sodomy, and toleration of Jews. In fiery sermons, he called for the extirpation of these supposed sins. He witnessed an early witch trial in Rome, probably in 1426 (some sources give 1424 or other years). He later tried to instigate trials for witchcraft in his native Siena in 1427, and was associated with a witch trial in Todi in 1428. Through his sermons, Bernardino can be seen as helping to begin the spread of concern over sorcery and witchcraft that would soon escalate into the earliest witch-hunts in Europe.
BIBLE, WITCHCRAFT IN. The most famous reference to witchcraft in the Bible is the passage from Exodus 22:18, given in the 17th century King James' Version as "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Throughout the period of the European witch-hunts, this passage served as the biblical justification for the execution of witches. In fact, the original text referred to soothsayers or diviners, but throughout the medieval and early-modern periods, the passage was understood as referring to sorcerers and witches. Other biblical passages of significance for the later history of witchcraft include the story of the Witch of Endor (again originally described only as a pythoness or diviner) to whom King Saul went to consult with the spirit of the dead prophet Samuel. Later Christian authorities regularly assumed that the "witch" must in fact have summoned a demon who took the form of the prophet. Other important episodes include the encounter between Moses and Aaron and the magicians of the Egyptian pharaoh in Exodus 7:8-13, and the story in 1 Kings 18 in which the prophet Elijah defeated the priests of Baal in a magical contest. Later authorities held that priests of pagan religions depicted in the Bible actually worked their magic by summoning demons. The victory of God's prophets in both of these contests was used to show the superiority of divine miracle to demonic sorcery or witchcraft.
The most significant magical figure from the New Testament was Simon Magus of Samaria. He was a magician who confronted the apostles of Christ in Acts 8:9-24. Seeing that their power was superior to his, he offered the apostle Peter money to be granted similar power. Peter, of course, refused. In later apocryphal literature,
the rivalry between Simon Magus and Peter (also called Simon Peter) was elaborated, and Simon Magus became the archetype for practitioners of demonic sorcery throughout the Middle Ages. He was, however, never described as a witch.
BINSFELD, PETER (ca. 1540-1603). A theologian and suffragan bishop of Trier, Binsfeld was a major German authority on witchcraft. He played a key role in the severe outbreak of witch-hunting that took place at Trier in the late 1580s and early 1590s, and he wrote a Tractatus de confessionibus maleficiorum et sagarum (Treatise on the Confessions of Witches), first published in 1589. His purpose was to justify the witch trials at Trier, and in particular to defend the value of the confessions made by accused witches as evidence against other witches. He drew on all the previous major Catholic works on witchcraft, such as the Malleus maleficarum and the treatises by Alfonso de Spina and Jean Bodin, and he criticized more skeptical authorities such as Johann Weyer. He was also instrumental in opposing the skeptical authority Cornelius Loos, who had written a treatise in response to the severe witch-hunts he had witnessed in Trier.
BLACK MASS. Generally conceived as an elaborate perversion of the Catholic Mass, involving the inversion of liturgical ritual and often nude rites and sexual orgies dedicated to Satan, the Black Mass actually has no historical reality, and certainly no association with witchcraft, either historical or modern. Although the witches' sabbath, as conceived in the late-medieval and early-modern periods, involved mocking Christian rites, worshiping the devil, and engaging in sexual orgies, no historical account describes any rituals directly perverting the Catholic Mass. There is evidence from the 17th century that certain nobles at the court of French king Louis XIV hired priests to perform unorthodox Masses containing sacrilegious and erotic elements, but this seems to have been done more for titillation than out of any serious worship of the devil. Only in the 18 th century did the concept of a Black Mass develop and was then projected back into earlier periods. Some secret and possibly occultist organizations of the 18th century, such as the infamous Hellfire Club in England, were rumored to perform Black Masses, but most likely they simply
engaged in irreverent and libertine revels that gained a darker tint in rumor and gossip. Practitioners of modern witchcraft, or Wicca, do not engage in any rituals resembling a Black Mass, nor do most practitioners of modern Satanism. The largest Satanist group, the Church of Satan, founded by Anton LaVey, explicitly rejects the Black Mass. Nevertheless, the stereotype of witches and other neo-pagans performing Black Masses persists.
