Is Frigga Freya?

Is Frigga the same goddess as Freya?

There is article by Daniel McCoy claiming that Frigga and Freya are the same goddess.  (The same line of reasoning can be found in his book, “The Viking Spirit,” [pgs. 36-39]).

I deal with these kinds of questions all the time in my religious studies.  There is a constant effort by theologians to fuse two gods into one, let alone three gods into one god.  Let us begin my response to this kind of question, “Is Frigga Freya?”  by asking this question, “Is any god, the same as another god?”  This time, it just happens to be the question, “Is this goddess the same as another goddess?”  “Are these two goddesses actually just one goddess, morphed and grown into two goddesses?”

My first and most important response is to ask the question, “What is the purpose of identifying Freya and Frigga as one goddess or two?” One of the reasons I approach identities of gods and goddesses of the North is to help understand the Eddas, (Elder and Younger).  If I conflate two gods into one or two goddesses into one, I ask myself, “Is that going to ‘help’ me better understand the lore?  Or is it going to make it harder for me to understand the lore?”  In other words, the question needs to be asked, “Why do I need to ‘know’ or even consider this question?”  In short, when reading the Eddic Poems or Lays and the stories regarding Frigga and Freya, it makes it “harder” for me to understand what is written about Frigga and Freya if I fuse them together into one.  That is, rather than keeping the two separate as they are described in all the writings we have.

For instance, In the Lokasenna, it describes “Freya” and “Frigga” at the same party.  They each talk at different times and are accused independently of different faults.  Frigga is identified by name in stanzas 25-28 as debating and interacting with Loki.  Conversely, Freya is identified by name in stanzas 29-32 as debating and interacting with Loki.  Frigga and Freya are selected by Loki for different attacks and accusations.  To fuse the two together as one, would “con-fuse” the reader and not help comprehension of the setting, the scene, and the characters throughout the Lay.

In reading a story to know who the characters are in the drama is important to understanding what the author is trying to say.  Admittedly, there are “kennings” in the lore, where different names are used to identify the same character or person, like “Grimnir” or “Harbarth” in the case of Odin. Yet, the author in the writing makes clear the true identity of “Grimnir” and “Harbarth” as Odin.  Heimdall is referred to as “Rig” in the Rigsthula, but the author starts by insuring the reader that Rig is “really” Heimdall.  On the other hand with Frigga and Freya, authors consistently identify them as separate characters in their writings.  If a person “sees” the written word “Frigga,” but “thinks” of “Freya,” as if one name is a “kenning” for the other, the reader will not achieve understanding of what the author is describing or trying to say.

I’ve been dealing with this problem of fusing two identities into one for decades. The Catholics are masters at it, but they are not the only culprits.  Linguistic scholars seem to feel driven to do it, even if it is for a different reason than the Catholics.

Is Tyr the same God as Zeus?

So, if you will bear with me, I will demonstrate my point with two examples.  Let’s start with the “scholars.”  Hilda Davison in her book Gods and Myths of Northern Europe employs the “etymology” of words to equate Norse “Tyr” with the Greek “Zeus” (page 57).[1]  To simplify, it goes something like this: “Tyr” in Norse is “Tiw” or “Teu” in Anglo-Saxon from which we get the word “Tuesday” (a day of the week) and “Teutonic” (a collective identification of Germanic and Scandinavian Europeans). “Tyr” or “Tiw” meant the general word “god” in some contexts.[2]  In Latin there is the word “Deus.” It means “god” in general in Latin Rome.  So, “Tiw” is the equivalent of “Deus.”  “Deus” was the proto-original of the name “Zeus” in Greece.  Therefore, Tyr is Zeus. That is what I call scholarly linguistic gymnastics jumping around between three different cultures, and three different languages, to come up with a linguistic connection and identification, then fusing three gods into one. That may sound compelling to someone unfamiliar with the “character” and “behavior” of Tyr verses Zeus.  The Norse and Anglo-Saxon “religions” were essentially the same with the same stories, character, and behavior of their “gods” and goddesses.   They just used different enunciation of the names while recounting these stories.  Likewise, with the Greek and Roman “religions,” were essentially the same with the same stories, character, and behavior of their “gods” and goddesses.   They just used different enunciation of the names while recounting these stories.  However, there are huge differences between the Norse/Anglo-Saxon religious stories and the Greek/Roman religious stories.

