The Art of Caitlin Urksa

Caitlin Urksa is French, 51, and teaches English to 11- to 14-year-olds. She has always been an artistic type at heart, drawing, painting, sculpting, making things she jokingly says that her Muse is hyperactive.  She has been a pagan for 30 years (sort of Druid-ish Wicca first), and then the Great Queen came barging into her life some 10 years ago, which changed quite a lot of things.

The first painting here is a portrait of the Great Queen that she did in 2010, and the second photograph shows the story of the painting as it came into being. Caitlin says that painting the picture of the lady that she saw was a very powerful experience.  The following two images are some of her more recent work inspired by her connection to The Morrigan.

http://martyberlou.wixsite.com/palette-onirique

 

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Having a spiritual practice when you feel you can’t

Sometimes in life we find ourselves in places that make it difficult to honour our spiritual practices.  Perhaps you have to live with family who are not comfortable with your beliefs, perhaps you want or need to keep it hidden from friends, neighbours or children for safety reasons. Perhaps you are away from home and away from your sacred spaces.  So what can you do to maintain your spiritual practices, to keep honouring your Gods and deepen your connection?

Probably the first thing to recognise is that your connection with your Gods and guides begins within you.  Whilst we may build altars and have devotional practices to help us maintain that connection, these things do not make the connection external from you.  Whilst They may appreciate your efforts in maintaining altars and shrines or in performing devotional rites, they are not specifically necessary (I will add the caveat that some people do have specific direction on this from their Gods but that isn’t the point of this article).

So what can you do when life gets in the way of your devotional practices?

Pray

Prayer can sometimes be seen as bit of a dirty word amongst pagans due to the overtones it has acquired from the Christian faiths.  However, our ancestors were talking to the Gods of their land and people long before Christianity came along.

You can pray anytime, anywhere and it doesn’t have to be out loud.  It’s a really good practice to designate a time and space for it in your life, daily if possible. But if you’re working long hours, commuting a lot or have a schedule that makes truly regular practice difficult, then fit it in when and where you can.

Pray while you’re on the train travelling to work or college, pray on your lunch break, pray in your garden or bedroom when you have five minutes in the evening.  Pray when you find yourself in a space where nothing else is going on, where you can turn your focus and intention to your Gods and speak with Them.

Don’t know what to say? There are lots of great prayers out there in books and on the internet. Learn something short off by heart and use it with intention. But otherwise, speak what is in your heart. Tell your Gods how you feel about Them, show them honour with words. Prayer can also be a conversation about something that you may need from Them (and what you will give in return) but fundamentally it is about honouring your Gods and showing your appreciation for their presence in your life.

Think of it as being like maintaining a friendship, the relationship you have with the friend you call every day or every week is stronger than the one you only call once a year or when you want something. Your Gods are going to appreciate a regular five minute call with you over you worrying about having the right candle to light.

Meditate

Some people might not think of meditation as a devotional practice as we tend to see it as a space of emptying the mind or focus on the breath and so on. But actually it can be a really strong devotional practice. It’s kind of like a deeper version of prayer. Above I have advocated for the quick, five minute, when you can approach. But if you can make space for a longer session, then you can go deeper in your connection with your Gods.

To continue the friendship analogy it would be like going to visit somebody in their home for tea every day or once a week.  When we sit down in devotional meditation, we are sitting down for a longer visit with our Gods.

It may be that you combine devotional meditation with prayer or other rites and practices, but at absolute core it is about sitting down and putting your focus on your God(s) for a period of time. To sit and be with Them, be in their presence. To feel Them with and around you. To be open to Them, to listen for Their words or directions.

This may not be an easy practice to begin with, but committing to a regular practice of devotional meditation is extremely valuable in building a deeper relationship with your Gods and guides.

Make Offerings

I have written about offerings before. I wrote about it from the perspective of what you can offer when you have nothing, but actually the principles apply for those people who for whatever reason cannot make obvious or overt offerings due to living restrictions or the discomfort of others.

But in short, offerings of prayer, of story or song, of time in voluntary service or the clearing up of the land or sacred sites are offerings that are well received by most Gods. All of these offerings are things which can be done when our living situation prevent us from making physical offerings or working with devotional spaces.

