The Power Of An Animal

As a long time practitioner of shamanic journeying I have encountered many animal spirit guides or ‘power animals’. Some have come and gone, some have stuck around with me for the past couple of decades. They have become friends who have had a profound effect on my life. They have awakened dormant aspects of my psyche and spirit, provided insightful mirrors about what I am not owning, gifted me with a greater sense of empowerment. However, recently I have had a question circling around in my mind. Why is it that we don’t encounter human animal guides? In all the years I have journeyed and have facilitated others in journeying, not one of us has ever returned from our journey having encountered the spirit of our own species. Why is this? Why is it that we can spend many years learning about the ‘medicine’…that is the nature, qualities, energy, essence, lessons…of other species but don’t seem to have an awareness of the ‘medicine’ of the human animal? Who and what are we as a species? What is our role in the greater whole? Can we truly embrace that role and express our human potential if we don’t understand what we are?

The more I have mused on this, the more I have gathered new questions with a distinct lack of answers. There is no doubt that our western industrialised culture embraces ways of thinking about ‘humanity’ that facilitate a psychological separation from nature. Even our language supports this: the word ‘animal’ when applied to a human is invariably used to describe the most cruel, violent aspects of human nature. We talk about that behaviour as ‘inhumane’…’not human’…as if to be human means only to be ‘enlightened’, ‘civilised’, to embrace the idea of the superiority of mind over body, emotion and anything that ties us to our existence within nature. It creates a perception of humans as somehow set apart from the world that they inhabit, denying the existence of our natural wildness to become tamed, tethered and controlled.


Ironically it has been these very ideas of enlightenment and civilisation that have been cited as justification for some of the most inhumane behaviour in our human history: ideological genocides; the colonisation of indigenous lands and peoples; wars; assaults on the environment…the list goes on.

This contradiction within western society – the perpetration of such ‘uncivilised’ acts in the name of ‘civilisation’ – suggests a deeply buried and projected human shadow, one we have not yet had the courage to fully dig up and own on a collective level. Instead of seeing the human species in wholeness with the potential for many different expressions and manifestations, we continue to split ourselves in two and our society becomes ever more polarised as we decide who is like us and who is ‘other’.

In reality there is no ‘other’. However different we may feel as individuals we are all connected at a deep level as members of the human species. Yes, we may take an opposing position when faced with the harmful shadow of an individual person, but in today’s world the much more painful encounter that we are so often faced with is our own collective human shadow. We find ourselves looking into the eyes of our own human potential and boy, that can feel uncomfortable. Who wants to acknowledge that they too have the potential for cruelty or harm? The potential to order a bombing on innocent people to score points in a battle of greed and power?

We would like to think it is simply not in us, that we are not capable of it, that we would behave differently because we are not like that ‘other’ person. And you know…maybe…probably…we would make different choices. As individuals we are not slaves to instinct. We create the person we are…the individual human…through the choices that we make. Those choices represent what we choose to express and draw on from all of that human potential that resides within us. However, if the potential for both light and darkness (however we choose to define those terms) wasn’t there, what meaning would those choices have? How does a choice to respond with compassion and love hold significant value if it’s the only thing we are capable of?



On a species level, are we actually different to the person who surrenders to the call of greed and power? Not so much. We are entirely capable of that exact same behaviour though we may consistently make very different choices about how we live our lives and feel strongly motivated towards manifesting a very different kind of existence. However, would accepting our own potential change the way we view or judge people who cross those boundaries of what we consider ‘human’ behaviour? After all, human potential…the essence of the human animal…is not ‘bad’. Like a knife that can be used for making firewood to keep us warm, or preparing nourishing food to sustain our life, it does not become an instrument of harm until an individual picks it up with that intention. The knife simply is. It has particular qualities that can be turned to a purpose, just as our own potential can be channelled out through different agendas by different individuals.

Our sense of identity as a human being, a human animal alive on planet Earth in the 21st century, can be limiting or expansive.  We can choose to acknowledge only that one little spot where we stand as a single person or  feel our connection to all of our species across the globe, all the humans that have ever and will ever live. Each of us are both the legacy of those who came before and an ancestor to those who will come after us.  In acknowledging our connection to our collective humanity, we have the ability to contribute to our evolution. We can use our choices in the present to create not only our own personal reality but also to feed and heal the spirit of our species that has been so fragmented and distorted. Perhaps one day we will be ready to look ourselves in the eye and remember who and what we are, to embrace the power of an animal…

The Unveiling of Spring

However long I follow this spiritual path, it never ceases to amaze me how each season continues to reveal different aspects of itself. Previously unseen lessons and mirrors of reflection present themselves with each turning of the wheel. This year Spring wants to talk to me about becoming visible in the world, an idea I have struggled with for most of my life. As a child making myself visible or noticeable wasn’t a terribly safe course of action.  While I have learned to overcome this to a certain extent in pursuit of my passions, the unsettling sense of vulnerability lingers, raising it’s head whenever I push up against the edges of my comfort zone.

Pursuing a creative education and career has challenged me in so many ways in terms of visibility. Anyone who has been through the art education system will know the ordeal of having not only your finished work but also all the mess that happens between an idea and that finished piece scrutinised, assessed and judged. I have often thought that art education in the western world is a kind of emotional endurance test…it asks you to make yourself vulnerable, to make your inner workings visible and manifest and then grades you. It can feel very validating if you are deemed successful, but soul destroying and shaming if you are found wanting.


Having said that, learning to separate ourselves from what we create is a worthwhile exercise. Releasing attachment frees us to look honestly at what we have brought into the world and to learn from it, to accept that the majority of what we create embodies a journey rather than a destination. It is also necessary if we are to survive emotionally as a practising creative of any kind in the world – we cannot avoid criticism if we choose to put our work in front of a wider audience. But I find myself asking what is the cost of learning that detachment in the painful way we so often do? Do we make ourselves less visible? Do we learn to hold back? Become focussed on an end product to please others rather than feeling free to take risks and explore the infinite ways to experience and express the authentic voice within us?

The structures and systems of our society do not tend to help many of us in making that deeper internal connection that open us up to living an authentic life regardless of external opinion.  Insidious messages about every aspect of who we should be and what we should aspire to flow towards us relentlessly from the modern world.  Our media, government and corporations work hard to orientate us towards external criteria as a measure of our worth.  We are not often encouraged to seek out what is meaningful or true for us as individuals and the social penalties of stepping outside of these accepted values can be difficult to deal with. It can take a significant amount of motivation and courage to walk our own path and be truly present in our life.


