The genre even enticed leading mathematicians and doctors, who attempted to improve upon the pulp that was the basic stock in trade of the almanacmaker. The self-taught London mathematician William Bourne composed a series of almanacs designed especially for navigators, who needed accurate information about celestial configurations. Like the majority of the compilers of nautical almanacs, Bourne was little interested in astrological prophecies. In fact, he was openly skeptical of astrological forecasting, preferring to provide the essential information that navigators might use to find their way on the open seas.
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Clergymen also published almanacs. Georg Caesius, a Lutheran pastor in Ansbach, published one every year between and Caesius warned the people of Ansbach that they were sure to feel Gods wrath, since sermons, warning, and godly admonishments do not help, God must visit us for our many sins with plagues, unnatural weather, hail, and violent storms.
Capp, English Almanacs, p. Caesiuss son, Georg Friedrich, also a pastor-astrologer, went further, writing in his annual prognostication for , any man of understanding can learn from the stars, which God has printed and put in the heavens like letters in a book, what great doings and signs of wrath he sends to threaten us sinful men.
The stars and planets are preachers of penance, wrote one pastor, heralds of Gods wrath. With its calendars, tide tables, phases of the moon, proverbs, lists of kings, advice on thrift, health hints, diagrams for phlebotomy, and charts showing the accumulated value of investments, the almanac was the simple mans treasury of knowledge. At any rate, teachers of the subject must have thought so, since they frequently advertised their services in almanacs and wrote almanacs themselves.
For many readers, an almanac might also have been ones first encounter with the new astronomy. In his Almanack and prognostication for this year , for example, Hopton added, by way of an epilogue, A short Theorax [theoretical discussion] of the Moon, opening many secrets to enlighten vulgar 72Barnes, Prophecy, pp. On 16th century English almanacs, see Carroll Camden, Jr. By and large, almanacs rarely addressed the great cosmological debates of the day. In an appendix to the work, Digges provided a brief account of the Copernican system that played an important role in introducing the new astronomy to English readers.
In an almanac for the year , Arthur Hopton discussed the theories of Copernicus and Tycho Brahe and his reasons for rejecting them in favor of the traditional Ptolemaic system, while Abraham Grammar, in almanacs published in the s, made calculations based on Copernicus and Tycho without choosing between them. Almanacs were intended for practical use. The new Copernican cosmology did not seem to offer astrologers any advantages when it came to making astrological forecasts and nativities. As the English empiric John Partridge expressed it somewhat flippantly, it was not a rush matter which your principles are, whether geocentric, heliocentric, or selenocentric.
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Thus the Venetian astrologer Mario Vergieri calculated the prognostications in his almanac for according to the new and more true Copernican motions. As long as people could buy their almanacs and learn from them what the future might hold, what did they care whether it was Ptolemys, Tychos, or Copernicuss mathematics that astrologers employed in making them? Although almanacs may not have played a decisive role in disseminating the new cosmology, they influenced popular culture in subtler and perhaps more permanent ways.
Historians have noted, for example, that early modern almanacs were often printed for a specific city or region. Such spatial pinpointing, along with the presence in almanacs of other local geographical information, heightened readers awareness of place in contrast to the drift of early modern Protestantism, which stressed that since God was everywhere, earthly time and place were irrelevant to the divine Heaven. The spatial referencing of almanacs, however, had nothing to do with sacred spaces such as altars and shrines; instead, it privileged secular spaces such as towns, cities, and coastlines.
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Astrology was premised on the notion that time and place mattered in a larger celestial sense, since astrological forecasting had necessarily to take into account the location from which the calculations were made. The diversity of humans is not only an empirical fact: it is also a natural consequence of the diversity of celestial influences over human affairs.
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For such readers, almanacs were. Even though arguments about destiny versus Gods power continued to vex early modern people, readers of almanacs were not so much interested in using occult powers as attempting to understand Gods providence. Most readers understood that astrology had its limitations.
The stars predict matters that God put under their influence, but Gods eternal plan for the universe placed it outside the sovereignty of the heavens. Astrology in the Countryside The most common forms of environmental prediction by astrological means concerned the weather. Early modern societies were overwhelmingly rural and agricultural; hence weather conditions directly affected the economic and social conditions of the population.