Words do not mean the same thing in distinct cultures and religions just because they sound the same.  Like “nine” in English means a number, whereas, “nine” in German means “no.” So, more things must be considered than just a similar sound or name (even though “Tyr” and “Zeus” are not similar in sound at all, without the gymnastics of the linguistic bridge). We must consider the stories and descriptions given to each of these gods before we can confidently conclude they are actually the same god with different names. It is not the “similarities” that gods or goddesses share that help identify them, but rather the “differences” that make them a “distinct” god or goddess.

So, let us consider the “differences” between Zeus and Tyr, not just the fact they are both considered “gods.” That is too easy and trite.  Zeus had both hands.  Tyr only has one hand and is even called, “The One-Handed God.”[3]  Zeus was a rapist.  In the Greek myths he rapes both goddesses and mortal women.[4]  There is no story where Tyr rapes either goddesses or mortal women.  “Zeus” in the Greek myths is a kidnapping pedophile rapist of a little Trojan boy named Ganymede.  Tyr is the god of the AllThing where Norse law was established.[5]  Rape was outlawed by the Danes and the Swedes, according to Adam of Bremen who was there in 1070 circa,  and rape was punishable by death.[6]  So, not only was Tyr not like Zeus in these activities, Tyr would have had Zeus killed for what Zeus did to women and the boy Ganymede.  So, even though the “etymologies” may connect the two gods, there is a world of difference between Tyr and Zeus in form, in character, and behavior.

I am persuaded to accept “Tyr” of the Norse is the same as “Tiw” of the Anglo-Saxons, even though their names sound slightly different.  The reason being, “Tyr” and “Tiw” are described exactly the same in story and character by both cultures.  However, the similarities stop there when the word “branches out” to Deus of the Romans and Zeus of the Greeks.  In the Oxford Dictionary, under the word, “Tuesday,” it says, “Tiw = ON [Old Norse]. Tyr, OHG [Old High German]. Zío, name of an ancient Teutonic deity, identified with the Roman Mars…”.  The implication (without actually stating it) is “Zío” is the Teutonic root of Tiw and Tyr.  Furthermore, it does not say, Who, “identified” it with the “Roman Mars,” like Oxford usually does.  So, who “identified” Zío with Mars?  The Roman General and historian, Tacitus.[7]  Tacitus was trying to understand what the Germans believed regarding “gods” and equated, whatever they said, with the only frame of reference Tacitus had…which was the Roman religion.  When meeting new people, we can only compare what they say with what we already know.  So, it was a Roman, who equated a German “deity” with his own Roman “deity.”  Whether he was “right” or not depends on the “differences” of character and behavior of that deity, not the similarities.

McCoy uses the same process of “etymologies,” the origins of words, as one of his planks to fuse “Frigga” together with “Freya.”  Yet, it is not the similarity of “names,” as we see above, that makes one god the equivalent of the other, but the character and behavior.  Even if they have the same attributes in a number of ways, it is the differences that distinguish one from another.  For example, I have a brother in which we have the same last name and share many visual and expressive characteristics.  Yet, I have done things he has not, and he has done things I have not. We are not the “same” person even though we have the same last name and share similar physical attributes.  It is the differences between him and I that make him…him…and me…me.  People who grew up with brothers or sisters will understand my point.  Sometimes parents punish both brothers for what one brother did.  Likewise, they will punish both sisters for what one sister did.  The anguish of the innocent brother or sister cries out to their parents to be “distinguished” from the other no matter how similar they are.

So, let us consider the following.  In fact, the record shows, Frigga and Freya have different names, even if they can be traced to the same root.  Like my last name, “Webb,” can be etymologically traced back to “Weaver.” Does that make me a “Weaver”?  Or am I still a “Webb” with my name rooted in “Weaver”?  A common root for a name does make me in common with that person “as if” I am…that person.

Is Saint Nicholas the same man as Santa Claus?

Another example is convicting Saint Nicholas of being Santa Claus.  A process I will apply to Frigga and Freya once you see how I do it.

