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Hoodoo in the Old Tradition

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American Indian Influence in Hoodoo

Posted by Dr. Katrina Hazzard-Donald on January 29, 2011 at 10:06 AM

 I keep reading that there is American Indian influences in Hoodoo; yet no one can offer me any real evidence of this.  The inclusion of "Black Hawk" in Hoodoo is very strange and entered Hoodoo from New Orleans Voodoo.  In Old Tradition Hoodoo there was absolutely no mention of ANYTHING American Indian.  Now, there may be some Indian influences, but where are they?  I have uncovered ABSOLUTELY NO EVIDENCE that there is anything American Indian in Hoodoo.  If you have evidence of American Indian influences then PLEASE GET ME THE CITATIONS OR EVIDENCE so that I can KNOW and no longer guess.

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28 Comments

Reply Lance Foster
10:35 AM on January 29, 2011 
How about some of the herbs and plants used by Indians here, and used in Hoodoo, but not found in Africa? I am guessing you will probably say there was no diffusion, that African Americans developing hoodoo developed the use of plants totally on the doctrine of signatures (which is European/Middle East). Not to say that people wouldn't have seen similarities in medicinal plants in a new country with ones from their old country :-) My own Indian ancestors while wandering in gardens in England and France noticed plants they thought would serve as those European plants had similarities to their own medicinal plants.

There was a lot of mixing in the South between African-Americans and Native Americans, so there would have been learning from each other, a two-way street of course. Certainly hoodoo used the Bible, and that was European.

If indeed your assumption is that there was no crossover, and that African Americans developing hoodoo developed it in the U.S. captivity from African sources ONLY and in total isolation from Native American knowledge of plants (not believeable to me, but to each their own thesis of course), then a fruitful line of evidence for that thesis would be to link each American species of plant to the African species for which it would have substituted, through an African model of thought.

So for example, the High John the Conqueror root, which is an American species,- which African species did it substitute for, and what was the line of reasoning and its evidence in traditional African uses, for the substitution of the American species for the African one? That would help give support for the idea that hoodoo had no NECESSARY connection to Native American herbalism.

I see hoodoo as an African mode of tradition, spirituality, and thought, as the main rootstock, but with some grafts attached, primarily 1. Euro-Christianity Bible-belief and 2. Native American herbal knowledge