When it comes to creativity, many people never recover from the school system. I have lost count of the number of people I have spoken to at various events who have pointed to my work and said “I would love to do something like that but I was never any good at art at school” At some point in their early years someone measured them against a narrow set of criteria for a narrow range of creative outlets, found them lacking and defined them. The result was a belief embedded in a young consciousness that they were ‘not creative’ and did not have permission to pursue those activities. The joy and inner connection that they may have experienced through these activities was not relevant to the grading system.

I myself was labelled as someone who ‘couldn’t draw’. It took many years for me to realise that there are many different ways to draw and make marks and that they are all valid.  It was only as I came to understand that my beliefs about my creativity came from an external voice and did not speak for my heart that I was able to give myself permission to reach for what came from inside.

When I learned that it was okay to express myself in ways that I felt genuinely connected to, that made some part of me visible and tangible, I found I could tap into something that felt altogether different. Though I still sometimes have to remind myself that I am the one who gives myself permission to create, nobody else.


I guess what I’m getting at here is the way in which, for so many of us, the fear of judgement (whether from others or ourselves) and the desire to avoid the emotions that those judgements provoke in us, can send us scurrying back into our shells, our thick defensive skins, rather than risk being visible, vulnerable, authentic. However we came to take on that fear, however we came to believe that an external voice is more valid than the voice in our heart that longs to speak for itself, for many of us it’s a very real sensation. It can feel overwhelming when we start to break out of our limiting beliefs and thinking. We might even self sabotage in the pursuit of our dreams to give ourselves an excuse to run back to the comfortable shadow of anonymity. But it’s important for our own growth that we keep pressing up against those self imposed boundaries and limitations, asking  ourselves “does this belief that is holding me back really belong to me?”

The thing is…life doesn’t wait for us. Spring is shouting that message loud and clear at the moment as the wheel turns once more. Everything in nature is getting ready to unleash it’s potential, to create itself, to become visible. We too have potential to release, parts of ourselves that long to be unveiled, empowered with self-direction, given life and breath. In many ways we are no different to the seeds, filled at our core with the knowledge of who we are, with everything we need to manifest and express our true nature. The plant kingdom provides us with tremendous examples of entering into the flow of that unfolding. A dandelion honours the blueprint inside itself, it doesn’t question whether it has the right to be a dandelion or whether it should be trying to be less like a dandelion and more like a crocus! We are in the world to be visible, to be present, to grow into the fullness of who we truly are without shame or fear. And like the seeds, those hidden parts of us have been dreaming of themselves through a very long, cold winter. They have been waiting for this moment, for the return of the sun to awaken them and make them fully alive.

Spring Blessings!

This drawn image was created on the eve of the Spring Equinox this year to honour the Spring goddess and the light and life returning to the land.  It is based on an image I have previously created in ceramic, as incense holders…

…decorative tiles…

…dishes and bowls…

Finding new ways to relate to the hare goddess and her creative mysteries is something that continues to unfold for me throughout the year…though the white hare, the beautiful spirit of light that welcomes us at this time of the Spring Equinox, is especially potent…this gentle, abundant, fertile expression of the divine feminine and all the magic of ‘becoming’ that she unfolds. Wishing you all a very blessed and abundant Spring Equinox!


I went for a walk the other day. It was one of those days we sometimes get at this time of year that fool us into thinking that we have shaken off the winter and that spring is finally here. The sun was shining with that fresh kind of warmth, the birds were singing joyfully, the squirrels were chasing each other up and down tall conifers, while the deciduous trees were busy adorning their branches in tiny green leaf buds. The whole place had that feeling of life renewing, vitality streaming in as everything rejoiced in the return of the light. I bathed in it for some time before wandering at which point I noticed that despite the appearance of the small leaf buds, there were also small clumps of brown leaves dotted amongst the branches. Leaves from the previous cycle that hadn’t quite managed to fall to earth and join their fellows on the carpet of faded russets and ambers that spread out before me.

This sight started me thinking about the way in which we as human beings tend to like things to be clear cut. In general we like structure, for things to be one thing or another. For those of us who follow an earth spiritual path, we mark out the year with designated points that help us to understand the turning of the seasons, the rise and fall of the earth and sun. All this is a tried and true way for us to form a relationship with this cycle in a meaningful way. However, when we venture out into nature, it is often considerably more messy.

It is not uncommon for us to see two or more points of a cycle in evidence at any one time. Some things are exactly where we expect them to be, but others will be a bit ahead, others lagging behind. This is often a much more accurate representation of what we experience as human beings when we consciously engage in any kind of personal growth, healing or transformation. It’s not clear cut and things can often feel as though they are swaying back and forth between one state and another. Not all of our being moves at the same pace and it can be easy to get demoralised and feel that we are not making progress.

The traditions around New Year gives a good example of how many of us might experience this. Every year, lots of people get fired up about new resolutions, identifying things in their lives that aren’t working for them and making a commitment to change. That might be small shifts in thinking or behavioural habits, or it could be major changes to lifestyle. The psychological marker of the new year is a wonderful way to receive a big blast of momentum to get us going as one cycle ends and we enter a new one with a sense of a clean slate and a chance for a new start. That initial boost to our intentions is a powerful one and can carry us quite some way. However, as we reach the end of February and into the beginning of March we may find ourselves faltering in our resolve.

This is often the time when the first flash of novelty has started to fade. Perhaps we are becoming aware of just how much sustained effort is involved in creating lasting change. Perhaps we are finding that old habits, behaviours and ways of thinking are trying to reassert themselves. Despite the fact that we may be seeing those small buds of change in our life, that growth has not yet had a chance to establish itself. All too often we continue to see the clump of brown leaves on the branch that reminds us of where we have been and the previous choices we have made.  Whenever we start our process of change or creation, this is a stage that we must all go through and it’s a time when our dreams become vulnerable.

For me this year, I have experienced this with a resolve to lose weight. I have laid out my plans for change and implemented them with some enthusiasm. I have spent time with the inner work, looking at why I have been making certain choices over the last few years. I am seeing some buds appearing: I’ve lost a few pounds; I have more energy; I am feeling empowered to make choices that serve my new vision rather than those that sabotage it. However, every time I look in the mirror or get on the scales, I am confronted by the clump of brown leaves on the branch, the evidence of all those past choices that have manifested through my physical body and have not quite moved on yet.