BODIN, JEAN (1529/30-1596). One of the greatest political thinkers of the 16th century, Bodin is most famous for his Six livres de la République (Six Books of the Republic), published in 1576. Here, he presented one of the first modern arguments about the nature of political sovereignty, maintaining that ultimate sovereignty lay with the people who comprised a state. This work established Bodin as one of the most progressive political thinkers of his time. In terms of the history of witchcraft, however, he is most well known for his work De la démonomanie des sorciers (The Demonomania of Witches). First published in 1580, this book went through 10 editions before 1604, and for the remainder of the period of the witchhunts stood as one of the preeminent authoritative sources on witchcraft. Nowhere near as liberal on this subject as he was in other areas of political theory, Bodin argued forcefully for the real danger posed by witchcraft and the need for authorities to uncover and destroy this crime.
Born in Angers, France, Bodin became a Carmelite monk, but left the monastery to pursue a university education at Toulouse, where he excelled in classics, philosophy, economics, and above all law. Eventually, he became a professor of law. In 1561, he went to Paris in the service of the king, until the publication of the Six livres lost him royal favor and he became a provincial prosecutor in Laon. His Démonomanie was in part based on his own experience with witch trials. Bodin was convinced of the reality and threat of witches, arguing at length against such skeptics as Johann Weyer. His theories on witchcraft may be linked to his larger political thought in that he saw in political authority a reflection of divine order on earth. Thus, he was convinced that secular magistrates had to take all measures necessary to protect this order from the diabolical threat of witchcraft.
BOGUET, HENRI (ca. 1550-1619). An eminent lawyer and author of one of the most important legal treatises on witchcraft in early-modern Europe, Bouget based his writings on his own experience with witch trials and his personal examinations of many witches. In his Discours des sorciers (Discourse on Witches), he not only described witchcraft but collected existing legal statutes and codified the procedures legal authorities should take against witches. As a practical handbook for dealing with witchcraft, the Discours was at least as important as other major works on witchcraft and demonology such as those by Jean Bodin, Nicholas Remy, and Pierre de Lancre.
BONAE MULIERES. Literally meaning "good women," bonae mulieres was a common term by which authorities writing in Latin described various women or female creatures found in many European folk legends who flew or otherwise traveled at night and often needed to be placated with offerings of food or drink. Aspects of the bonae mulieres are reflected in the women who were thought to ride with the pagan goddess Diana, as described in the canon Episcopi and other sources, as well as older beliefs in malevolent, female, nighttime demons such as the strix or lamia, or the Germanic concept of the Wild Hunt. All of these notions came to inform the developing stereotype of witchcraft in various ways, contributing most especially to the notion of the night flight of witches to a sabbath.
BONIFACE VIII, POPE (ca. 1235-1303). As pope from 1294 to 1303, Boniface came into conflict with many powerful European rulers, such as the English king Edward I and especially the French monarch Philip IV. After Boniface was dead, his political enemies continued to struggle against his successors in the papacy. As part of this conflict, servants of the French crown posthumously accused Boniface of heresy, murder, and sodomy, of performing ritual magic, and of being in league with demons. Although the magic the pope was accused of performing was more akin to learned necromancy than witchcraft, and although the charges against him were clearly politically motivated, the case, along with the similar trial of the Knights Templar at about the same time, served to some degree as a harbinger of later developments, culminating ultimately in the earliest witch-hunts.
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BOOK OF SHADOWS. In modern witchcraft, or Wicca, collections of magical rituals, prayers, spells, beliefs, and teachings are called Books of Shadows. They are the basic texts of the Wiccan religion. The original Book of Shadows was composed by the founder of modern witchcraft, Gerald Gardner, and his chief assistant Doreen Valiente. Nevertheless, there is no definitive Book of Shadows for the entire Wiccan tradition, which is very fragmented and decentralized. Gardner himself continually rewrote and modified his Book of Shadows, and Valiente, after breaking with Gardner, authored her own rituals as well. Among modern witches, most covens, the basic groupings in which the religion functions, have their own Book of Shadows, usually similar to other groups in their tradition but modified to meet the needs and beliefs of that particular coven. Some ceremonies of modern witchcraft can be practiced alone, and some modern witches are entirely solitary, not part of any organized group or coven, so that individual witches can also have their own personalized Books of Shadows.