Note I am NOT saying hoodooists didn't have/bring their own knowledge, uses, understanding of plants, but that they would have naturally talked to Indians, and learned/developed stuff with these new species that made sense to them and rejected the stuff Indians believed that didn't make sense in the African model).
Reply Dr. Katrina Hazzard-Donald
8:13 PM on January 29, 2011 
Greetings Lance & all
Ok, I'm not saying that the influence is not there..I'm simply asking for hard evidence..show it to me. high John is native to only one place in the americas..that is Jalapa, Mexico...it grows NO OTHER PLACE ON EARTH. It doesn't even grow in other parts of Mexico. How does a root that grows only in Mexico become so important in Hoodoo practice in Virginia or Tennessee? I can answer that..but I still have no HARD EVIDENCE AND CONCRETE EXAMPLES. Hoodoo existed for many many years, kprobably at least a century under slavery..and there was no use of the Christian bible..I explain how this happens in my forthcoming book. It seems only logical that American Indians would have had some influence but WHERE IS THE HARD EVIDENCE AND NOT THE MERE SURMISES THAT THERE IS A CONNECTION. No one has given me that yet..still searching..if it such a big influence then where is teh evidence????
Reply AJ Red Bird
2:49 PM on March 2, 2011 
this is a great topic!!!
Reply Aj Red Bird
3:12 PM on March 2, 2011 
First, i want to say that i like your website!!! My name is Aj Red Bird i am American Indian of the great LAKOTA SIOUX nation of the Black Hills in South Dakota. I am also, Mexican and Cuban.....my bloodline stems from powerful Indian Medicine Men, Mexican Brujas&Curanderos and Cuban Santeria; so I know a lil bit about Magic and have heard about Hoodoo before. My uncle performed what we call a Yuwipi ceremony (Lakota Ceremony)on my aunt to have some curse removed from her that was put on her from an African neighbor...this is the first time i ever came accross black magic and don't care for it because I seen how it works on someone and thanks to our compassionate powerful spirits my aunt is alive,healthy , and happy! As far as American Indian influence in Hoodoo you can thank the GREAT Marie Laveau and Doctor John for that for they both had American Indian blood and used American Indian roots and spirits as well to get the job done and this made them legends at what they have accomoplishedin their work. Black Hawk is a real STRONG spirit who helps all people if you seek him out he don't say your skin gotta be black or red if you believe he going to help you and as far as High John The Conquerer it's an Indian root because the Indians in Mexico use it and hoodoo should use it as a medicine to heal not cast hexes with it because it's a mighty spirit that grants what you want ,so please respect our traditions don't use our medicines to hurt others like the white brothers have done!!! Thanks for you time!!! RED BIRD
Reply Aj Red Bird
4:01 PM on March 2, 2011 
One Indian influence are the veves; hoodoo does use the sigils of the LWA or am I wrong? The veves were derived from the beliefs of the Taino Indians of the Carribean and were used by the slave conjurer's to summon up the Lwa.
I am not saying they took the symbols of today representing the Lwa,only that they took an idea that was given to them by the indigenous inhabitants of that land. I am sure there were veves in Africa but here with the Indian influence. My source:great grandfather who knew Don Pedro; Don Pedro helped Hatian Voodoo by influencing the PETRO nation and rites,and that is were Jean Petro comes from. The Petro rituals gave power to the slaves and they gained their independence! Don Pedro was a SPANISH and African slave who had Taino Indian blood also. You can't tell me that if it wasn't for the Petro Lwa and him Hoodoo would be the same as it is now. American Hoodoo or Hoodoo that made it to the new world adapted and changed from pure African Hoodoo because your native surroundings were not African;pure African Hoodoo lives in Africa not in America. American Hoodoo has European such as Spanish and Indian influences. I believe if it was not for Voodoo there would be no Hoodoo in America today. So if you want to claim Hoodoo without influence undo what Don Pedro and Marie Laveau did to help their own people survive a cruel environment and don't use SAINTS or Indian roots in your mojo bags only those of African origin than you will have ORIGINAL AFRICAN HOODOO. With all do respect you have the right to reclaim your religion but you will never dictate who the LWA choose to follow the Afriacn path....I dare you to tell Papa Legba to close the roads on all other nations and cater to only the African people, I would love to see his response! In Lakota we say MITAKUYE OYASIN it means all my relations and that we are all connected! Cante waste nanpe ciyuzapelo(I SHAKE YOUR HAND WITH A GOOD HEART) RED BIRD!!!
Reply Omogun - Katrina
8:54 AM on March 3, 2011 
Greetings Aj Red Bird and welcome. I've been away from the site for a few weeks, been very busy. Thank you for your comment. but it sounds like you are confusing Hoodoo with Voodoo/Vodun. Hoodoo is uniquely African American, it is kthe Afro-North American manifestation of African Sspirit in the New World just like Voodoo is for Haiti, Candoble is for Brazil, Gaga is for Dominican/Cuba as Lucumi is for Cuba. The concern is that in the literature as well as popular discourse these manifestations have been confused with each other. There were thousands of Africans in Boston, Albany New York, Providence Rhode island and New York City who practiced this tradition without any Haitian or Cuban influence of note. Get Herbert S. Aimes "African Institutions in America" in JOURNAL OF AMERICAN FOLK-LORE 18 (1905) It's old but informative. There were HUGE African Festivals in New York State and all over New England, complete with drumming & dancing as well as traditional African arts, foods. Also take a look at Joseph P,. Reidy "Negro Election Day and Black Community Life in New England, 1750-1860" in MARXIST PERSPECTIVES (Fall 1978). there is much more but I won't bore you with hard evidence. These communities had Hoodoo but did not use "Blackhawk" or candle burning or much of what now exists as "Hoodoo". The commercialization of this religio-science by marketeers like those described in my research has transformed it. Since I posted that question I have discovered much evidence which links Africans and Indians in the formation of Hoodoo medicine. It's interesting that the customs most easily transfered are those which ALSO EXISTED IN AFRICA like the use of soot to treat certain ailments. I will discuss my experience in Jamaica speaking with a "Bush doctor's" apprentice some years ago which lead me to rethink my theory about African American Hoodoo medicine.
The veves are certainly from the Indians on the island of Hispanola, though they did not transfer onto the Dominican side of the island (strange and iteresting??) The Petwo dieties are African and the Rada dieties are Indian (or is that reversed?) in any event The Haitian dieties have a "DUAL" identity. As the story goes, the Kindom of Old Dahomy in certain states, had achieved such peace and prosperity that their gods had lost their warlike character. They had no war gods capable of defeating slavery....so they adopted the warrior dieties from the Indians, transformed them into the alte egoes of the Orisha and thus we have Erzuli Danto and Erzuli Frieda as well as the dual identities of other Lwa.
Now I will be ansering my own question and I will share the evidence with all on th e website. Be back soon, this past month had me tied down and drowning in work. Now I'm back. Once again thanks for the discussion and welcome ...Omogun.