I was so grateful to the trees on my woodland walk for reminding me that I am in a process of transition, that this stage is necessary in any kind of growth or transformation…this feeling of being in between two states that is shifting into the new without having quite managed to fully let go of the old. And that that’s okay. Along with that came a reminder about the importance of where we invest our energy.

Looking at those trees that were so graceful in carrying the old and the new alongside each other, I was struck by the awareness that the trees were no longer feeding those old leaves. All their energy, all their life force was directed into the new growth, the new vision. They can allow the old dead leaves to remain as long as they need to, to let them fall when they are ready, because those leaves are not holding them back from new growth. So it is for us humans.

If we truly want change then we need to stop feeding the old habits, behaviours, thinking or choices and trust them to fall away in their own time instead of investing in them or allowing feelings of failure or self-reprimand to creep in. Even if we have to go back into our past to understand and come to terms with our previous choices, this is still moving us forwards, it is new growth.

When we commit our energy and our focus to what we want to create, to change, to grow, to heal or transform – when we act and make choices that are aligned with the new cycle rather than the old – then we have what we need to carry us through to the spring that supports us in establishing the changes we have longed for. The trees have understood something we so often do not…that the choices we make in the present about what we give our energy and attention to, are so often crucial to the future we will create.  Do our current choices support us in stepping into that bigger picture and flow of life, encouraging us to unfold and become fuller, brighter versions of ourselves? Or do they keep us stuck in a place that no longer nourishes us or fulfils our needs?

Most of us will stumble many times along the way but each day, each moment, is an opportunity to reassert our direction, to review and change the choices we make in our lives and what they orientate us towards. We are part of nature’s endless cycles and they move through our lives whether we engage with them consciously or not. How much more joyful to be an active participant than to stand on the sidelines as an onlooker!

Friday Finds – Brighid for Imbolc 2017

Northern Tamarisk

I thought a feature on some Brighid items would tie in nicely with Imbolc on the 1st February. With thanks to the artists for allowing me to add their wonderful creations to my Imbolc 2016 ‘Friday Finds’.
Click on the picture or the item description to go to the item’s Etsy page. Click on the creator’s name to be taken to their Etsy shop.

Something traditional:

Brighid’s Cross Wheat Weaving by BlueMoonWheatWorks (USA)wheat-brighids-cross_bluemoonwheatworks

Brighid Corn Doll by Positively Pagan (England, UK)brighid-corn-doll_positivelypagan

Something for gardens and gatherings:

Brighid’s Cross garden flagby MickieMuellerStudio(USA)

Something for your altar or sacred space:

Brighid Triple Goddessneedle felt doll bycelticsoulcraft (USA)

Brighid the Maiden sculpture (another version available) by Wandergarden(USA)

Brigit’s Cross ceramic incense holderbyRowanSongCrafts(England, UK)

St Brighid’s CrossbyCallura Pottery(Ireland)

Brighid’s Cross Altar Tile Wall Decoration by DryadsRune (Israel)brighids-cross-altar-tile_dryadsrune

Paper Cast Brighid’s Cross

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Competition Winner!

Thanks to everyone who entered our competition and signed up to our newsletter.  Unfortunately there could only be one winner…the lucky person is Clair, who has now been notified by email.  However, as a thank you to all of you who signed up, look out for a special 10% discount code for our Etsy store in the first issue :).  

If you didn’t manage to sign up in time for the competition, then you can still join our mailing list!  If you already follow us on Facebook then just visit our page and go to the newsletter tab (if you are using a mobile device then you will need to be in a browser rather than a Facebook app).  Alternatively, you can simply join the list here.

Thanks again lovely people :).

Competition Time!

A little while ago on my Facebook page I promised a competition when we reached 500 likes.  We’re now up to 522, so to celebrate that it is time for a giveaway :)!  We have this lovely terracotta, smoke-fired incense holder on offer,  fresh from last week’s smoke firings.  It is sealed and polished with my homemade beeswax polish, giving it a deliciously warm tone.


So what do you need to do to enter?  Well, the competition also coincides rather nicely with the release of our first email newsletter which is brand new for 2014. We’d love you to give it a try, so all you have to do to have a chance to win is sign up using the newsletter sign-up form .  Easy peasy!  If you do have any problems using the form then just let me know and I can add you manually.  The winner will be drawn on Saturday 1st February and announced on Facebook and here on the blog.  Good luck everyone!

The Talking Stick

The talking stick is a tradition that has been used within Native American and other aboriginal councils as an aid to discussion and communication. The stick usually belonged to the leader of a council and would be constructed from materials that brought particular ‘medicine’ or energy to the group.  The intention might be to bring energy of truth, understanding or clarity to the proceedings for example.  The tree providing the wood would be carefully selected, as would colours, feathers or other attachments according to their symbolism. The stick would then be passed between council members who took turns to speak, with only the person holding the stick having permission to speak at any one time unless they consented to the contributions of others during that time. 

So why would we want to use this process today?

Well, the stick ensured that all were given the space and opportunity to speak and be heard without interruption.  It said that all people around the circle were equal and all had a right to contribute and for that contribution to be respected and valued.  It recognised the nature of communication as a two party activity – a speaker and a listener – where roles were continually interchanged and yet each was as important as the other. 

If we speak and no-one listens then it can leave us feeling alone, rejected, excluded, isolated.  Our contribution and its source – ourselves – are not being accepted and validated.  However, when we speak and are truly attended to, it can help us feel connected, included, appreciated.  It helps our self-esteem, helps us to trust, to feel worthwhile and that we want to contribute more. 

Athabasca University Mace – click the image for more information about the symbolism in this piece.

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find places or people to speak with where we can have the experience of being heard.  Listening has become unfashionable.  Anyone who has tuned in to the House of Commons of the UK government will know that even the MPs, the nation’s decision makers, seem only interested in being heard and will shout down the voices of others until all that remains is a cacophony of sound.  This often leads to scenes like the one below where the the Speaker of the House is compelled to talk to MPs like a group of unruly school children so that anyone can be heard.  Is it any wonder that the country is in political turmoil when this is the environment in which the direction of the country is being decided upon?  It seems that the ability to shout the loudest has been mistaken for power, when in fact it is the abuse of power.  Far from showing a strong ability to communicate it is more akin to bullying in its attempts to silence others through brute force,  

This is not communication!