BRITISH ISLES, WITCHCRAFT IN. All the lands of the British Isles experienced significantly less intense witch-hunting than did many areas of the continent. The total number of executions ranged between 1,500 and 2,500, with virtually no executions taking place in Ireland. Particularly in England, the full stereotype of witchcraft, linking the practice of harmful sorcery, maleficium, with intense diabolism, attained force only much later than on the continent, and was never accepted, even by authorities, as fully as it was in France or the lands of the German Empire. For this reason, witchcraft in England, involving only harmful sorcery, was seen as a less serious offense, and in the absence of widespread belief in the diabolical witches' sabbath, those accused of witchcraft were rarely required to name additional suspects. Individual cases, therefore, did not explode as easily into widespread hunts. In addition, the judicial use of torture was extremely restricted in England. It was permitted only by the specific command of the Privy Council, and only where matters of state were concerned. Thus, it was effectively banned in almost all cases of witchcraft. Not only did restriction of torture reduce the number of convictions in general, but it also contributed to the slow and incomplete English acceptance of the diabolical aspects
of witchcraft because evidence of large cults of witches and witches' sabbaths generally rested on confessions obtained through torture.
This is not to say that major witch-hunts did not occur in England. For example, the series of trials conducted by the famous witch-hunter Matthew Hopkins in 1645 and 1646 claimed over 200 lives. Even this hunt, however, the most severe in English history, was significantly less extensive in scope than the greatest panics on the continent.
Scotland was similar to England in that it experienced only a belated and never fully complete acceptance of continental ideas of diabolism, and similar restrictions were in place regarding the use of torture (although the acceptance of diabolism was higher than in England, and restrictions on torture were not always as effectively enforced). Nevertheless, Scotland experienced significantly more witch-hunting than did England, with some estimates placing the number of executions in Scotland at three times the number in England (during a period when Scotland had only about one fourth of England's population). One reason for this was that the legal system was not as fully centralized in Scotland as in England. Conviction rates in trials heard by unsupervised local magistrates were significantly higher than in those cases heard in Edinburgh or by royal circuit justices. In England, by comparison, almost all cases were heard by royal circuit justices, and conviction rates were generally kept low. In addition, the church in Scotland seems to have been more directly involved in the prosecution of witches than in England. Still, even the largest hunts in Scotland did not approach the scale of the major continental hunts.
In Ireland, virtually no witch-trials are known to have taken place, although the land had a reputation for sorcery, and the belief in harmful magic was certainly widespread. One possible explanation is that the prevalence of belief in fairies allowed the Irish population to explain misfortune without resorting to accusing their neighbors of maleficent magic. Another equally likely explanation is that the Irish often did suspect their neighbors of witchcraft, but refused to bring charges against them in courts, since these operated under English law and were seen as instruments of foreign oppression.
BROOMS. One of the most standard images of the night flight of witches was that of witches flying on brooms. The first images of witches on
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brooms date from the 15th century, most famously associated with the description of witchcraft in the poem Le Champion des Dames (The Defender of Ladies) by the French poet Martin Le Franc. In fact, early sources such as Le Champion and also the Errores Gazariorum (Errors of the Gazarii) describe witches flying on brooms, staffs, and other common household or farming implements. Other descriptions of flight, such as that found in the famous canon Episcopi, describe witches riding on animals or demons in the form of animals. Nevertheless, the broom became the most common implement for flight supposedly used by witches. Most likely this was because the broom was an extremely standard household item used by all women. Generally, witches were thought to have to anoint themselves or their brooms with certain magical potions or ointments in order to be able to fly. Often these ointments were supplied to them by the devil at a witches' sabbath.
BUCKLAND, RAYMOND (1934- ). Born in London, Buckland was the person initially most responsible for the introduction of modern witchcraft, or Wicca, to the United States. While still living in England, Buckland became interested in the study of religions and the occult. He was drawn to the notion of witchcraft as a revived ancient religion by the writings of Margaret Murray and Gerald Gardner. In 1962, he emigrated to the United States, and a year later, while back in England, met Gardner and was initiated into modern witchcraft. Thereafter, Buckland became Gardner's principal agent in North America. Eventually, Buckland broke with Gardner's variety of witchcraft and founded his own variety, called Seax-Wicca, based more closely on ancient Anglo-Saxon traditions. A prolific author, Buckland has written many books and for a long time conducted a correspondence school in witchcraft from his home.
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