The prosecution must first prove they arrested the right man who is now on trial—Saint Nicholas.  The charge is that Saint Nicholas is the same person as the notorious burglar “Santa Claus.” The Prosecutor says in his opening argument, “This man, ‘Saint Nicholas,’ is being charged with breaking into multiple homes every Christmas Eve.  He is none other than the notorious ‘Santa Claus’!”

The Defense says, “I propose that this is a case of mistaken identity.  They do not even have the same name.  ‘Santa Claus’ is not the same name as ‘Saint Nicholas.’”  The Prosecutor begins his rebuttal to make his case that they are one and the same person.  He agrees with the Defense in front of the jury, “Yes. You are right about that. They do not have the same name…in English.  But! Here is the proof that Santa Claus is just another name for Saint Nicholas.”  He begins, “’Santa’ in Spanish means ‘Saint.’ So, if we change from English to Spanish, both names begin with the same moniker and mean the same thing as “saint.”  Furthermore, “If you drop the ‘Ni’ from ‘Ni-cholas’, it can be shortened to ‘cholas.’ By doing so, one can see the linguistic connection between ‘cholas’ and ‘Claus’ more easily.  Therefore, by switching to Spanish for one name and shortening the second, a person can ‘easily’ see that Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas are in FACT! the same names.”

The jury is awed by the Prosecutor’s education and obscure linguistic capabilities.  In the face of such applause by the vulnerable jury, the Defense abandons the argument of different names to pursue his case of mistaken identity by drawing attention to the differences in appearance.

The Defense begins: “Well, on the night in question, the perpetrator known as ‘Santa Claus’ was described by the victims as having a long white beard and a red suit and stocking cap with a black belt and black boots. Whereas, my client, admittedly, does have a long white beard, but he does not wear or even possess a red suit and stocking cap. He wears a monk’s habit according to his religion and station as Bishop of Myra.

Also, there is the manner of entry.  My client, Saint Nicholas simply knocks on the door like everyone else.  Whereas, the victims of these crimes testify that Santa Claus comes down the chimney!”

Furthermore, there is the problem of the perpetrator’s getaway vehicle.  The victims described ‘Santa Claus’ as using a Sleigh pulled by eight reindeer and filled with mysterious packages, presumably related to the burglaries.  Whereas, my client, Saint Nicholas, may indeed have a cart to distribute his gifts to widows, single mothers, and children, he does not have a sleigh, or ever seen, reindeer pulling one, due to the fact of having spent his entire life in Myra, Turkey.

Not only that, but Santa Claus is known to have the ability to fly through the air with his sleigh and reindeer.  Whereas, my client has no such ability to fly.  Rather, he travels on ground in a cart, which is sometimes pulled by a horse or donkey.

Furthermore, Santa Claus is known to have an address and residence in the North Pole.  Whereas, my client, Saint Nicholas, has a known address residing in Myra, Turkey, and has never even been to the North Pole.

Even more, if I may risk exhausting the jury with more proof, it is a recorded fact that this notorious ‘Santa Claus’ is married to one ‘Mrs. Santa Claus.’  Whereas, my client, Saint Nicholas, has taken a vow of celibacy for Christ and is not married, nor ever has been.

I will produce my final discrepancy.  My client is a Christian.  He prays, reads the Bible, and goes to church every Sunday.  Yet, it is reported that, Santa Claus, has never been seen or heard praying.  Santa Claus has never been seen reading the Bible, nor has Santa Claus been seen going to church.  But instead, Santa Claus, follows a pagan religion of Northern Europe believing in elves, even employing such, to help him on his nefarious journey of burglaries.

Therefore, I move this court to dismiss this case of mistaken identity against my client ‘Saint Nicholas,’ because he does not have the same name in English as Santa Claus.  He does not look like Santa Claus.  He is not married like Santa Claus.  He does not have the same vehicle as Santa Claus.  He does not have the same address as Santa Claus, and finally, he does not have the same religion as Santa Claus.  In fact, I am not sure, from all the evidence, that ‘Santa Claus’ is even a real person, but is rather, a Pagan myth related to their religion.  Whereas, my client, Saint Nicholas, is in fact a real historical Christian person.”

No current court of law would convict the historical “Saint Nicholas” of being the mythical “Santa Claus.”  So, case dismissed.  Saint Nicolas is exonerated.