This also translates to other situations where there is a tendency to lean towards ideas of hierarchy, such as workplaces and families.  These groups can also find themselves in a communication nightmare when some people seem to have the metaphorical talking stick on a permanent basis while others are consistently denied a voice or are demeaned when they attempt to speak or think for themselves. 

 In a media-drenched culture the business of communication has also become the exertion of power and leads to gross imbalances across our world.  Our information age talks to us all the time through media of all kinds. We dutifully listen to the onslaught of messages and statements that surround us.  But these messages and statements that command us to believe in them rarely solicit a response or an opinion.  We are not required to listen in the true sense of the word, as an active participant in communication, we are simply asked to absorb and so to amend ourselves, our thoughts, our ideas accordingly.  This is what ‘listening’ means to many and we are already overloaded with information of what we should do, think or say, how we should look, what food we should eat, how much we should be earning, what we should be worrying about and on and on.  We are encouraged to be orientated around the self  and yet not to listen to ourselves.  This can make it incredibly difficult to listen and empathise with others and learning this can be a discipline in itself, but one that would have lasting effects for our communities.

Kwakwaka’wakw Tribesman holding a talking stick by Edward S Curtis (1868 – 1952)

When we are able to speak from our hearts and be heard by someone who is truly listening, then we can draw on the truth within us, the beauty and wisdom that we keep locked away to avoid the harsh words of others.  We can create change, we can learn and we can grow.   Think how you would feel if you knew that when you opened your mouth to speak you could rely on being respected and heard.  Would you not take more risks with your words, your thoughts, the ways that you express yourself?  And would it not be easier to listen to others if you knew that you would have your turn to speak instead of having to fight for it?

The talking stick is not just a tradition or a process.  It represents an ethos for communication which is intensely relevant for our world today.  Through its message we can learn not only to listen, but also to speak in a way that embodies that listening.  We can speak in a way that reflects our listening to our own heart,  that values ourselves in speaking as much as we value another in listening. 

Why not try it? 

Find a stick or simply an object that stands for the stick, and have a conversation or discussion on an issue  with someone where you only talk  when you have the stick in your hand.  Think about what you want to say, you don’t have to hurry to speak in case you lose your chance and someone speaks over you or interrupts.  This is your speaking time and no-one will take it away from you.  Let the other person ask you questions if they need more information to understand what you are saying, but  this time is about your thoughts and feelings on whatever issue you are discussing. 

Don’t hog the stick, pass it over when you’re done making your point and let the other person take it if they have something to say.  You will have another chance to speak later. 

When you don’t have the stick, just listen to what the other person is saying and focus on understanding it without trying to think of what you will say next.  You can be listened to when it’s your turn.  Ask questions to clarify anything you are not clear about, but do not offer or mentally construct your thoughts or opinions on what the other person is saying until it is your turn to speak.  This is time to be open, to listen and respect the other person’s views.  There will be time for you to speak when you have the stick.

By Kristen Reynolds – click the image to go to her website

This can feel very different if you are used to having fast moving conversations where you have to fight to be heard.  Using the talking stick to communicate in a different way can be a way to identify our usual communication patterns.  If you find yourself chomping at the bit to speak, getting irritated and impatient at having to wait for others  to finish, or by contrast, if having others give you their full attention feels uncomfortable, it can be a good pointer to areas you can work on to make your communication more  effective. Do you feel more comfortable as a speaker or a listener?  Good communication that creates positive connections between people and solves problems in a way that respects everyone involved demands both.   

Of course, you can also use the idea of the talking stick for fun!  Check out this lovely video of some children in Alaska using the stick to tell a story as a group:


Thank you for allowing me to hold the stick and speak.  I now pass it to you and invite your comments 🙂

The Box

Over the course of my lifetime I have battled with a central issue: trust.  It has come for me again and again, challenging me to open my heart in the face of possible disaster.  I don’t always find it easy. My life has shown me again and again that open hearts get stamped on.  Innocence gets stamped on. Believe me, this has been properly rammed home…and yet…here I am, feeling the sting once again.

A recent betrayal is knawing at me and yet I am taking heart that I am  able to feel that knawing.  That knawing tells me that I am still alive.  It tells me that my heart opened up to someone enough to give them room to stick their boot through the doorway.  It tells me that far from a sign of weakness or fragility, I had the strength and courage to make myself vulnerable.  It tells me that the little girl in me who had so much of her trust and belief in humanity shattered and crushed into tiny sharp fragments, is breathing, crying…recovering.  She is still here, telling me it hurts…this feeling of rejection hurts.  It is not bouncing off a dead body that neither feels nor sees nor hears.   It hurts.

Deliberation by Mario Sanchez Nevado

Don’t misunderstand me, I am not a masochist, I take no delight in pain, but I do take delight in the fact that I can feel it, know it, experience it.  That has not always been the case.  Some wounds are so deep that from within the logical course of action seems to be amputation, to sever the part that is hurting, make it stop. People find all kinds of ways to ‘make it stop’ and we live in a society that provides us with oh so many distractions.

Sometimes though, the mind takes that decision on it’s own.  It dulls and numbs cutting off the place where the pain lives. The doorways are locked down.  People become dreams, always standing outside of the fortress, at arms length.  They can’t hurt us anymore because the part that allows us to take that risk is being held hostage in the tower. The benevolent king and queen, who once gently ruled over our hearts, have been replaced by a tyrannical paranoid dictator who lets nobody past the armed guards.  We are safe…in the way that a prison inmate in solitary confinement is safe…but we are not living. We don’t just keep out the pain, we keep out everything, every feeling, every pleasure and joy.  Untouched.  Unmoved.  Disconnected.  Isolated.  Fallen away.

Ivory Tower by Raqee Najmuldeen

Either we remain here indefinitely or we start an uprising, a rebellion from the inside.  We infiltrate, organise, confront.  We exercise our right to peaceful protest, refuse to accept the dictates of a fearful, controlling mind.  That dictator will scream as the defenses come down.  It will mobilise troops, threaten, cajole, terrorise in an attempt to make us back down and co-operate with it’s agenda. It does not realise that our heart is not the enemy.  It does not understand that our heart means it no harm, but simply longs to be free…free to love, free to live, free to take it’s place in the world and feel the sun on it’s face.