Aj Red Bird says...
One Indian influence are the veves; hoodoo does use the sigils of the LWA or am I wrong? The veves were derived from the beliefs of the Taino Indians of the Carribean and were used by the slave conjurer's to summon up the Lwa.
I am not saying they took the symbols of today representing the Lwa,only that they took an idea that was given to them by the indigenous inhabitants of that land. I am sure there were veves in Africa but here with the Indian influence. My source:great grandfather who knew Don Pedro; Don Pedro helped Hatian Voodoo by influencing the PETRO nation and rites,and that is were Jean Petro comes from. The Petro rituals gave power to the slaves and they gained their independence! Don Pedro was a SPANISH and African slave who had Taino Indian blood also. You can't tell me that if it wasn't for the Petro Lwa and him Hoodoo would be the same as it is now. American Hoodoo or Hoodoo that made it to the new world adapted and changed from pure African Hoodoo because your native surroundings were not African;pure African Hoodoo lives in Africa not in America. American Hoodoo has European such as Spanish and Indian influences. I believe if it was not for Voodoo there would be no Hoodoo in America today. So if you want to claim Hoodoo without influence undo what Don Pedro and Marie Laveau did to help their own people survive a cruel environment and don't use SAINTS or Indian roots in your mojo bags only those of African origin than you will have ORIGINAL AFRICAN HOODOO. With all do respect you have the right to reclaim your religion but you will never dictate who the LWA choose to follow the Afriacn path....I dare you to tell Papa Legba to close the roads on all other nations and cater to only the African people, I would love to see his response! In Lakota we say MITAKUYE OYASIN it means all my relations and that we are all connected! Cante waste nanpe ciyuzapelo(I SHAKE YOUR HAND WITH A GOOD HEART) RED BIRD!!!
Reply Aj Red Bird
12:21 PM on March 3, 2011 
Wow, Katrina thanks that is all great information and it's good to know, I RESPECT what you are doing here and can see you know alot about your culture. Everyone on this site will gain knowledge from a true HOODOO source for you are very wise!!! I appreciate the information you provided...as long as there are teachers like you the next generation will surely follow in the powerful and SPIRITUAL footsteps of the ANCESTORS! WOPILA' YELO (THANK-YOU) Red Bird
Reply Omogun - Katrina
11:16 AM on March 4, 2011 
Greetings Aj Red Bird
Thank you for those humbling comments. I teach a course at Rutgers entitled "The Red and the Black: African Americans & American Indians in the North American Environment"...it's a class I've wanted to teach a long time. It gets a good response. I have a bibliography of over 1,000 sources on black Indians, Blacks & Indians, Indians as slaves along side of black slaves. Most American Indians who were educated before 1960 went to historically black colleges...At Wilberforce University we had 6 Navajo Indians on our track team. In the newspaper "THE SOUTHERN WORKMAN" published at Hampton institute there is a big American Indian section broken down by ethnic group, Seminole, Crow, Navajo, Sioux, Eutaw etc. The letters from our Indian brothers are very revealing and will make you cry. They reveal the TRUE history of the AFrican - Indian encounter here in the wilderness of North America...I can send or post the citations for all those who want to further research this. I'm gone...once again...thank you for those kind and inspiring words...Odabo...K.

