by Boots Hart, CAP

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Agatha Christie: The Case of Mistress Mystery's Chart

Agatha Christie

Born Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller, Agatha Christie came to our world on September 15, 1890 in Torquay, England...which makes today the 120th anniversary of her birth.

In esoteric astrology, 120 is referred to as the 'years of the Sun' - or theoretically, how long a natural life we are capable of achieving. So it this a year when it would be natural for the world to note Agatha's life and lifetime achievements, maybe in some new and mysterious way?

Perhaps so.

Speaking of mysteries, the first sort of 'mystery' we need to solve in regards to Agatha's life would be the sorting out of her family, which is a bit of a puzzle from the get-go. Agatha's mother - Clarissa Margaret Boehmer - was the daughter of a British military officer. But Clarissa didn't grow up with daddy and mommy. Instead, she was sent to be raised by her mother's sister, the second wife of a wealthy American stockbroker.

In fact, Clarissa grew up to marry the American stockbroker's son from his first marriage, which meant Agatha and elder siblings Margaret and Louis Montant grew up with grandmothers who were sisters.

That being a peculiar sort of people-puzzle, do we think it gave Agatha a head start on how entwined and entangled human relationships can actually be?

Enter her chart...

 Agatha Christie - natal chart

Aquarius on the 6th house ruled first by a Virgo Saturn in the 1st gives a foundational skepticism. It also connects responsibility (Saturn/6th) with pragmatism (Virgo/1st house). All this will very naturally play out in Agatha's (Saturn) career, yes. But considering the 1st is also the physical body, the 6th is also health and Virgo is ruled by Mercury, this also immediately prompts us to consider Agatha's Libra Mercury.

That Libra part...Libra is the sign of the 'other' or more precisely, the relationship to the other and thus who others are to us.  Yes, we can see that also being part of Agatha's many wonderful stories. But what about the health/physical body part?

Before we get to that, it's worth looking to the house Libra actually rules - the house of choice, daily activities and personal mentality, the 3rd. Here we see Uranus. Also in Libra, this Uranus pictures Agatha as having an unusual perspective - particularly on the Libra "other." Then again, it could suggest not 'seeing' the other completely or properly because of one's Uranian haste, the 'jumping to conclusions' quality, one might say. 

Murder mysteries, anyone? Given the 'critical thinking' Uranus in 3 can also connote, maybe yes. Given the Uranian reputation for 'breakthroughs' and 'explosive change' we would have to think of Agatha as someone capable of startling insight and that sort of quirkiness of thought which would lend itself most aptly to the 'twist of plot' which marks a murder mystery.

But more personally, this would also mark Agatha as a 'free thinker.' And someone willing to 'explode' (expose?) common myths about 'others,' even those Libra relationships (the bonds with trusted people) which were not merely factors obvious in her novels, but in her life.

Ah a writer's work reflects their life. It's so natural! After all, what else do they have to write about, or from as a basis of experience?

Yet Saturn in the 1st is also discomfort, particularly in early life. And Uranus in the 3rd is also mental interruption, if not disruption. And since these placements would describe her experience of childhood not just the peculiar family setup, we have to guess that  Agatha's was not just peaches and cream. Which yes, would also set her up for an adulthood not rife with peace along with the ability to face the worst in others - and herself. Need we say that Saturn in the 1st is notorious for self-criticism along with a need for self development through extended hard work?

On the other hand, Saturn in the 1st plus Saturn being in Virgo does describe Agatha as a 'craftsman.' And with Virgo ruled by Mercury, for her to be a crafter of words and ideas seems fitting and likely. That her Sun is in a 3rd decanate (worldly) degree also tells us that whatever Agatha would 'do' in life, it ultimately would only be proved out - positive or negative - in a public arena.

All this doesn't sound so remarkable today. But remember, Agatha was born in 1890 when the average woman's 'public' effect...even exposure was far, far more limited than in today's world!

So does this make Agatha the total star? Well, let's just say she wasn't destined to get married and stay home making summer jams and minding children.

As for what she began doing in life, the first clue on that  Virgo 1st house Saturn is revealed when during WWI Agatha worked (Saturn) as a hospital nurse (Virgo/1st house physical body). And evidently she was impressed, as Agatha came away from this period lastingly referring to nursing as 'one of the most rewarding professions one can follow.'

During this time, transformative Pluto was in early Cancer. This would have it rolling into Agatha's societal 11th house and challenging and exciting her highly potent Libra Moon. The Moon always being the ruler of Cancer and always stronger merely by being in the 2nd house of personal resources and values, this is a particularly interesting Moon as its positioned at 1 Libra. An early degree of the sign of interactions...this Moon symbolizes a strong consideration of basic values - and what's more basic than life? 