Be on the land

For me, being out on the land is a massive devotional practice for a number of the Gods and other entities that I work with. Putting your bare feet (if possible) on the land and feeling your connection to the life of this planet, to the connection with all things. To the connection with your ancestors who stood on this land before you. To the connection with all those who have honoured the Gods before you. To feel the Gods in the land.

It is also possible to combine all of the previous suggestions in this article with being on the land. Pray on the land, meditate on the land, sing on the land, clean up the land.  Being outside is free and allows us a powerful connection pathway to our Gods. Whether you sit at the bottom of your garden, go to your local park or take yourself out into the wild somewhere.

 

Deepening your connection with your Gods does not require objects and gifts and fancy rites, though they are appreciated, it is about strengthening the connection that begins inside you, about maintaining and honouring the relationship you desire to have with Them. Whether that’s a five minute call every day or a weekly trip to the local park to meditate.  Do what fits in your life as it is now, add to it or deepen it when life allows. But do the work, every day.

Awen Clement © June 2017

Awen is a priestess of The Morrigan who lives and works in the West Midlands of the UK. She is leading the 2017 Call of the Morrigan Retreat – The Queen’s Vigil in West Wales in September.

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Answering the call

The first time She comes to me, I don’t recognise Her. I see a crow. I’ve never seen one here before. The crow in that place, at that moment, piques my curiosity, and I think, “I’ll come back later.”

I do come back later.

The crow is there waiting. It leads me deeper into a wood of late Autumn birch, leaves a gold and brown carpet on the forest floor. The crow lands on a naked branch above me. It looks down on me, and suddenly transforms.

The crow is not a crow.

She takes me to a cave. It’s empty there, but for us, cool, dark.

She tells me to sing. I sing and there is a merging of time, we are where we are in the dark, and we are in the cave with many women singing, and fire in the darkness.

When it is done, we ascend, and she asks me the first time, “Will you serve?”

I don’t want to answer. Quite honestly, I am afraid. I just want to get away.

I snap out of the journey space into the ordinary reality of my bedroom, thinking to escape.

She’s there, with me. “Will you serve?” This time louder, more insistent.

I don’t want to answer. What answer could I possibly give? I know who She is. I don’t know why She is there, or what She wants with me.

“Will you serve?”

With the force of the question, it’s clear there must be a response. I am silent, and shaking. I don’t want to answer.

And then She says, “You named your daughter for me.” These words echo in my mind. I know that this is true, though when I named my daughter, I did not know that this is what I was doing.

“You named your daughter for Me,”

The resonance of these words hits me like a code unlocking memory, falling back back back deep into time, calling to life pieces of me that She knows, that I have forgotten, an unraveling.

She asks once more, commanding, “Will you serve?”

And I, I find myself answering, speaking from a place beyond who I am in that moment, speaking words that come from me but from a place beyond thought, affirming ancient vows that I have surely made before and even more surely will make again, a gift of memory and awakening.

Anon (c) May 2017

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Surrendering to the Great Queen

by Roberta V.

I first meet her on a dancefloor. The dance floor is a therapy space in which I mostly grunt, howl, roar, crawl. I sought it out, sought this therapist, to begin to create space for holding the legacy of murdered relatives, mass graves, for the great grandfather stolen so cruelly that no-one would speak his name aloud, for the ghosts of unspoken names.

I grunt my way through it, unpretty, feral. Some pain runs too deep for words. It’s in my belly bones blood soul. Fuck socialisation. I have to reach under it, just keep going, unravel it. As I writhe there is a visual in my mind’s eye. Birdwoman. Scabbed and bloody, thick black matts of hair, hawk eyes, beaked. Horror and strength intermingled.

Months later I see a named image. The Morrigan. And then I know I have been seeing her along. The strength that rises up and moves through me as I become a force of nature, fierce fearsome unstoppable. It gains a name. The deity I have been worshipping, unknowing, as she moves through my body.