Aj Red Bird says...
Wow, Katrina thanks that is all great information and it's good to know, I RESPECT what you are doing here and can see you know alot about your culture. Everyone on this site will gain knowledge from a true HOODOO source for you are very wise!!! I appreciate the information you provided...as long as there are teachers like you the next generation will surely follow in the powerful and SPIRITUAL footsteps of the ANCESTORS! WOPILA' YELO (THANK-YOU) Red Bird
Reply Wendy C Allen
6:35 PM on March 13, 2011 
I would like to comment on this, for I am Native American (Kickapoo) and my grandmother was a holy woman of sorts who converted to Christianity. I was raised learning her knowledge, but heavily watered down with Jesus and Bible verse. Anyways, today I live in an all white community, and locals call me a "Voodoo Witch" saying that I practice "Hoodoo". Well, the stuff I do, I have done for 40 years and was taught to me by my grandmother, I've never meet an African American, the only thing I know about Voodoo is from Bela Lugosi movies, and Hoodoo? Six months ago I had never heard the word Hoodoo before. When I asked people what this Hoodoo was that they said I was doing, they told me to read LuckyMojo's website, which I had also never heard of before.

My Native American/Kickapoo grandmother's methods were blessing every one and bringing lovers together and spreading good luck side of things. And of course her method were heavily animal, spirit guide, and nature ie Native American based. After her conversion to Christianity, she still did the same things, just now all in Jesus name instead.

There are several problems with calling my training or practice "Hoodoo", one being geography. There is not much of a Voodoo or Hoodoo tradition in the Northern states, and being in Maine, I come from as north as you can get short of going to Alaska! The town I live in is .001% non-white, with my Kickapoo family being the ONLY non-white family for miles around. Maine has almost no African influence in it at all. Around here you do not mention "Voodoo", people start screaming "witch" and than hate crimes soon follow, making those who do follow any non-Christian tradition, feel forced to water it down and say "well, I'm Catholic, that's not what it looks like, it's really an alter to Virgin Mary, see, I've even got my rosary here." So finding non-Christian families around here is like finding a needle in a haystack, because no one dares openly admit what they really are.

Anyways, none of this does much to say that Hoodoo was influenced by Native American traditions, I suppose. But I thought I would mention it, as I do see similarities.

For one: Corn/moss dolls stuffed/wrapped with roots/herbs. This is a Native American tradition. For years I called them prayer dolls, and used them as mentioned above. And yet people call this is Hoodoo and that I am using Voodoo dolls. Why?

Another: Prayer bags and medicine bags are small leather or red cloth bags filled with stones, dirt, roots, herbs, feathers, etc. They are carried during prayers to give them power or worn around the neck to ward off evil. And yet when I do this, people say I am using Hoodoo Mojo bags or Voodoo Jujus. Why?

One more: Burning herbs to cleanse the room (smug), spreading seeds on the floor in the shape of sigils, drawing holy symbols in the dirt...all Native American traditions, and yet wen I do them, white folks say it is Voodoo? Why?

After Googling LuckyMojo and reading their site, yes, I can see now why people are calling the things I do "Hoodoo".

I excel in what I am now being told is called "Hoodoo/Root-work/Conjure". I sell what I am told are more correctly called "Hoodoo poppets", "Hoodoo mojos", "Hoodoo jujus" (rather than corn dolls or prayer bags), etc online and I also aid people in tandem candle prayer spells. My spells and root-work focus mostly on finding love, restoring love, healing after lost love, protection, abundance, restoring joy, healing, driving out evil spirits, and emotional healing; and reflect the fact that I remember my Kickapoo grandmother and her traditions most of all. I avoid such spells as hexes, curses, and anything that would result in causing harm to others.

I have done these things, nearing on 40 years now, never once calling them Voodoo or Hoodoo or linking them back to African traditions or Southern traditions, always linking them back to my Kickapoo grandmother and her deep love of nature, spiritual things, Jesus, and a desire to help those around her. Is what I do Hoodoo? I suppose you could call it that if you wanted to. Was it based on African traditions? No, not at all. Was it based on Native American traditions? Yes, 100%.
Reply Reed Engle
5:54 PM on March 20, 2011 
Katrina: I am working on a Diary by an African-American, born 1867, of parents who were slaves in S.C.. She speaks of the "Indian" influence on her mother's practise of magic and says that her mother went to an "Indian" witch. I believe, however, that she meant a West Indian or Caribbean native.
Reply Dr. Katrina Hazzard-Donald
11:50 AM on March 28, 2011 
Reed..you are most certainly right, that "Indian Witch" was a West Indian. considering how late in slavery that diary was started the term "Indian" for a West Indian black person was frequently used. It is used in the statutes known as the "black codes"..these codes were used to control all blacks and many Indians of both names, Native Americans and West Indians.