A little while ago I had a dream.  A woman came forward and spoke to me. I asked her name.

“Pandora” she told me.

“As in the box?” I asked, incredulously.

She did not answer me but reached down and pulled out an old chest that was tightly locked.  As I neared it, I could see there was something in the box that was fighting to get out, stretching the sides of the box, trying to escape.  Each little glimpse I gained inside as it pushed at it’s prison walls showed me a shaft of golden light.

I looked at Pandora.  I wanted to open the box.  More than anything I wanted to open the box.  I kept remembering the story though…Pandora’s box with all the sorrows of the world inside.  I didn’t want all the sorrows of the world, but I wanted to open the box.

After some consideration I reached down and slid the clasp back.  The top flew open and a stream of darkness flowed out.  Where was the golden light I had seen?  The darkness swirled around.

Pandora’s Box by Arthur Rackham

I peered into the box and there on the bottom was a lump of pure gold, light emanating from it’s surface. Hope?  I reached in and pulled it out.  As I held it the light became more brilliant and started to swirl along the path where the darkness had flown.  The golden glow began to fill the space, illuminating it, transforming the darkness and bringing it all to light.  Pandora looked at me and smiled.

“Sometimes you have to release the darkness in order to release the light that will transform it” she said.


We have to have the courage to set free our pain and fear and woundedness in order to set free the light that will heal us. These things stay stuck when we hold them in stasis, locking them up and preventing the natural movement of energy and life.  Deep inside every one of us is the source of healing, light and strength for all our wounds.  It is never lost, never extinguished, however long we lock it up for.  Hope always survives, patiently waiting for us to claim it, trust it and allow it to guide us away from the pessimism and cynicism of the world back into innocence and renewal.

Many artists over the years have been inspired by the subject of the mythological Pandora’s Box.  Today there are many wonderful examples from the talented artists and makers at .  See below for a small selection that you can view on the site by clicking the images:

Pandora’s Box by Kiersten Eve Eagan Illustration

Pandora’s Box by Kate Fensom

Pandora’s Box by Laura Peyton

Mixed Media by Euphoria Lucid Dreams Art Designs by Effie

She Let It Out by Light Plus Ink

Pandora’s Box by PRRINT

Spring Competition – Results!

Firstly, a huge thank you to everyone who entered our competition.  We have truly loved hearing about your favourite things!  I am a great believer that it is all those little things that ultimately bring us joy in our lives and keep us going when things are tough.  Life gets so busy it can be difficult to pay attention and notice them sometimes, but they are always there, waiting for us to experience them, to touch our hearts, make us think or simply to feel joyful :).

This morning we wrote everyone’s name on a piece of paper and put them all into a bowl.  I jiggled them all around and Mr Rowan Song pulled out two…

comp collage

The first name out of the bowl was Helen Stirling.  Congratulations Helen!  You have won the prize bundle with the little ceramic mushroom dish.

The second name out of the bowl was Polly Bucknall.  Congratulations Polly!  You have won the prize bundle with the felt egg.

I will send you each an email confirming this and will just need you to let me know your addresses so I can post your prize out to you :).

As promised, everyone who entered the competition will receive an email with a special coupon code entitling you to a 10% discount on any items bought in a single purchase from my Etsy store, with no minimum purchase.

Thanks to everyone once again for entering.

Spring Competition – Your Favourite Things

Hello!  I recently reached 400 ‘likes’ on my Facebook page and in celebration of this and the coming of Spring, I decided it was time for another competition!  So here we are!

There are prizes for two people in this competition who will be drawn from a hat…or possibly a bowl…but everyone who enters will receive a special coupon code for use in my Etsy store, for 10% off any items placed in a single order.  So what are the prizes?

The first little bundle consists of this little ceramic tea light dish painted with ceramic underglaze colours and transparent glaze with a mushroom design:

mushroom collage

Plus two ceramic tags:

tags collage

And a teeny tiny smoke fired goddess:

goddess collage

The second package will contain one of my embroidered felt eggs:


A small ceramic Ostara tag:

ostara tag collage

And an even teenier weenier smoke fired goddess:


So…what do you have to do to have a chance of winning a bundle or to get your discount code?  All you have to do is first of all like our Facebook page or join us on Twitter (if you haven’t already) and then leave a comment here on the blog telling us one of your favourite things.  What makes you smile or laugh?  What makes your heart twinkle?  What puts a chink of light in your day?  It doesn’t matter how small it is, if it makes a difference then tell us about it :).  If you’re lacking inspiration, then here is Julie Andrews to help you out…

The competition will run until Saturday 9th March 2013 and the results will be announced here on the blog, so check back soon to see if you won!  All entrants will need to provide an email address in order to receive their coupon code, and winners will also need to provide a mailing address.  All personal details will only be used for the purpose of this competition and will not be retained or used by us for any other purposes.

Good luck!

A Little Competition – Winners!

Well thank you to everyone who entered the competition, it was a very close thing in the end but we do have two winners!

Firstly, how many beads were in that cup?  The answer is 63.

And the winners?:

  • Mawgen was spot on and wins first prize of a choice of ceramic decoration with a handmade felt bag.
  • Second prize goes to Lesley with her guess of 59, for the second ceramic decoration.

Well done both of you!  Please check your email inboxes over the next few days as I’ll be in touch to arrange sending your prizes out to you.

We will be running more competitions in the coming months so follow the blog or keep an eye on our Facebook page if you’d like to stay updated.

If you like these ceramic decorations and missed out on a prize this time then why not check out the seasonal section of my Etsy store where you will find similar pieces for sale along with a range of other goodies :).

Thanks again everyone.

(This competition is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by or associated with Facebook.  All entries and information are being submitted to Rowan Song and not Facebook.  Rowan Song takes full responsibility for all administration and communication related to this competition)

A Little Competition!

Visitors to my Facebook page may remember me getting all whoopy about us reaching 300 likes recently.  I made a promise to have a little competition as a thank you, so here it is :).

There are two prizes up for grabs.  The lucky winner will have a choice with the other prize going to the first runner up.

These are the prizes on offer – two hand painted ceramic hanging decorations inspired by ancient sun symbols. You can put them on a tree at Yule, though they look pretty funky hanging around the house at any time of year:

The first prize winner will receive their decoration in this cute felt hand stitched gift bag (these make great little bags for gifts, crystals, jewellery or anything else you can think of):

And what do you have to do to get one of these decorations absolutely free?  Well, I thought I should give you a little challenge :).  So have a look at the picture below and give me your best guess as to how many beads are in the cup (I was quite surprised when I counted them!).