 

*

 

She finds me proper, formalised, on a retreat. On a trance journey, she lands in my womb, illuminates it as she sees it. Right then, it has frozen over. And she whispers to me my path forward. The path is sex and the right kind of darkness, the darkness capable of holding me, the darkness into which I can sink, heal, not drown. She whispers strength and surrender. Sex is just one doorway. She lays out my pathway for that, tells me how it’ll go. All I need to do is follow, and from there I will, do, follow. Things happen just as she says they will.

Her paths twine, intermingle, separate. Sex. Death. She’s in my shadow and I hers. She finds the grief in my body, turns it to treasure. You know grief, she’s whispering inside me. Hold it for others. All those murdered relations, all that death you’ve been dragging with you. You understand grief and shadow and darkness, and that makes you a keeper: of souls, of stories. A woman who can meet the darkness, see the glitter in it. Climb in.

She lays out this pathway, too, for me. Become a death doula. Do my work that way. Walk with the dying. Guide their souls, meet them. Hold their grief. Sink into this great beauty and use your knowing this way. Do my work.  Voice. Use your voice. Do my work.

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Courage

When I turned 40 my daughter came by and with a smug mouth stretched wide over red speckled cheeks, she handed me a card. Inside the card was pin that declared in a loud font with electric colors “I’ve survived damn near everything” I spit my drink out. We had a good laugh. She’d gone and found me the perfect “over the hill” gift.

When I started to write this, I realized with a lot of trepidation that the reader is going to need some background. At first I thought I’d share in a very general way, because I don’t’ want anyone to focus too much on the details of my encounters (and other reasons). I wrote pages of smart little notes using a different color pen each time I sat down over the last month. I organized quotes. I studied the lore again looking for analogies to use. This morning I prayed to the Great Queen for some guidance or direction again. And then I threw all the notes out. It wasn’t authentic. It wasn’t me. This is how the Morrigan works in my life:

As implied with the birthday pin, which incidentally I still have, I’m a survivor. I’m not sure when I became a survivor exactly because the flash backs go as far back as I can remember. I’m going to try to give you a synopsis of some of the things I’ve survived. Brevity is a challenge so…. I was raised Christian. I feel like our Christianity as a household would’ve been mixed in with the white paint on the picket fence if we’d had one. Inside that false boundary though was something altogether different.

We had a smorgasbord of porn in our house. As a result, there was inappropriate sexual activity. My first sexual encounter outside of immediate family was being infiltrated at 12 by a man my much older sister brought home. After years of this infiltrating, I came out with it. My dysfunctional family could not or would not bring themselves to face what had happened and he wasn’t held accountable. In fact my sister married him and they had two children. But not to worry, the truth eventually came pounding on her door, they divorced, and he very recently hung himself. During these early years I am ever dreaming of snakes. Not one or two, great tangled masses of snakes. My gran assured this meant I was being chased by Satan and I needed to adjust accordingly, or else. I escaped life by walking to a place in the woods on the back side of a pasture with a little brook running near. It always beckoned with it’s soft mossy beds and the smell of trees that had been composting for eons. I named this place the Fairies Mounds. It’s still with me today.

Of course, I eventually rebelled against the family. In no small way. By fourteen years I spent most days anywhere but home. I partied in the surrounding cities with an older “more seasoned” crowd. I was searching for something. What I found was gang rape. The rapists did have the courtesy to drop me off at home later(a different home at this point). I’m very lucky, and I know it. I tell no one. I decide to get married and have a baby, because that’s the obvious answer to my misery. It will keep me safe. Still Christian at this point, pretty darn Baptist by now. And I’m still dreaming of snakes.

Fast forward through a divorce (at 18). I spent the following years alternating between working a trade in construction (which I still do) to support my daughter, getting a degree, and partying as hard as humanly possible to kill the flashbacks. I’d also changed my outlook on power at this point. I met my shame head on attempting to master my twisted view of sex by using it to my advantage. And many times it worked, other times I found more misery under those rocks. I did meet an awesome history teacher during this seven years of my “singlehood”. He introduced me to a lot of practices that I now see for the spiritual tools that they were. They were subtle land rituals. I also began to dream of talking ravens(maybe crows but for this, I’ll use ravens. They told me things I no longer remember much of.  I do remember they foretold of a trip I would eventually take with this man up the east coast to NYC and Toronto. A trip that would change my world view. I’d never been anywhere since we’d left the Air Force and settled in tobacco country where my parents grew up. I was happy. I was terrified. So I left him.