To Wendy Allen, there were many elective affinities between Indian and African cultural beliefs and practices not the least of which was the use of red pouches for containing "medicine" & "medzin". both communities had very similar practices before encountering each other..after the white man worked hard to keep political alliances from forming between Indians and Africans..they still do. An African American independence movement frightens this government more than anything. Both American Indians and Africans were Christianized away from their traditional belief systems. And today most Africans & African Americans believe their traditional beliefs and religions are "devil worship". They love the "white Jesus" more than life itself. Try to replace it with a Black Jesus and see what happens. So you are working both your traditional beliefs and "Hoodoo". They are indeed very much alike, that's what makes untangling them so challenging. I'm gone for now but thanks for reading and joining and WELCOME aboard...Peace K. Omogun
Reply Supreme Wellness
2:36 PM on April 11, 2011 
Peace, found an interesting article concerning the Taino of the Caribbean and possible interaction with African slaves influening Obeah (even the word itself)
http://www.timespub.tc/2005/09/talking-taino-obeah-and-zombies/
Joe Fisher
Hey Yenna ; don fe get wha tyme B pon wi ; Spring equinox ( plantin tyme ) . Der es un spiritual componet to begin MaMi te bless wi hearth . Wi nues to ' SOW " seed , now plow etc. bruise MaMi poison she an she helpers ( bee/worm ) . Mi wan remind wi ; It B" White Buffolow " tyme ; offer smoke/peace pipe . Old folk nues to sit on de porch an toke de pipe ob meditation and rock/sway dem ' YAD" te tranquility . Le de smoke lift yenna preyers fo de hearth .en de name ob de "KONKER ".
Reply Moses
8:39 AM on July 21, 2012 
Hello all. Im New here and just joined the site. I was wondering how do i get in touch with the owners of this site Hoodoo in the Old Tradition. I think this is what i been looking for for a long time. BLACK style hoodoo. And do you have any courses on rootwork? thanks
Reply Obeah
10:36 AM on September 26, 2012 
People are very comfortable in informing us of the influence their culture has had on so called black culture but they get out right angry if you ever try to tell them how much influence black culture has had on theirs. The hypocrisy. I would like to point out the influence people claim Native American Indians may have had on African American hoodoo is quite possibly has something to do with the similarities natives cultures around the world then to share. What I am trying to say is if you look for differences, you will find it as much as if you look for the similarities. People like to point skin colour as a major difference between as a result of this difference, we have nothing in common. I am from what they call a multicultural society and I chose to live my life not being blinded or obsessed with race. Did anyone know that East Indians and Nigerians practice arrange marriages? I learned this this while carpooling with East Indians and Nigerians. Did anyone know that dog eating is a delicatessen in Nigeria? Not to mention, both Africans (not Africans in the west with bastardized cultures) and Asians share a love and respect for their elders and put their families before all. Look for the similarities between African Americans and Natives and that is what people are calling influence. Outside of Caucasian, every other culture tend to use nature to their advantage and not seek to destroy. Unfortunately, Caucasians are the only "race" I can find who sought to destroy and not to live harmoniously with native. It is no surprises they have introduced oils, lotions and potions as an element of hoodoo because like with everything else in their lives including the way they practice medicine, they like quick fixes and prefer to cover up the problem instead of going to the cause. Whites truly are creatures from machines. They tend not to do with nature.
Reply ejaka
9:32 PM on October 13, 2012 
i would like to get some help, if anybody know any powerful Indian Medicine Man or woman -roots and spirits in Oklahoma (Tulsa,okc ) i have certain serious problems i need to go seen him/her and speak with?
Reply Goldenwillow
2:55 PM on November 6, 2012 
Hi, I am from the Tulsa area and was wondering if anyone was accepting students?
Thanks
Reply Imin Ptah Ra
8:45 PM on August 20, 2013 
Thanks for your insight. Ase.
Reply Obeah
12:07 PM on January 17, 2014 
I just had a thought. People who claim there are American Indian and Central Asian Albinos (current Europeans) influenced Hoodoo is basing this on the premise that all the slaves who existed in the USA came directly from Africa. This isn't necessarily the case. According to black American researchers, only 500k slaves made it to the USA from Africa and they could not have possibly swelled to the number of black Americans in existence today given the number of lynching, malnourishment and lack of medical care provided to slaves. The rest of the slaves either existed on American soil prior to slavery and were deported to America from Europe. I no longer take the version of history provided to us by enslavers just the same way it is insanity to accept religions (Christianity and Islam) from your enemies. Speaking of which, black people, if the Albinos didn't provide you with good clothing, good shelter, good education, good food and proper healthcare during slavery, why did he give you such a good religion?