The reason I am mixing “real people” with “mythical people” is to further illustrate how “scholars” often miss that distinction.  Indeed, McCoy, and even Snorri Sturlusson, agree that religions can be started by “real persons” whose deeds become reputation, which over time become legends, who eventually become mythically divine.  McCoy even attempts to conflate the historical person of “Veleda,” recorded by Tacitus, as none other than the origins of both myths of Freya and Frigga.  Another “leap” of logic only “scholars” can get away with, because, Hey! They are sooo smart.  Some have even been educated at Oxford.  Impressive!  Yet, I ask, the reader, does that make them right?

Can Frigga be convicted of being Freya?

So, if I may, let us use the same process to try and convict Frigga of being the notorious Freya, using the “evidence” provided to us.  We have no physical “person” to point to as evidence.  They are both “historical” or “mythological.”  So, we must prosecute the case retroactively in abstention.  The only evidence we have are the Eddas and Sagas of the North, which record the identities of Frigga and Freya in the past.  What do the records say?

Do Frigga and Freya have the same name?  No.  But! through linguistic gymnastics they can be related etymologically and explained in theory as having the same name, as McCoy and many other scholars present in theory.

Therefore, like Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas, we must pursue the record to see if, in fact, these two females are one and the same, while merely just having a different name or moniker.

  1. Does Frigga, according to the record, have the same father as Freya?
  2. Frigga: The records say, Frigga’s father is “Fjorgvin” of the “Aesir” race.[8]
  3. Freya: On the other hand, the records say, Freya’s father is “Njord” of the “Vanir” race.[9]

Thus, Frigga is of the race of the Aesir divinities, not of the Vanir.  So, according to the records, they do not have the same parentage, nor even the same race.

  1. Does Frigga have the same address as Freya?

The record says, both currently reside in the same district called Asgard.  Agreed. However:

  1. Frigga: The records say, Frigga lives in a hall called “Fensalir.”[10]
  2. Freya: On the other hand, the records say, Freya’s homestead is a hall called, “Folkvangar” where, “Freya chooses who seats shall have in her hall.”[11]

So, according to the record, they do not have the same address.

  1. Do Frigga and Freya have the same children?
    1. Frigga: The record says, Frigga has two sons named “Balder” and “Hoth.”[12] The records do not say she has any daughters.
    2. Freya: On the other hand, Freya has two daughters named “Hnoss” [=treasure][13] and “Gerseme” [=gem/precious thing].[14] The records do not say Freya has any sons.

So, according to the records, they do not have the same children.  One has sons.  The other has daughters.

  1. Do Frigga and Freya have the same authority over the dead?
    1. Frigga: If Frigga has any authority over any of the dead, Frigga as, “Frau Gode” (Wife of God), or “Frau Holda” (Wife of Kindness), collects the souls of lost children in the Wild Hunt.[15]
    2. Freya: Freya, however, collects half the souls of the adult fallen warriors on the battle field which she attends to select those souls.[16]

Nowhere does it record “Frigga” as having anything to do with collecting the souls of dead warriors.  Yet Freya does, according to the records along with Odin.  That is a unique distinction between Frigga and Freya.

So, how can they be the “same” goddess “if” … in the “records”:

  1. They have different names always clearly distinguished in the records identifying them individually and separately.
  2. They have different parents.
  3. They are from different races.
  4. They have different children.
  5. They have different authorities over the dead.

Again, it is not the similarities that distinguish one person from another or one god from another or one goddess from another.  It is the “differences.”  Frigga would not be convicted in our courts of law as being Freya.  Fair enough?

Conclusion

So, in the name of “compare and contrast,” there are similarities.  According to McCoy, both Frigga and Freya were promiscuous.  He draws a parallel, that “if” the two had other lovers than their husbands, then they must be the “same” goddess.  Holy Handmaidens of the gods!  If we applied that logic to all females, we would only have two kinds of goddesses and two kinds of women:  One, that does not have sex with others than her husband, and the other, that does have sex with others than her husband.  Just because both of them had sex with those other than their husbands, does not make them the “same” goddess.  On the contrary, we need to ask the question, “Did they both have sex with the same lovers?” It would be a strange “coincidence,” indeed, if they both had the exact same lovers.  So, did they?