You can enter by leaving your guess as a comment on this blog post  – click on the ‘Leave a Comment’ link at the very bottom of this post.  If you prefer you can email me your entry at  We promise that your email address will not be used or retained for any purpose unrelated to this competition  – we don’t like spam either!

The competition is open to everyone who has liked the Rowan Song Facebook page, no matter where you are in the world, so if you haven’t joined us yet then pop over  and click ‘like’ before sending us your entry.

The competition will close at midnight on 7th October 2012, so get guessing!  The closest answer will win first prize of a chosen decoration with gift bag, with the next closest winning the remaining decoration without bag.  In the event of a tie for either position then an alternative prize may be offered.

The number of beads and the winner will be announced here on the blog shortly after 7th October so be sure to check back and claim your prize if you’re the winner!

If you have any questions then please leave a comment here or email me on

With Love,

Beth xx

(This competition is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by or associated with Facebook.  All entries and information are being submitted to Rowan Song and not Facebook.  Rowan Song takes full responsibility for all administration and communication related to this competition)

Beauty and the Blade

Do you have a favourite tool? We seem to write so much about what we make but not about the tools that we use to make it with.  As a lover of  creative making, I also love my tools.  Whether it’s a crochet hook, needle, scissors, jewellery pliers, rubber kidney, scalpel, wooden or metal modelling tools, rolling pin, chisel, sieve, stamps, cutters, burnishing stone, sewing machine, hammer, paintbrush or any number of other things, tools are crucial to whatever I am making.  Tools are not like materials that are depleted as they are used, but through using and looking after them they become our steady creative companions that will see us through project after project, that feel familiar and comfortable in our hands.  Eventually, with much use and practice, we (hopefully!) develop enough skill to become one with our tools, directing our intent through them as an extension of ourselves, allowing us to focus fully on the piece that we are making. Our bodies learn them, the way that we need to move them, the exact amount of pressure, the specific angle to achieve our desired result. It becomes so second nature that it is only when we have to replace a favoured old tool and pick up a new one that we will feel the very subtle differences: perhaps a slight difference in the weight, or that little imperfection that you got so used to working around which is no longer there.  It can take a while.

I used to have a favourite wooden modelling tool that I used all the time in clay work.  To an outside eye it looked like a wooden stick carved into a point on one end and a flat surface on the other.  I never used to think about how I used it.  Then one day it disappeared.  I hunted high and low for it but in the end realised that somehow, inexplicably, I had managed to lose it.   So I bought a new one.  It looked the same on the outside, but when I picked it up it was not the tool I had lost, it felt different in my hands, I did not feel that same connection to it.  Over time, the new tool became as comfortable as the old one, but it made me think about the relationship between makers and their tools and the process we go through in learning to use a new one. Read more…

The Tree of Foolishness

Once upon a time there were two trees. One of them was a very well known tree – the Tree of Knowledge. The other – the Tree of Foolishness – well that was a little less famous, but nevertheless it stood proudly beside it’s sibling. Though most never guessed they were related. Where the roots of the Tree of Knowledge plunged themselves deep into the Wells of Wisdom, the Tree of Foolishness was quite content to feel the wet squish of mud between it’s toes. Where the branches of the Tree of Knowledge pirouetted gracefully in the wind, the Tree of Foolishness could be heard grunting as it thrashed around in the gales. Where the Tree of Knowledge gained the patronage of mythical beasts and the Gods themselves, the Tree of Foolishness attracted only wandering sheep who would nibble at it’s bark before moving on.

Despite their differences the Tree of Foolishness attracted almost as many devotees as the Tree of Knowledge. In fact many mistook the Tree of Knowledge for it’s brother and would spend months listening faithfully to the steady fall of pigeon droppings, imagining them to be golden droplets of inspiration falling from the branches. When they realised their error they would dust themselves down and start packing. The Tree of Foolishness would sigh and watch them leave, their footsteps making their way up the muddy hill, always in haste to be away.


However, not all seekers were looking for the Tree of Knowledge. Some came especially to seek out foolishness. The Tree would watch them with equal fascination as they stumbled through the mud, falling over each other to get to their prize. When they reached the trunk they would kneel before it, certain that they would be favoured above all others. The Tree of Foolishness would call Wind to rush through it’s branches and the two of them would delight in tossing long branches across the heads of the people gathered.

“Why do they just sit there and let us do it?” whispered Wind to the tree.

“I don’t know” giggled the tree “they must be foolish already”.

Over the centuries many people came and left the Tree of Foolishness. The tree grew older, though not significantly wiser, and contented itself with the idea that while it may never shine like it’s brother, it had it’s own quirky charm which was not to be sniffed at. Little did the tree know that in a village beyond the mountains, lived a devotee like no other. Like many before him, this devotee believed that the tree would bless him in ways that it had blessed no other, that he was truly deserving in his dedication, that he understood the meaning of foolishness in ways that no other human being had ever done. However, in his zeal he also came to believe that he had been chosen to lead a mass pilgrimage to the holy tree. Over many long years the devotee worked tirelessly, amassing followers, convincing them of the importance of his vision to build a community of idiots, truly committed to following a life based upon the core values of foolishness: greed, selfishness and conceit.

“Follow me” he said “and all these things can be yours. Come with me to the holy tree and show the Tree of Foolishness how great my vision is, and we shall receive the tree’s blessing. You will be important. You will be special. I will make it so, I will make sure that everyone knows of your foolishness. There may be sacrifices along the way but no price is too high for greatness. Together we can do it”

The people stood in awe. They had never believed they could be important before. They joined with him and began to help him plan the pilgrimage that would take them out of the village and across the mountains to the foot of the hill where the Tree of Foolishness stood. As the devotee shared his plan there were many questions in the minds of his followers, but they kept quiet for fear that they would not become important and would miss out on everything they had been promised.

The day that they set out it began to rain. Not small, dainty droplets, but little cannonballs that pelted hard at the heads and shoulders of the train of people setting off up the path into the mountains. As they continued the wind started to buffet them along the high narrow ridges.

Image by Juni from Kyoto, Japan

“Maybe we should turn back” muttered one.