Nonethelewss, perhaps there is no American Indian influence and the influence from hoodoo were contributed by the Black people who were already living on North American soil prior to slavery. The Albinos ($5 Natives) who are referring to themselves as Native Indians and having the audacity to claim that Natives with tanned skin is an anomaly have a reason to deny this fact but I heard real Native told stories that in their oral history, their ancestors speak of meeting black tribes prior to slavery. Additionally, there are black tribes, living in the USA and other parts of North and South America who have no connection to Africa. The connection to Africa began when they were brainwashed into thinking that they came from Africa as slaves. Thank goodness their are families who still maintained their family history.

Since history tend to be written by the victors, we cannot take their word for it and should do our own investigating and write our own history. Also, I am sure my first paragraph answers the question of so the Albinos so called influence on Hoodoo.

If you don't believe me that the Albinos version history is a lie think about this, are the Albinos not in Egypt defacing tombs, Egyptian arts and statues to bolter their claim of being Native Egyptians? Before you believe that lie, think of their thin, pink skin and the cancer rate in areas like Europe where they claim to be naturally from as well. If they cannot manage the sun in Europe, North America and other parts of the world, how are they handling dessert heat, shirtless (many of the Egyptian male statues were topless). The Albinos are not even natural to Europe, if you don't believe me, Google the first European.

For real history and the lies Albinos pass off as history. www.realhistoryww.com
Reply Obeah
12:12 PM on January 17, 2014 
Because the blacks who made use of those plants were natural to the American soil. In the oral history of some real Native tribes (not $5 Albinos Natives), they have stories of meeting black tribes prior to slavery. There is an answer to question of whether Natives and Central Asian Albinos influenced Hoodoo. www.realhistoryww.com History has been written by the victors for far too long.

Lance Foster says...
How about some of the herbs and plants used by Indians here, and used in Hoodoo, but not found in Africa? I am guessing you will probably say there was no diffusion, that African Americans developing hoodoo developed the use of plants totally on the doctrine of signatures (which is European/Middle East). Not to say that people wouldn't have seen similarities in medicinal plants in a new country with ones from their old country :-) My own Indian ancestors while wandering in gardens in England and France noticed plants they thought would serve as those European plants had similarities to their own medicinal plants.

There was a lot of mixing in the South between African-Americans and Native Americans, so there would have been learning from each other, a two-way street of course. Certainly hoodoo used the Bible, and that was European.

If indeed your assumption is that there was no crossover, and that African Americans developing hoodoo developed it in the U.S. captivity from African sources ONLY and in total isolation from Native American knowledge of plants (not believeable to me, but to each their own thesis of course), then a fruitful line of evidence for that thesis would be to link each American species of plant to the African species for which it would have substituted, through an African model of thought.

So for example, the High John the Conqueror root, which is an American species,- which African species did it substitute for, and what was the line of reasoning and its evidence in traditional African uses, for the substitution of the American species for the African one? That would help give support for the idea that hoodoo had no NECESSARY connection to Native American herbalism.

I see hoodoo as an African mode of tradition, spirituality, and thought, as the main rootstock, but with some grafts attached, primarily 1. Euro-Christianity Bible-belief and 2. Native American herbal knowledge

Note I am NOT saying hoodooists didn't have/bring their own knowledge, uses, understanding of plants, but that they would have naturally talked to Indians, and learned/developed stuff with these new species that made sense to them and rejected the stuff Indians believed that didn't make sense in the African model).

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