  1. Frigga: The records say, Frigga had sex with Odin for children of Balder, and so on. However, the records say, she did have sex with “others.”  Those were Odin’s brothers “Villi” and “Ve.”[17]  Let us take it on faith, in McCoy’s research of Saxo Grammaticus, that the records say, Frigga also had sex with a “servant” (thrall) to obtain a necklace.  Including that case, her lovers, other than her husband, would be…three: Villi, Ve, and a Thrall.
  2. Freya: On the other hand, other than Odin, the records say that Freya had sex with four dwarfs to obtain a necklace.[18] Freya also had sex with a human—“Ottar.”[19]  Loki accuses Freya of having sex with her brother, Frey, and was caught by all the gods doing so.[20]  A fact in which Freya’s father “Njord” at the same party does not deny, instead, he goes on to give tacit approval of her doing so.[21]  Furthermore, Loki accuses Freya of “all Aesir and alfs in this hall thou hast lured to love with thee.”[22]  That is a great deal more lovers than the three Frigga is recorded as having.  Indeed, when Loki responds to Frigga (mentioning she is “Fjorgyn’s daughter”) in the very same story, scene, and place, as Freya at the party, Loki does not accuse Frigga of the “same” promiscuousness of Freya.  He merely accuses her of “folding into her bosom” Odin’s two brothers (Villi and Ve).  In the story, Loki certainly did not perceive “Frigga” to be the “same” person as “Freya.”

So, according to the records, Frigga and Freya did not have the “same” lovers, let alone the “same” number of lovers.  Freya had four dwarfs for four nights to obtain her necklace. Frigga only had one Thrall one night to obtain her necklace.  (It appears Frigga is a little more economical than Freya.)  It is interesting to note, that McCoy and others, try to draw parallels between Frigga and Freya having sex with others to obtain a necklace, and that makes them the same goddess.  Yet, in the same story of the Lokasenna, when Gefjon speaks up, Loki accuses Gefjon of throwing “her thighs” around a young man to obtain a necklace.[23]  Do we now conflate, “Gefjon,” as if she is the same goddess as Frigga and Freya, who are all three at the same party, just because she also had sex with a guy to obtain a necklace?  Or, is it more “likely,” that girls will have sex to obtain valuable things back then (or up there, in Asgard), just like they do now (down here, in Midgard)?

Frigga and Freya do both have Falcon feather capes.  That was the standard back then for every “Volva” (Magical woman) to have to engage in “faring forth” (traveling spiritually) as Shamans.[24]  So, that just means they were both participants in the Volva/Shaman female community of magic.

Both Frigga and Freya have necklaces.  If having a beautiful necklace, like the next girl, convicts you of “being” that other girl, then it seems like a lot of girls these days would be considered “the same” girl as the others who have beautiful necklaces.  That is, since many girls (and goddesses) are known to have beautiful necklaces.

They are both queens, as Young translates: “Freya is as distinguished as Frigg,”[25] or as Anderson translates the same passage, “Freya, who is ranked with Frigg.”[26]  “Rank” is the same as “status.”  They were both “queens,” one of the Aesir and the other of the Vanir.

Admittedly, they may have the same “husband,” as McCoy points out. “Odinn” is simply the same name as “Odr” except with the definite article ending, “inn,” which means, “the.” Thus, the name “Odinn” means, “The Odr.”  What “Odr”?  The Odr who is the husband of Freya.[27]  In fact, the Sorla Thattr records, “Freyja” was “the favorite concubine of Odin.”  “Concubine” comes from “con = with, cubare = to lie down.”[28]  In polygynous societies, it means an additional wife.[29]  So, Freya, was an additional wife to Odinn, according to the record.  In that case, Freya, would “lie down with” Odinn, who was to her, “The Odr,” her husband.  Yet, as a “concubine” it meant she was an “additional wife” to another, namely, Frigga.  It was not unusual in Sweden to have two wives.  In fact, Adam of Bremen, a German chronicler writing in the Viking Age around 1070 A.D. recorded:

“Every man has two or three or more women at the same time, according to the extent of his power; the rich and the rulers have more than they can count” (The Norsemen in the Viking Age. Eric Christiansen, pg. 42).

He said, “Every man” not “some men,” not “most men” … every man.  In that case, it would not seem unlikely for Odr or Odinn (“the Odr”) to have two wives.