More than that, Agatha's 1 Libra Moon is also strongly influenced by Scylla-Sisyphus-Vesta, all at 29 Virgo: an important notice all about 'determined service in beating the devil within.' Hello? Anyone for detectives who don't give up on finding the killer? The 'important' (to Agatha) note here being denoted by the critical 29 degree signature (29 being a position of special emphasis in any sign) to have this triad conjunct the Moon with the Moon at 1 Libra conjunct a giant 'alternative reality generator' black hole? That clues us in on a 'the devil within' and  'alternative' formats, motives and lives.

And remember - this can't just be Agatha's characters. It also has to be her life.

During this time, Neptune was also moving into Agatha's Leo 12th house, a house where Neptune tends to show its positive merciful/creative/spiritual characteristics more often. That certainly fits the nursing. 

The 12th also being the house of inspiration, and what with Leo being ruled by the Sun (and thus those 'worldly results'), it also should be no surprise that as WW1 ended and Neptune passed by Agatha's service-oriented  Hebe, the nursing dissolved (Neptune dissolves) and that instinct, that urge was transmuted. Into what, you ask? For that answer we look to where Neptune is natally, finding it intercepted in the 10th house of career, conjunct Pluto and opposition Ceres and Juno, with all in Mercury ruled Gemini, the sign (as opposed to the house) of thought, ideas and - yes - writing.

And it's the interception which lends the very interesting note here. Some experience interceptions as an inability to 'get to' the dynamic described by the sign. But for many, it's a flourishing talent - a whole 'inner world' which then gets expressed through the sign on the cusp of that house - which in this case would be the Midheaven (achievement) in late Taurus (use of talents, values and resources) with fixed stars Capulus and Algol (masculine/feminine questions of power-versus-selfish aggression). 

This all suggests why Agatha wrote - and what she wrote about, obviously. But with Taurus ruled by Venus and Agatha's Venus being positioned in that mental 3rd house conjunct Medusa (fearful knowledge) and in Scorpio...? Well! Venus in Scorpio is sticky. It's determined. It attracts power struggles and in the realm of the mental would describe powerful struggles within our minds. Did Agatha write to ease her own angst and give voice to her own issues and feelings? Probably. Did she seek to explore and reveal human nature not just in worldly form, but to the world? That's a very safe bet.

Knowing all this about her, we ask we know more about human nature because of (say) stories like Death on the Nile?

 Death on the Nile movie poster

Or in merely being entertained, are we doing exactly what Agatha's characters were doing - ignoring life's darker (Scorpio Venus in the mental 3rd) sides, setting ourselves up?

Casting our eyes towards Agatha's Descendant - that we offer to others and thus come to be known for (and attract others because of) - we see that marked by Hera and royal star Fomalhaut in early Pisces. Ordinarily we would think of this as 'dreams of a happy marriage' but with an Aquarian Jupiter and that Gemini Neptune we talked about as twin rulers of Pisces...might Agatha not actually dreamed of being free of what was then the traditional female role? Perhaps. And yet she might have also dreaded not adhering to society's morays some too.

Quandaries, quandaries!

And with an Ascendant (the 'what I do' in life is) marked by Thuban? Considering Thuban is 'difficult struggles for success,' no matter which way she would go there would be a lot of trials before success. Pictured here conjunct Eurydike (self sacrificing death) and royal star Regulus (success where vengeance is avoided) with that Virgo Saturn in the 1st...? We have to guess Agatha found life very testing.

And if we so guessed, we evidently would have deduced correctly. Perhaps in the vein of the eternal psychological rule that what we fear most we will surely manifest, Agatha had what is perhaps euphemistically  referred to as a 'turbulent courtship' on her way to marrying Archibald Christie on Christmas Eve of 1914.

Courtship/dating being a 5th house function, we look to her natal 5th and there find 1 Capricorn on the cusp: oh shades of Saturn! And not only that, but Icarus - the signature of headstrong risk - colors the whole of that house. So in a manner very much like her characters Agatha discarded romance as hearts and flowers and took the plunge. Which fits, as Saturn in the 1st is notorious for feeling 'not deserving,' instead relying on pragmatism. And with Agatha's Saturn conjunct Polyhymnia, muse of happiness, this is doubly likely.

So she may have gone the Saturn route, deciding  Archibald was 'okay enough.' Or that she was willing to roll the marital dice. And who are we to critique? If Agatha thought to herself 'it'll all work out' she certainly wouldn't be the first person to marry thinking things would improve once the rings were glued on, right?