I got married again in a flash. It stunts my tendency to turn towards the wilderness right? If only for a while. I’m still a Baptist, but I’d encountered some Greek and Norse mythology (history teacher), and I loved it more than more than I thought I should. Oh, and I’d read Arthurian literature. And yes, I identified with the seemingly tortured protagonist in Zimmer-Bradley’s books, Morgan Lefaye. No, I don’t personally feel she’s at all related to the Morrigan. I do think some who are interested in Morgan Lefaye find themselves wandering through the lore of the Great Queen at some point and that is not necessarily a bad thing. That‘s not how it happened for me.

This 2nd marriage was formed in utter sickness. There was absolutely nothing healthy about it. I’d chosen an abuser with several untreated symptoms. I had untreated symptoms. I’d been through a slew of counselors over the years. He did what abusers do. I seethed over his drinking and did what enablers and battered wives do. I isolated with self-help and “wommyn’s” spiritual books. The ravens started to come back. They told me more things I can’t exactly recall. I’d read about women’s religions, and a tad about Wicca, but always with the fear of damnation on my heels. But it planted a seed and I began to organize an exit plan. That’s when she first made Herself known to me in a way I couldn’t deny.

It was a dream that wasn’t a dream. It’s been about 16 years now and some of the details have gotten scarce. However, I’ll never lose the image of her standing there in a long dress, dark auburn hair, surrounded by ravens or crows, and that voice. A silky, bellowing voice traveling a thousand years to reach me (best description I have). We were in a field with many paths running through it. She pointed and said “You are on the right path”. She gestured towards a path and told me to keep trucking. I found out in the next 48 hours that I was pregnant with our second son, my third child, so I stayed.

I swallowed my fate. I raised my children semi-sanely until they were all in school. After which time I took it upon myself to fight my husband as viciously as he fought me. I drank and drugged away the Morrigan’s attempts at communication. At this point Badb and Nemain are making terrifying appearances. I also ignored visits from the Good Neighbors who had shown up at some point in this blur though they always found a way to affect my life. I became one of the most toxic people I’ve had the displeasure of knowing. I was mad as hell. I fought everything and everyone. I fought everything in this world and the next. I fought myself.

Finally, when a considerable police presence became involved in the marital bliss, we decided to split. I was somehow holding a job as an analyst for a large pharma corp. Not for long. I met a new person at work. I quickly lost myself in that relationship. We were both eventually laid off along with 3K others. And then I dug the deepest hole possible. I watched everything I ever identified myself with or as walk out the door. My beautiful home, car, sanity, my freedom, and finally my children.  I overdosed often. I stopped breathing on occasion and I seized too many times. My vital organs were failing and I welcomed it all. I also railed at my mother’s pastor in ICU “Where is your god now!?” Admittedly, this is all very dramatic. I was consumed by drama. And one day that voice from far away spoke to me again, and I started the long and bloody knuckled climb out.

That was about four years ago. Waking from that nightmare(death) seems likened to waking from a coma. It was raw, knotted, and terrifying. Now I attempt to manage a mean case of PTSD. In that first year I managed to get my children back. It wasn’t hard. The abusive ex had discovered new outlets for his aggressions. I had to take sedatives (under medical care) to get through court. I locked myself in my house for most of 3 years. I healed some wounds. I studied the Morrigan and developed a spiritual practice. I built a thick, tall wall around myself. I felt safe. I felt stronger. I dedicated myself to her in a formal ritual.

After the dedication she promptly decided to shake my little glass globe up again. This time she directed me to find others. I dug my heels in deep for a while. This was scary stuff. Finally, in June of 2015 I went to my first Call of the Morrigan retreat and I was mortified. I could hear the constant rattle of my teeth. I stayed anyway. I did what she directed me to do. I transformed and I grew so fast it was maddening. I reclaimed some of my lost power. And I discovered my shadow self. We didn’t get along.

A cycle worth noting in all that unverified personal gnosis above; During the times I turned my back to the call of the Morrigan and walked away from my sovereignty, I caused myself suffering. She poked, needled, and screamed. Some of the time, I cowered and suffered. I could turn away again and try to go it alone. I have a choice in the matter. My experiences have shown me that I am a much better person when I walk this shadowy path.