Drought, floods, and extreme cold could easily determine whether a family would survive or starve. To find out what to anticipate, most people turned to almanacs, which offered readers simple weather forecasts for the year. Usually divided into the four seasons, weather predictions tended to be general and often vague, for example, rainy spring, or windy winter. Although astrology provided an imperfect meteorological guide and often drew scorn and criticism, the public demanded weather forecasts, and no almanac writer could risk omitting them.
Most almanacs also contained astrological information concerning farming, such as the best time to plough, plant, geld animals, harvest, and fell timber. Land should be manured during the wane of the moon, said an Elizabethan astrologer, since during its increase the manure would merely stimulate the growth of weeds. A almanac noted, many country people use to take observation of the Prime in covering and weaning of cattle. The medical advice that almanacs provided for treating animals was almost identical to that found in the conventional medical books of the.
Almanacs also included weather forecasts that had particular significance for animal health. Just how deeply into peasant culture did printed almanacs and calendars penetrate? It is a fair question to ask, given the low rates of literacy in the countryside. Historian Natalie Zemon Davis questions whether works such as the Calendrier des bergers could have provided peasants with any useful information, and wonders whether compilers and publishers envisaged a peasant public for them.
Davis suggests that works such as the Shepherds Calendar presented an idealized, sentimental vision of the peasant world for country gentlemen and city people and a way for such readers to identify themselves with the simple wisdom of country folk. Besides, peasants had their own ways of calculating the astronomical data they needed, including simple astronomical charts that they recorded in little wooden tablets. As for the almanacs gynecological sections, Davis writes, the information presented was trifling compared to the lore of the village midwife.
Davis concludes that the almanacs could hardly have brought [country people] much new information or changed significantly their reliance on oral transmission and their relationship with non-peasant groups. Astrology in the Piazza For many astrologers, the consulting room was the piazza itself. Rubbing elbows with the ciarlatani in the town squares were prophets dressed in sackcloth declaiming their tales of catastrophic and prodigious happenings.
Interpreting the meanings of natural and celestial events, they. Wear, ed. Medicine in Society Cambridge: , pp. Respectable astrologers and social commentators denounced the street-corner prognosticators. The redoubtable Tommaso Garzoni derided the almanac-makers, branding them as eccentric madmen, made fun of by the vulgar and scorned by all the worlds learned sages.
The Italian humanist Giovanni Pontano railed against the vulgar spectacle of third-rate necromancers that one hears ad nauseam in Rome, Bologna, and Florence. Rigorous education was hardly a prerequisite for becoming an astrologer. A witness at the trial of the notorious Roman astrologer Orazio Morandi, when asked if he knew of anyone in Rome who practiced astrology, responded, All Rome is filled with these charlatans; and I am amazed that the pope has not given sufficient provision against these imposters.
Among them is a knife-seller whose name I dont know, a certain Battelli, certain Spaniards who go around selling their opinions about nativities, as I have heard. In 16th century Venice, a friar by the name of Aurelio di Siena became widely known as the fortune-telling friar il frate della ventura for his ability to foretell the future. Fra Aurelio practiced astrology, chiromancy, and geomancy to give clients advice about love and marriage, finding lost objects, and helping merchants realize.
Paolo Cherchi Turin: , p. By this time, printed prognostications included everything from prophecy and astrology to comet lore and politics. Prophets in the piazza were as likely to sell an almanac and cast a horoscope as to read celestial signs and portents to predict calamities to come. He probably died in prison. Most of the marketplace stargazers came and went without leaving a trace. Like other charlatans, they were itinerants who drifted from city to city peddling their prognostications to a curious public.
One such prophet was Giuseppe Rosaccio , early modern Italys most famous diviner. When the priors of the Medical College in Bologna denied him permission to show himself on the central square, Rosaccio petitioned the papal legate, Cardinal Benedetto Giustiniani, who readily overturned the colleges decision. Unsurprisingly, Rosaccio drew the ire of legitimate astrologers such as Giovanni Antonio Roffeni, a professor at the University of Bologna and a prolific author of almanacs and prognostications, for presuming to usurp the most noble science of astrology.