 The "Murder is Easy" first edition book cover (1939)

The moment of the marriage was marked by all sorts of Jupiter, Chiron and Black Moon (calculated Lilith) signals...Agatha was 24 at the time, and we should remember that in those days, 24 was pretty much already 'spinster' territory. So we have the Jupiter 'fitting in' thing at work. Plus Chiron 'I don't know how to do this' as a challenge and wet blanket...all with a delicate frosting of social acceptance (or maybe threats of societal denial?) being put on the table by Black Moon Lilith. Whatever the situation, It couldn't have been all that comfortable, especially when we consider there also were touches of Ixion (ingratitude) and Medea (undermining love) in the mix.

And yet it all would have been so hard to be sure about, with so much of this coming from the 'is it real, or is it all a fantasy in my head?' what with Agatha's calculated Lilith being a natal resident of her Leo 12th.

That Leo 12th? Very good for writing. Not so good for reality and everyday life. Certainly not in this case! That  Agatha married with Pluto transiting natal Saturn gives us yet another sign of (Saturnine) societal obligation, but it says that all was being done under (Pluto) emotional pressure. And that Neptune was conjunct her natal Moon at the time? That suggests a lack of clarity with regards to the situation. Maybe even a sense of resignation or being overwhelmed.

From this marriage came a daughter. But just about one Jupiter (11.6 years) cycle later, everything collapsed. It was 1926 and Agatha found out hubby Archibald was having one of those 'I've found my true love' relationships with a mistress.

 Agatha Christie - Solar Return 1926

And her 1926 solar return (birthday) chart? It's highly notable in rather just this regard, showing us not one, but two interceptions. 

Such funny creatures, interceptions. And sometimes funny as a broken crutch. At once they can be the useful fantasy...the imagining how to do something in a new and wonderful way. And yet at the same time they can also be a refusal to deal with something. Or not seeing. Or not wanting to see something which has 'intercepted' your life and stopped you cold.

Here the first interception is across Agatha's solar 11th (natively Aquarian, social) and 5th (natively Leo, making-something-of-self) houses. Oh, shades of her natal Aquarian Jupiter! And Leo on her 12th, home of that calculated Lilith-Ixion-Medea! All that stuff which marked Agatha's marriage...and which to us, looking at her horoscope, would mark her vulnerabilities and secret fears!

We can't be shocked - certainly not when we get to the  second interception being across Agatha's 6th/12th house axis, the houses having to do with health, healthy responsibility and trusting, faithful connections.

With the signs intercepted being Scorpio/Taurus (Agatha's native vertical MC/IC axis) we do know this was about her sense of self and place in the world. It must have been devastating. Invalidated. Here she had already embarked on becoming a writer, and now she had been, well, written off by the one person she was supposed to be able to trust (12th house) to be responsible (6th house) with regards to respecting her essential value as a person (Taurus/Scorpio).

As if we would have any doubts about how terrible this must have been for her, the chart makes it clear:  between the two interceptions, 6 of the 10 'standard' astrological planet symbols are captured in these interceptions.

More clues as to her feelings: the solar return Moon being at Saturn-ruled 0 Capricorn is conjunct that hasty, risk-taking Icarus of the natal chart. Agatha must have felt she had taken on a bad risk. And that the return is built on a foundational IC point of 1 Leo - the exact degree of natal Chiron? It must have been terrible. Chiron is the 'I have to do what I don't have to do' and to have one's whole world imaged as being perched atop that precept?

Things must have felt precarious indeed, especially since Agatha's mother had just died too. Even if she hadn't grown up with her mother, that it was all so much, all too much is given us by transiting Eris (discord) opposing Agatha's natal Moon as all this happened just shy of the holidays.

Then along came a highly charged lunar eclipse atop the solar return's 2nd house cusp...its point of self esteem. With this in exact confrontational opposition to Agatha's under-supported, natally craving intercepted Sagittarian  Mars...?

Under this onslaught her basic need to believe (Mars) and her feelings about herself (Moon) all got wiped out. Had she been Lewis Carroll, we might have said she fell down the rabbit hole. Or wanted to crawl through the looking-glass. But since it's Agatha, we would just have to say she was a most unwitting victim.

And yes...from their experiences do most writers write.

So it was December 8th. This being England, we must guess it was as cold outside as it was chilling inside as Archibald and Agatha argue.

He leaves to go be with his mistress...and Agatha disappears, leaving just a note for her secretary to the effect that she's gone off to Yorkshire.

But where? Nobody knows where she is. The mystery grows. Having already been published, Agatha already has a name and her fans begin to buzz.

Days pass. A manhunt is mounted and finds nothing. The media picks up the scent and the story swirls. 

Eleven days later Agatha is finally found. Or rather, she's identified as a guest at a hotel then known as the Swan Hydropathic and now known as the Old Swan Hotel.

The Old Swan Hotel of Harrogate, 
Yorkshire, England

At said hotel, Agatha is registered as 'Mrs. Teresa Neele' of Cape Town and apparently denies all attempts to address her differently.