This past June, one year later, I returned to the retreat. It had become, for me, a sort of scale by which I measured my growth. There were moments I wrestled with my shadow. Panic followed. Not enough to hinder me from strengthening bonds in the community I’ve gotten to know over the last year. I didn’t need to hide in the tent. I did occasionally hold a hand. I reaffirmed my dedication by way of sacred tattoo on the first morning. The following day I served Badb by becoming her eyes. I left there still feeling the effects of her dark energy. I felt strong. And then I came home. Immediately I realized I’d left behind my best friend in a Tarot deck. Next, my family fell to pieces. And I sold the last thing I owned with title attached.(a good thing, towards my sovereignty of self) And then there was an incident that triggered a handful of my demons. I’m still in the process of doing the work it takes to embrace the many faces of my shadow.

I considered sharing many different aspects of what it’s like to be dedicated to this War Goddess who is always with me. I could talk about experiences with her as Prophetess or as Sorceress. Around those aspects I will share that the more I study her culture of origin, their land, language, and people the stronger and more intimate our relationship becomes. I could talk of experiences with the Others who often precede her. I could share more on my practice around the warrior aspects of this path. I don’t currently risk my life to protect others on a regular basis. I do work on strengthening physically with plans to return to martial arts. I stand for right causes and social justice. I also serve the Morrigan and my communities by way of supporting other survivors in their quests for self sovereignty. It’s in that spirit I share this. I read an article last night that spoke to me on this topic. I’ll share a quote:

“The most anti-capitalist protest is to care for another and to care for yourself. To take on the historically feminized and therefore invisible practice of nursing, nurturing, caring. To take seriously each other’s vulnerability and fragility and precarity, and to support it, honor it, empower it. To protect each other, to enact and practice community. A radical kinship, an interdependent sociality, a politics of care.”

I’ve found this community to be overflowing with survivors of all manner of traumas. We’re a hodge-podge of colors, races, paths, and genders. I’ve had chance to witness that common issues most of us struggle with at least once are typically around our worthiness in the form of our perceived weaknesses. I’ve also heard it said more than once that The Morrigan covets, or has affection for the wounded. I don’t feel like she covets the wounded so much as she knows how much we are capable of enduring. I want survivors, myself included, to always know that we’re called because of our strength, not the lacking of it.  We are strength and resiliency embodied. We are valuable to the Morrigan. We also have much to offer this broken world and its people if we fully embrace death of our old selves that so often comes with this call.

In solidarity,

Iníon Préacháin

Quote – Hedva , Johanna. Sick Woman Theory. http://www.maskmagazine.com/not-again/struggle/sick-woman-theory

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Rise! From Victim to Victor

Rise! From Victim to Victor (HOW THE MORRIGAN CLAIMED ME PART II by Morrigan Odin)
I used to be a victim. A victim of domestic and other abuse. However, the worst abuse I have ever experienced was that I inflicted upon myself.  I relished being a victim. It bought me attention and the sympathy of others. I felt that  living in a constant state of drama and upheaval was the only way to garner attention. Whether that attention was positive or negative did not matter to me.

All of that changed once The Morrigan claimed me. She taught me I was in control of my own Destiny. She taught me to own myself, my actions and my mistakes. I then transformed from a victim to a victor. And then as a Walker on the Warrior Path, one whose life is lived in Her service, and the service of others.

She gave me the strength to first clean house in my life regarding negative attachments. By negative attachments, I mean to negative people and things. After an external housecleaning, so to speak, She guided me towards inner cleansing. I ceased negative self-talk. I stopped being my own worst enemy and became my own best ally. I learned to live life on my terms, and to stop trying to please others.

None of this happened overnight. Nothing worthwhile usually does. I still consider myself a work in progress. I am an eternal student of Life, of The Divine, of The Universe itself. I give thanks for that every day. That I possess the ability to change, to grow, to evolve. That gift has been granted to everyone, whether they are aware of it or not.