Roffeni rightly regarded Rosaccio and his ilk as dangerous competitors. Roffenis condemnation of the street-corner prognosticators did little to damage Rosaccios reputation. In fact, with his Defense against Roffenis slander and his vast output of tracts on astrology and cosmology, Rosaccio managed to elevate himself to a virtual brand name. One follower, who dubbed himself Domenico Rosaccio, declared himself the son of great prognosticator.
Another popular astrologer called himself Tolomeo Rosaccio, thus appropriating the names of the two famous ancient and 96Guido Ruggiero, Binding Passions. Rosaccios own works continued to be reprinted down through the 18th century; and in , the poet Paolo Minucci painted an unforgettable portrait of the great mathematician and astrologer in his annotations of the Florentine painter Lorenzo Lippis mock heroic poem Il Malmantile riacquistato.
Minucci identified the astrologer-soldier of the poem with a nephew of Rosaccio. Minuccis charlatan did not mount a portable stage but operated on horseback next to an elevated platform that displayed his parchment license, a skeleton of a cat or dog, a brass sphere, and three long black horns, from one of which hung a piece of magnet, from another a ball of the clearest crystal, and the third he said was unicorn.
This proudest chatterer that has even been seen in the world of charlatanry was obviously a composite of several charlatans chief among which was the great prognosticator Giuseppe Rosaccio. While some astrological prophecies caused great alarm, others passed by with little notice.
The dire prognostications of the deluge of caused panic in Rome and elsewhere, but in Venice the forecasts were the subject of Carnival derision. As the 16th century drew to a close, urban people grew increasingly skeptical of astrology. Just as the ciarlatani lampooned the doctors in street comedies, ballad singers satirized the astrologers in Carnival songs such as one by Doctor Master Pegasus Neptune that predicted conjunctions of cheese and lasagna that would cause a deluge of poultry in the soup cauldrons, Nevertheless, the fear was real, and calming public fear was a matter of grave concern to civic authorities.
Fear of public disorder during predictions of dire events, such as the deluge of , may explain why the Bolognese astrologer Giacomo Pietramellara published one prediction for the learned in a Latin prognostication promising terrible calamities, and Casali, Spie, p. Fear itself was to be feared. Historian Ottavia Niccoli explains: When astrological debate descended to the city streets it became a complex system of opposing and contradictory forces involving fear, ritual, and mockery. These forces had to be channeled.
On one side were the astrologers predicting terrible events to come; from the other camp, howls of laughter and derision could be heard, as charlatans and popular ballad singers regaled the people with songs like one recorded by a local observer, in which the ballad singer transformed the astrologers instruments into pots and pans and other kitchen utensils: Those astrolabes of yours are frying pans, your spheres are juggling balls, the quadrant is a pot, a jar; your tables are [dining] tables set, where you put good things to eat You are part prophet and part diviner when you have drunk well of wine.
Go with your almanac into the kitchens, to the stoves in the back alley, where there is always a flood of grease and fat. The failure of the flood predictions and their comic inversions in popular culture may have had a damaging effect on the public figure of the astrologer. In the culture of the mass of urban folk, writes Niccoli, the astrological arts were reduced to the level of a jugglers bag of tricks, and astrological science is denied, derided, and made to seem ineffectual. Popular divination used other, more traditional means to foretell the future.
The urban populations were aware of astrology, but gave it little credit. In , a Spanish writer called Cosme de Aldana published a book in Italian on the errors of the common peoplea popular genre of the day. In his treatise, Aldana criticized the common people for deriding the astrologers and refusing to believe in their prophecies, while maintaining their own superstitious divinatory methods, by which, for example, because a dog barks in a certain way Such forms of popular divination, Aldana remarked, survived particularly among certain ignorant and silly old enchantresses and charm purveyors, the sort of women who went about throwing flour on a polished table on St.
Johns Eve to forecast the husband their daughter Niccoli, Prophecy, p. In , writes Burke, popular culture was everyones culture; a second culture for the educated, and the only culture for everyone else. By , however, Messianic prophecies were highly influential in the Middle Agesparticularly with minority and marginalized groups that regarded the prospect of heavenly bliss as just compensation for their earthly afflictionsand continued to hold sway into the early modern era.