The others murmured in agreement, starting to doubt the devotee as their feet slipped and slid along the muddy track for mile after mile. Suddenly one of their number lost his footing and before anyone could prevent it, he was tumbling down the rocky outcrop, screaming on his way to the bottom. A distant thump preceeded a few moments of shocked silence.

” We should go back” they cried in unison, clinging now to the grassy verges as the rain bent the trees around them.

The devotee turned to them and said “surely a little wind and rain will not deter you. Remember you are idiots, you are born to be foolish. This man is but one small sacrifice on the road to greatness”

“But Master” – they called him Master in honour of his great foolishness – “our feet are sore, we are soaked through and shivering. We cannot go on, why can we not at least rest?”

“Rest?” cried the devotee “to be truly foolish we must not rest, we must remove our shoes so that the stones cut our feet and continue walking”

There was consternation amongst the followers.

“Cast your shoes off the hillside” cried the devotee “prove that you are worthy of being important”.

So the followers took off their shoes and cast them from the hillside.

“But Master, you have not removed your own shoes”

“I do not need to remove my shoes, for I am already worthy and important” he replied.

With that he turned and led the way onwards up the hillside, his followers behind him, sharp rocks cutting at their soft feet.


Image by Conrad Nutschan

The next day they continued on their journey and though the wind had dropped and there were even tentative signs of sunshine amongst the clouds, they were not covering the ground as fast as they had planned.

“If we had not thrown away our shoes, we would walk faster” one complained “my feet are so cut and swollen I can barely stand to walk”

“Shhhh” whispered his fellow “the Master will hear you and will doubt your foolishness” but the follower was not to be silenced.

“Master” he cried “why did we have to throw away our shoes? It will make the journey take ten times as long. I have a family at home who need me. They will become destitute if I abandon them like this. I love them, I can’t do that to them. There was no need for this, surely it is just common sense…”

His voice trailed away as he uttered those last words and the devotee turned on him.

“Common sense? COMMON SENSE?!! I am an idiot through and through, what use have I for common sense? Have you learned nothing that I have taught you? Do you not wish to be an idiot too? Do you doubt me? Your family should feel priviledged to become destitute for such a noble cause as mine. They should delight in it, as should you if you wish to be important”

The man considered this for a moment before turning on his swollen heels and heading back down the hillside under the frightened eyes of his companions. As he faded into the distance, the remaining followers turned to their Master for guidance. The devotee shook his head.

“It is regrettable that he was not as foolish as he could have been. He has thrown away the opportunity to be a true idiot. He will never be as important as all of you”

The followers smiled with pride and puffed out their chests a little like preening birds, trying to ignore the searing pain in their feet. The devotee smiled and they continued on their long, painful journey.

It was another week before one of the devotees dared to remark that because they were now moving at a much slower pace than they had intended, they were about to run out of food.


Image by Paul Mashburn

Some of the followers had also developed infections in their feet which were threatening to immobilise them altogether. They were becoming increasingly afraid that they would die out here on the hillside, unable to walk or find food. The devotee, whose feet were dry in his shoes and whose pack contained an extra stash of food, stood before them.

“My foolish followers, do not give up now. You are so close to being truly idiotic. Look at all the wonderful sacrifices you have made for me, look at what lies beyond this time of trial. Think of my…I mean your…greatness. You are all so wonderfully stupid.”

“But Master, the rations are almost depleted. We are only half way there. If we don’t turn back now we will starve”

“Some of us are sick Master” chimed in another “we need medical care. We must turn back”

“Nonsense” cried the devotee “that is not in the spirit of the foolishness that we have built together. If you truly believe in my vision then that will be your food, that will be your healing. You need nothing but me and my great foolishness”

The followers looked at one another doubtfully. Some shook their heads and gathered together the little they had before beginning their journey back towards the village. A small group remained, unwilling to give up on their dream of being important. The devotee smiled.

“Once more, those who are truly worthy have stayed faithful. Do not trouble yourselves with thoughts of those who have given up on greatness, who have abandoned their right to be part of my foolish vision. Together we will become the most foolish idiots that the world has ever seen’.

He led them on.


Image by Heather Sunderland

Another week passed and the small group that (with the exception of the devotee) staggered with hunger and exhaustion, emerged from the mountains. With a final push over a grassy ridge they were looking down into a great valley. On the tall hill opposite stood the Tree of Knowledge, the Northern Lights swirling in it’s branches, it’s grace shining like a beacon to illuminate all around. The devotee turned his eyes from the glare and directed his gaze down to the foot of the hill. There, with it’s air of unassuming nonchalance, stood the Tree of Foolishness. The devotee’s heart jumped.

“There it is!” he cried enthusiastically as he set off down the steep incline.

His followers grunted, and stumbled after him, eyelids drooping, only semi-aware of their surroundings and what they were doing. They descended until they stood level with the Tree of Foolishness who had just awoken from a snooze and was now looking at the curious group on the other side of the field. It’s heart sank as it it saw the devotee gesticulating wildly with excitement. It caught the words “…my moment of glory…” and wondered how these funny ideas got about. It was nice to be known but sometimes the tree wondered whether Foolishness had managed to pick up a bad name somewhere. It blamed the pigeons.

As the tree mused it’s eye was caught by the devotee motioning to his little group to lie down on the ground. It frowned. Just at that moment, Wind dropped in to see it’s old friend and the words of the conversation were blown across the field.

“Master, we are sinking in the mud”

“I know, it must be all the rain”

“We cannot cross the field to the tree Master”

“No, we cannot, though I know you will feel honoured to act as my bridge so that I might reach the tree and receive it’s blessing”

“But Master we will sink in the mud”

“And your sacrifice will make you a truly important idiot”.

Image by Oven Fresh

One by one they lay face down in the mud, forming a human bridge across the land to the foot of the tree. The devotee, so consumed with the prospect of finally reaching the tree did not stop to thank them or to help them. Instead he strode out hard, each foot planted firmly in their back, pushing them down and down into the choking mud. One final leap and he was at the tree. He was reaching out and touching it’s bark, standing beneath it’s branches, hearing the wind in it’s leaves. He had dreamt of this moment all his life, ever since the first time he had known that there was such a thing as foolishness.

“Blessed, Holy Tree, I have longed with each breath to stand in your presence. I am your humble servant…”

The tree raised it’s eyebrows at this as it could see nothing humble about this man.