One of the most powerful influences The Morrigan has in my life is as an instrument of Change and Transformation. I once feared changed, feeling the hell I knew was to be preferred and defended over the unknown. The Morrigan has since taught me to revel in Change. She consistently strips away the unneeded and unnecessary from my life. This, inevitably, allows room in my life for the necessary, the needed.

So, I say to YOU, as The Morrigan has said to ME, “RISE!! Embrace Your Destiny! Cease being a Victim and become a Victor! Become a Warrior!!!”

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How the Morrigan Claimed Me

(Submission from Morrigan Odin)

Many and more have asked me to share my story about how and why I came to be a Priestess of The Morrigan. I believe now is the time to share that story.

For most of my young life I had been lost spiritually. I was raised Southern Baptist, but it never fit me. I began exploring other spiritual paths in my early teens, and was drawn to The Craft (witchcraft). I studied several traditions, but none seemed to call to me.

Now that I look back on things, I realize I was looking for self-empowerment. I was a victim of domestic abuse from the time I was a child. I sought out things to escape from that. Mostly drugs. I searched for a “savior” mostly men. It was all for naught. Nothing filled the “hole in my soul.”

I was in the midst of what Joseph Campbell refers to as a Shamanic “Crackup” as an adult. Western Psychiatry refers to this as “psychosis”. I had been committed to a psychiatric facility. I lay on the floor of the ward. I was angry, I was beyond defeated. I was desperate.

I screamed out to The Universe at large, “Whoever, Whatever is OUT THERE!! Take me, I am tired of this life, I hate this life. I feel lost. No one has come to save me. HELP ME!!”

And She did. I did not know Her name at the time. I only heard Her voice at first.

“Get UP! This is not the end for YOU! I have use for YOU! And YOU will save YOURSELF! GET UP!!”

And so, I got up. Up off the floor of the hospital. Up out of the self-pity. Up out of being a victim. Up out of abusing drugs. Up and away from unhealthy relationships.

At that time, The Morrigan was not as well known, as She is now. I did not know who this Goddess was, I did not know a name.  After hearing Her voice I began seeing an image. A woman, a Goddess, standing and screaming at me over and over. I sought out another Priestess, and was told the image I described sounded like The Morrigan. I began reading, researching, and meditating, praying all on The Morrigan. It was Her, my savior, or rather the One responsible for empowering me to save myself. I became Her Priestess and have been ever since.

That was many, many years ago. She has lead me down a Warrior Path. Together, We seek to bring balance to The Cosmos once again. If I could say anything about my savior, The Morrigan, it is that She has taught me, and continues to teach me every day, to be the best Me I can be.

 

About:  Morrigan Odin is High Priestess of The Morrigan’s Nest Coven Dedicated to The Morrigan and The Allfather (Odin, Woden), Warrior Path Ordained and Licensed in the state of Virginia. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Old Dominion University (1994) International Studies, Minor in Political Science. She is Herbalist, Poet, Writer. She blogs at: The Morrigan’s Nest and The Truth.

 

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The Morrigan

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I was just finishing off the last detail on a painting I’ve been working on (actually, it’s bin working on me…) on and off for a few months, when I had an impuls to take a blank canvas out. Iwas sitting with it and then another impulse made me take an orange cayon and I started drawing the shape of a face. And after just a few lines, She was there.
A powerfull and angry looking woman. A goddess I knew she was. First a rather quiet voice inside of me said “Freja?”,but then a strong voice said: “The Morrigan”, and I knew.

I was thrilled, and a little scared, but I didn’t know much  about her, more then being a Warrior Goddess, and I had some faint memories of watching a few You Tube videos on The Morrigan by Laura Daligan. So I watched them again. And was confimed, happy, and humbled, by this Calling of this Powerful, Powerful, Dark, Beautiful, Sexual, Strong, Deep, Loving and of course, much more, beyond words.

I have never been looking for her. She Called me. And our journey has just begun. Or maybe she’s been with me all the time… Either way, I love it.

This is the painting. My journey with it has also just started. I will keep you posted on my work with it and with The Morrigan herself. Beautiful to have a place to share!

The days, or maybe a week before this happened, Crows were showing themselves in a special way to me a few times…

Magdalena Ellverson, Sweden

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