Periodically, waves of millennial expectancy swept Europe. The idea that people must prepare the way for the coming of Antichrist and the reign of God on earth was familiar to all Christians. Indeed, some historians have argued that medieval apocalyptic thought was predominantly conservative, and that the revolutionary use of apocalyptic ideas was the exception. It lasted for centuries because it brought consolation not just in times of social dislocation, but in everyday life: Present disasters might be tolerated better if they could be viewed in terms of a coherent divine Cosme de Aldana, Discorso contro il volgo in cui con buone ragioni si reprovano molte sue false opinioni Florence, , quoted in Niccoli, Prophecy, pp.
Cohns argumentthat millenarianism occurred only among radical groups as a response to extreme social dislocationhas been shown by recent studies to be fundamentally flawed. New York: The early modern period was an apocalyptic age. Contemporaries felt as if they were living in the Last Days. The sense of historical crisis spawned innumerable prophecies about the worlds end. By the time of the Great Schism, apocalyptic ideas were rife in Western Europe.
The Reformation heightened societys anticipation of the end of days. By making Scripture more generally accessible to readers, the reformers riveted the attention of believers on prophetic passages in the books of Daniel and Revelation, which they searched with ever-greater care for insights into the relationship between the present and the future.
Signs in the heavens gave astrologers and theologians clues that the Kingdom of God was at hand. One of the most prominent crises of an age filled with troubles was the Great Schism , when the papacy was divided between opposing obediences. First two, then three rival popes claimed to lead the Church. The schism stirred up countless apocalyptic visions and prophecies. To many, the division of Christendom was a preamble to the advent of Antichrist.
Not everyone concurred. Initially Pierre dAilly , who was chancellor of the University of Paris from to and later a cardinal, agreed with those who saw the Schism as a sign of the approaching end of the world. But as the fissure widened, dAilly rejected the apocalyptic interpretation of the Schism, which, he reasoned, did little to heal the rupture. DAilly turned to astrology for further insights.
After long study of the astrological writings of Roger Bacon, he discarded his previous views and came to the conclusion that the return of the Antichrist would occur in the year , if the world shall last that long. Armed with astrological reasoning that postponed the apocalypse into the distant future, dAilly. Despite the denunciations of astrology by Protestant reformers, including both Luther and Calvin, the 16th century was a veritable golden age of astrological prophecy. Indeed, Lutheran Germany was one of the hot spots of prophetic astrology. Johann Lichtenberger d.
Lichtenbergers prophecies, originally published in Latin in the s and s, were reissued continuously in German and Latin down through the 16th century. Lichtenbergers main work, Prognosticatio one of ten astrological publications by him that survivewas within a decade of its initial publication reissued in at least fourteen Latin, German, and Italian editions. By , some 60 editions of the work had been published. Even Luther couldnt stem the tide: despite giving astrology a cold shoulder, he published a German edition of Lichtenbergs prophecies in , adding a preface spelling out his own position on the art.
Lichtenberger was most remembered for having predicted the German Peasants War of However, it can hardly be said that Lichtenbergeror, for that matter, any other astrologerhad a direct influence on the rebellion, since only after the country had been rocked by the war did people discover that he had foretold the disastrous event.
In the second half of the 16th century, astrologers everywhere were pointing to signs in the skies that indicated deterioration, change, and chaos so pronounced that it could only culminate in the end of the worlds. Tensions increased when, in , a new star appeared in the heavens the first new star since the star of Bethlehem that announced the birth of Laura Smoller, Apocalyptic Calculators of the Later Middle Ages, in Knowing the Time, Knowing of a Time. PDF , pp. In addition, see Smoller, History, pp. A few years later, in , a comet blazed through the night sky, carrying all sorts of eschatological messages.
The Fiery Trigon Conjunction Soon astrologers were warning of another, far more ominous threat looming on the horizon. In , a rare conjunction of the superior planets Saturn and Jupiter would occur. The reason why this conjunction was so menacing is that it was to happen at the end of the watery trigon comprised of the signs linked to water, Pisces, Cancer, and Scorpio , and at the beginning of the fiery trigon, the triplicity defined by the fiery signs of Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius.