My point is this…just because two women have the same husband, and wear similar clothes, and like similar jewelry, and who have (for distinct reasons) had sex with various men other than their husband, does not make them the same person or the same goddess.

In order to understand the authors of the Eddas and Sagas who keep a clear distinction between Frigga and Freya, they are not the same goddess in historical literature.  Frigga is an Aesir goddess and Freya is a Vanir goddess.  Keep that clear, and you will have the mindset of the Vikings.

Respectfully,

Gothi Andrew Webb

Author of “The Eyes of Odin,” and founder of “Odin’s Kindred” and “Kindred Kreators.”

 

 

[1] Davidson’s statements are supported by the Oxford Dictionary under “Tuesday.”  So, I am not faulting her authoritative scholarship.  I am critiquing the method “Scholars” use to come to their conclusions.

[2] Poetic Edda, Hymiskvida, St. 4, note7, Hollander states of the name Tyr: “Meaning simply ‘god,’ [OE Tiw; compare with L. divus], originally doubtless the predecessor of Othin.” pg. 84.

[3] Poetic Edda, Lokasena: in the prose introduction it says, “Tyr was there; he was one-handed.” Hollander translation, pg. 90.

[4] See: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/leithart/2014/04/greek-rape/

[5] Davidson, H. R. Ellis, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe.  pg. 58

[6] Christiansen, Eric.  The Norsemen in the Viking Age. pg. 33.

[7] Germania of Tacitus, 90 A.D. circa, Section 60 “Ziu”: https://archive.org/stream/tacitusagricolag00taciiala/tacitusagricolag00taciiala_djvu.txt

[8] Prose Edda, Gylfaginning, Young translation, page 37.

[9]  Prose Edda, Gylfaginning, Young, page 52; Poetic Edda, Thrymskvida, Hollander translation, stanza 22, which says, “who is not one of the Aesir,” Gylfaginning, Young, page 51; Poetic Edda, Vafthruthnismal, Hollander translation, stanzas 38-39 (Gylfaginning, Young, page 59).

[10] Prose Edda, Gylfaginning, Young, page 59, 81; Poetic Edda, Voluspa, Hollander, stanza 33.

[11] Prose Edda, Gylfaginning, Young, page 53; Poetic Edda, Grimnismal, Hollander, stanza 14.

[12] Poetic Edda, Baldrs draumar, Hollander, stanzas 7-9.

[13] Prose Edda, Gylfaginning, Young, page 59.

[14] Yinglinga Saga, #13, http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/heim/02ynglga.htm.

[15] Our Troth, Vol.1, pg. 330; Magic of the Norse Goddesses, Alice Karlsdottir, pgs. 46-47

[16] Poetic Edda, Grimnismal, stanza 14.

[17] Poetic Edda, Lokasenna, Hollander, stanza 26; Yinglinga saga, #3, http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/heim/02ynglga.htm.

[18] See the Sorla Thattr.

[19] Poetic Edda, Hyndluljod, stanzas 6-7.

[20] Poetic Edda, Lokasenna, Hollander, stanzas 32.

[21] Poetic Edda, Lokasenna, Hollander, stanzas 32-33.

[22] Poetic Edda, Lokasenna, Hollander, stanza 30.

[23] Poetic Edda, Lokasenna, Hollander, stanza 20.

[24] Gods and Myths of Northern Europe. H.R. Ellis Davidson, pg. 118.

[25] Prose Edda, Gylfaginning, Young, page 59.

[26] The Younger Edda, Rasmus B. Anderson, [1897] Chapter 10, Sec. 36.

[27] The Viking Spirit, pgs. 28-29.

[28] See Webster’s New World Dictionary.

[29] “Polygyny” means multiple wives. From the Greek “polú” meaning “many,” and “gunê” meaning “wife or woman.”  See (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/polygyny).   It refers to a man with multiple wives in his marriage.  “Polygamous” means multiple marriage. From the Greek “polú,” meaning “many,” and “gámos,” meaning “marriage.” (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/polygamy), which can mean multiple husbands or wives in being “married” multiple times, like 50% of Americans.  For those familiar with the Bible, Abraham had a primary wife, Sarah, but took on an additional woman (at Sarah’s request) to be his wife, [See Genesis 16:3].

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