“…I have gone through great trials to reach you, made many sacrifices…”

” He made sacrifices?!” whispered the tree to Wind. Wind shrugged in confusion.

“…I promise to dedicate my life to foolishness if you will just grant me your blessing and make me more foolish than any other person has ever been…”

The tree smiled to itself and spoke:

“Truly my dear, you are more foolish than any who have ever come here before…”

The devotee almost burst with pride.

“…you have come all this way, you have sacrificed all your companions and friends…”

The devotee nodded, rubbing his hands with anticipation.

“….now who is left to help you out of this place?”

The devotee’s smile dropped from his face. He turned and looked back at the field of mud that was shimmering under a thin ray of sunshine. His followers’ bodies had all been sucked deep beneath the surface. There was no way out. The devotee was alone beneath the Tree of Foolishness. The tree sighed with satisfaction as Wind lined up the first branch at the devotee’s head.

A Little Yuletide Magic!

Well, the festive season is finally here! How will you be spending this time? For myself, I certainly don’t take to my armchair with a jar of humbugs 😉 but I’m quite a quiet sort on the whole and I like to keep it simple. Usually I take some time to sit still and think about where the year has brought me to: what I have planted and grown; what I have harvested, and what I want to sow and nurture in the coming year.

This past year has been a bit of a roller-coaster with a whole raft of experiences and challenges.  Our little unit has weathered so much illness between us, been through so much stress and worry, and yet somehow in the midst of all that I managed to start a business.  Not only start it, but start it growing despite a little choppiness midway!  I started writing a blog.  I started recording my songs.  I started to recover my creative voice along with the courage to start sharing it…gawd help you all :D!  When looking back at the challenges and obstacles, I am amazed at what I have achieved this year.  There is so much to feel positive about and grateful for, so much to build upon.  I don’t always realise it as I’m going along, which is why this time each year is so precious.  Each Yule I sit down and recognise and am thankful for all those little bits of magic that flutter into my life..little miracles. Perhaps my miracles may not seem like miracles to most people.  Usually we think of ‘miracles’ as something that requires some momentous and unfathomable event to take place.  I don’t think of them like that.  I think miracles happen every time the world exceeds our expectations, every time our perception of life, ourselves and others is challenged and shifted and transformed in a positive and perhaps unexpected, sometimes inexplicable way.  Those experiences, whether big or small, can be life changing or they can simply make us feel more positive about life, rekindling trust and hope that we may have lost along the way. Read more…

One Stone Too Far…

Gosh, it seems so long since I was last here!  Well, after my break I am feeling considerably better and ready to leap into a new topic that I have been mulling over recently.  What is this megalith that has been on my mind?  It is the Stanza Stones Project: a collaborative art project organised by the Ilkey Literature Festival, imove and Pennine Prospects as part of the cultural programme running up to to the 2012 Olympics.  The project places work by the well-known modern poet Simon Armitage into the landscape of Ilkley Moor and surrounding areas in West Yorkshire by carving the words of his poems into a number of rocks. A couple of these rocks have been imported, but many form part of the Moor’s natural geology.  The idea is that they will form a ‘poetry trail’ through the landscape between Marsden and Ilkley.  Two poems have already been carved, at Marsden Quarry and Nab Hill, with more to follow.

The poems are a collection called ‘In Memory of Water’ and are all on the theme of water, an important natural force that has helped to shape the landscape in this area.  The organisers suggest that the carving of the poems onto the rocks places the work into the context of human carving in the moor’s landscape over centuries, from prehistoric times through to masonry, through to ‘twenty-first century informal unauthorised carving’ (otherwise known as graffitti!  More on that later…). Read more…

John Barleycorn Must Die

I seem to have developed a complete inability to finish anything at the moment. Not sure why that should be, but this is about the 5th blog post I’ve begun in recent weeks, so I hope that I will find my way to the end of it this time.   If you’re reading this then yay, looks like I made it :D.  So what to write about? Well, the focus of my days over the past week or so has been wheat. Or more specifically gluten, one of its proteins.

I won’t bore you with the frustrations of dealing with GPs, but suffice to say, that many months ago I had become very unwell and had started to strongly suspect that I had a bit of a problem with eating gluten. Rather than continue to endure it over the months it took to get an appointment with the right person, I decided to help myself, so I cut it out of my diet to see what would happen. After a few months I felt soooo much better and was really starting to feel more like myself than I had done for a long time: my symptoms were disappearing, I was exercising again, my energy was coming back more and more as the weeks went by. Yippeeeee I thought! So you may be able to imagine how dismayed I was a couple of weeks ago, to be told that I needed to be tested for a condition called Coeliac and that the preparation for this test would mean going back to a gluten diet on what they call ‘the gluten challenge’. Read more…

Supporting Handmade However It’s Made

It’s that time of year when I’ve been thinking about my direction again. As some visitors to my Facebook page will know, autumn seems to do this to me. The chaos of life undoing itself before my eyes makes me look to my own life and question, question, question. It can be unsettling but is part of a natural process and I trust that the other side of this seasonal transition will bring a certain peace. However, this year some of my internal leaf-wrenching is amplified because I am reflecting and trying to make a decision about my own position within a situation that has brought a lot of anguish to a lot of people. It seems the autumn storm has been howling loudly over at a certain art & crafting marketplace recently and while I have held back from getting involved with the heated debate in the forum, I have been watching, incredulously, at some of what has been going on. Read more…

The Vagaries of Light

Colour.  It’s part of our daily lives.  Whether we pay much attention to it or not, it’s there, all around us, in everything.  We might only engage with it when we’re deciding what to put on in the morning, or perhaps when picking out paint or soft furnishings or plants for the garden; or we might spend quite a lot of time making decisions about it as artists or crafters.  One way or another it finds its way into every part of our lives, moving us, challenging us to feel something about it.

I have often wondered why it is that colour can have such an effect on us and why that effect can be so powerful; why colour or combinations of colour can fill us with such joy or so utterly repel us and why these effects seem to differ from person to person.  For instance, why do people have ‘favourite’ colours?  Why does one person revel in fluorescent pink while another feels more at home with a soft warm brown?  You only have to sit outside on a busy street watching passers by to see the diversity in this thing we call taste.  Of course there may be other factors involved in some of the choices we make about such things – sadly, fashion, magazines and TV seem to have an every increasing influence on our decision making – but I would like to think that for most people there is a bottom line of ‘do I like it?’. Read more…

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