Astrologers knew that the changes brought about by conjunctions were magnified as planets entered a new trigon. Thus, a great conjunction occurred every twenty years, when the superior planets Saturn and Jupiter entered a specific trigon. Greater conjunctions were much rarer and more significant events, occurring once every years, when Jupiter and Saturn entered a completely new trigon.
The rarest conjunction of allthe greatest conjunctionhappened only about once every thousand years, when Jupiter and Saturn entered the fiery trigon in the sign of Aries. Astrologers agreed that only six greatest conjunctions had ever occurred in the history of the world, one being at the birth of Christ. So exceptional was the fiery trigon conjunction that many astrologers connected it with an old prophecy for the year predicting major upheavals and the end of the world.
The European fascination with the Wonder Year of can be traced back to the supposed discovery among the papers of the German astronomer Regiomontanus Johannes Mller of a doggerel predicting great calamities for that year, which he was alleged to have scribbled on a leaf of paper. Regiomontanus, one of Europes most respected mathematicians, was widely known in intellectual circles for his inaugural lecture at University of Padua, in which he praised astrology as queen of sciences.
Thus any prediction attributed to him gained credibility. The prophecy, in English translation, foretold:. Katharine Park and Lorraine Daston Cambridge: , p. If not in this year all the wicked world Do fall, and land with sea to nothing come; Yet Empires must be topsy-turvy hurled And extreme grief shall be the common sum.
Regiomontanuss prediction was probably a fabrication, though this hardly seems to have mattered at the time. Kaspar Brusch , a German humanist, published it for the first time in , claiming that he found it among the astronomers papers. The prophecy was quickly endorsed by leading astrologers, including the Bohemian astronomer Cyprian Leowitz , whose works were widely regarded as authoritative, not only by polemicists but also by astronomers such as Tycho Brahealthough Brahe also opined that Leowitz should have spent more time on astronomy than astrology.
Leowitz predicts that Maximilian II will be the first Hapsburg ruler under whom a fiery trigon begins, a sign that the new emperor will become another Charlemagne Maximilian, who died in , did not live to see the fiery trigon. Leowitz went on to proclaim that the conjunction undoubtedly announces the second coming of the son of God and man in the majesty of his glory.
People remembered the prophecies it generated long after the conjunction had come and gone.
Everything about the momentous changes in the heavens combined to convince the English astrologer Richard Harvey that either a final dissolution, or a wonderful horrible alteration of the world would take place in the year Elaborating in Quoted in Dixon, Popular Astrology, p. Robert Tanner, in his Prognosticall iudgement of the great coniunction of the two superiour Planets, Saturne and Mercurie , agreed that the conjunction marked the end of time.
I will not take upon me to tell the very hour, day, and year, which is known to God alone, he averred; yet he was certain that the conjunction indicated the end of days. Therefore watch and be mindful of the Lords coming. The message the prognostications announced was clear, unmistakable, and always the same: The end is nigh; repent and do penance; turn to God while there was still time. As in , the annus mirabilis came and went without calamitous results. Astrologers, who had gone out on a limb predicting the worlds end, became the butt of ridicule. Philip Stubbes, in his Anatomy of Abuses chided the foolish star tooters, whose presumptuous audacity and rash boldness Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton, wrote that astrologers should be shunned like a dragons den.
John Cypriano and Tarquatus Vandermas, announced that the year would bring the end of the world. John Cypriano was in fact Cipriano Leowitz, the Bohemian astronomer whose tract on the fiery trigon conjunction had caused such a stir. Tarquatus Vandermas was Antonio Arquato Tarquatus in Latin , a Ferrarese physician and author of one of the most famous prognostications of the 15th Aston, Fiery Trigon Conjunction, pp. Arquatos Prognosticon de eversione Europae Prognostication of the Overthrow of Europe , dedicated to the King of Hungary Matthias Corvino, appeared in a year full of alarm made memorable by the occupation of Otranto by marauding Turks, who ransacked the city and massacred much of its population after offering them a choice of conversion or death, and by the first siege of Rhodes.
The sensational, doomfilled treatise predicted some of the most earth-shattering events of the 16th century, including the Lutheran reform, the Sack of Rome, and the Spanish conquests. According to a legend, the elector with his wife took refuge on a mountain that day.
When the appointed time arrived without any sign of the flood, the elector ordered his coach to return to his castle, where the four horses and a coachman were struck by lightning as they entered the gate. That the dense, learned works of prominent German astrologers should have been translated and condensed into an English pamphlet of a dozen pages is indeed something strange and wonderful. Astrology, Politics, and Social Change In the spring of , an Italian Dominican friar by the name of Tommaso Campanella , under the banner of natural magic and biblical prophecy, led a wretched band of libertine Dominicans, declassed noblemen, refugees, heretics, and bandits in a fantastic plot to overthrow the Spanish government in Calabria, and to establish a theocratic commune Arquatos treatise has been published by Eugenio Garin, Lattesa dellet nuova e la renovatio, in Leta nuova.
Betrayed by co-conspirators, Campanella was arrested and charged with heresy and insurrection. Despite unbelievable torture, he refused to confess to having had any part in the uprising and escaped the death penalty only by feigning madness. He spent the next twenty-seven years in the jails of Naples, where, despite long periods of barbaric confinement, he composed the bulk of his voluminous oeuvres of scientific, religious, and political writings. Among his prison writings was his utopian classic, La Citt del sole.
Far from being utopian in the usual sense of an abstract idealization, The City of the Sun was in fact a blueprint for the ideal state he hoped to establish in Calabria, and then see expanded to the rest of the Christian world. The appearance of celestial novae, the progression of the sun toward the earth, recent earthquakes, floods, outbreaks of plague, and widespread political unrest were to Fra Tommaso signs of the impending end of the world. The general decline of Christendom and the spread of the Protestant heresy indicated that the time of Antichrist had arrived, further evidence of the approaching transformation.
Naples: ; hereafter cited as Congiura. Volume 1 of Amabiles work contains a detailed narrative of the revolt. For a summary of the revolt, see Frances A. In addition, see Germana Ernst, Tommaso Campanella. The Book and the Body of Nature, trans. David L. Marshall Dordrecht: , pp. Mahoney Leiden: , pp. In addition, see Peter J. Germana Ernst Florence: , pp. He rested his defense on the claim that the conspiracy was not a rebellion at all, but was a natural and inevitable event, and that he was merely an instrument in the fulfillment of celestial and biblical prophecy.
As we have seen, the German astrologer Leonhard Reynmann saw in the conjunction of signs of a general peasant upheaval, while Johannes Lichtenberger had predicted a peasants revolt for Astrology also fueled religious wars in France. Crouzet maintains that astrologers such as Richard Roussat, the Catholic author of a prognostication, whipped up a frenzy of anti-Protestant sentiment and created a climate of intense millennial expectation.
The astrologists prophecies of doom, he argues, created a climate of anguish among 16th century French Catholics and encouraged them to implement divine vengeance directly on the all-too-visible heretics around them. According to Crouzet, the extravagant rituals of violence and destruction that characterized the religious wars in France may be directly attributed to the eschatological anguish that resulted from the astrological prognostications.
In , Pope Sixtus V promulgated the bull Coeli et terrae against astrology and all forms of divination. The bull solemnly declared that knowledge of the future was Gods exclusive preserve, and goes on to outlaw a host of divinatory arts. Astrologers, in particular, offend God, the bull continues. Far from being a useful science, astrology is one of the. Pope Sixtuss bull hardly ended astrological practice in Europe. A sensational episode in Rome in dramatically illustrates both astrologys grip on the imagination of intellectuals and its tenuous marriage with politics and religion at the end of the Renaissance.
The rumors and predictions, doubtless fueled by Spanish propaganda, became widespread by , when the Spanish openly called for a new conclave as if there were already a vacant seat. The pope, himself a firm believer in astrology, was intent on protecting himself from pestiferous astral influences by any possible means. In the summer of , he summoned to the Papal palace none other than Fra Tommaso Campanella, who had recently been released from his long period of incarceration.
What happened next constitutes one of the most improbable chapters in astrologys strange history. Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. See Article History. Facts Matter. Start Your Free Trial Today. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. Western Schism , in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, the period from to , when there were two, and later three, rival popes, each with his own following, his own Sacred College of Cardinals, and his own administrative offices.
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