Doctors get called in. The vote was that Agatha is  suffering from what was then known as a 'psychogenic fugue' - a dissociate state we'd now think of as 'temporary amnesia.'

Yet some had doubts. Was this just a publicity stunt? Was Agatha trying to 'disappear' for long enough that police would think her husband had killed her?

Less than thrill-seeker commentaries on her life over the years suggest Agatha was prone to depression. And certainly her mother's death combined with her husband's infidelity would have exacerbated such a trait maximally even in one marginally prone to such things! With Saturn in the 1st we often see a sober personality - and yes, even depression even without Saturn being posited in the Mercury-ruled mental/health sign of Virgo. 

That brings us back to her Mercury...sign of mentality, perception, writing...

...Remembering that Mercury rules two signs of the zodiac (Gemini and Virgo) this 1926 return chart puts a huge emphasis on Mercury in a very convoluted way. In the return, Gemini is on the cusp of both the "I Am" physical Self 1st house and the 2nd house of self worth. In doing so, this "opens up" the natal Gemini interception - an interception which comes fully loaded and primed with Plutonic emotional transformation tightly fused with the Neptunian cavalcade of ideals versus illusions and faith versus disillusion or dissolution.

At the same time as this is in the works, Agatha's natal Ascendant and self-worth Virgoan quotients - all that has been locked away by interception in the 5th. Oh how ironic...her very sense of being intercepted in the house of pleasure. 

His pleasure, one assumes. And yet....and yet...with all those covert signals we have been given that Agatha was not the 'standard' woman of her time content to be a missus to some this really entirely about her husband's pleasure? It can't be.

On this we are left to ponder and puzzle...was this a conscious hiding of possible pleasure at how things had turned out, some unconscious desire which had come to be in spite of Agatha's conscious Self or are we simply following a line of inquiry leading nowhere?

And on the other hand, with Agatha's life being so very much one of a writer, and her native Gemini Neptune, Pluto and the North Node intercepted in the achievement oriented worldly 10th house...on one hand we have a totally regal karmic command to 'story tell,' replete with the power to do the task supremely well. And yes, we would have to think with this type of interception that there was a whole 'world' going on in Agatha's head totally apart from what anybody ever saw, heard or (yes) read of.

But something had to 'set this off.' Prior to this time Agatha was a writer. But it was only after this time that the world came to know Agatha the writer. We know about the quirky, inventive, perspective-driven Uranus in the 3rd natal house. We know that a native Mercury at 15 Libra means Agatha thought in emotional terms about others and about the emotionality of others. Coming from the 2nd house of values, resources and self worth, her Mercury would consider the motives and motivations of others. And though as a degree, 15 Libra isn't known for particular strength of resistance and resilience (hence perhaps, Agatha's breakdown?) this also speaks to her willingness to see - and write about - the weaknesses of others. Especially in relationship to others.

All this is capped off by the fact that her Libra Mercury is delineated by that natal Scorpio Venus conjunct Medusa. So often we can't see the real darkness around us until we have had it foisted upon ourselves.

This astrologers vote is for the dissociative fugue as a karmic mechanism in which we see Agatha literally turning her mentality inside out. Born at night, Agatha's chart is by Greek Sect rules Moon-ruled, which turns up the "volume" for not only the Moon, but Venus and  Mars, too. And this makes Agatha's mentally oriented 3rd, this Venus-Medusa undoubtedly part of the frightening brilliance of Agatha writing about what people are actually capable of.

If Medusa (fearful/fearing reality) wasn't in this figure we might think the Scorpio Venus was indeed all  manipulation and voted for a giant PR stunt. But people don't manipulate when they can't cope, and manipulation is a function of great collected focus. With her mother's death, her husband's betrayal Agatha's life was total emotional discord (Eris opposition Moon) with evidently no one for her to really turn to (the lunar eclipse opposing natal Mars).

The divorce became final in 1928, and by 1929 Agatha is traveling abroad to the Middle East in the company of archaeologist Max Mallowan, who she marries in 1930...

 Agatha Christie - solar return 1929/1930

In the 1929/1930 solar return we find Saturn - one of Agatha's great symbols of personal challenge - barely behind the Ascendant in expansive Sagittarius. Again an 'opening' of a natal interception, this time the sign being liberated was one natively in Agatha's 4th house of home and homeland - a perfect image of her travel abroad. And of her feeling 'free' in a whole new way.

With the square from Saturn to the Sun in the 8th, we can bet there was some to-do about how long it hadn't yet been since the split from Archibald. Agatha may even not have been quite 'over it.' Or even over him! But with an airy Aquarian Moon in the 2nd opposition a joie-de-vivre Leo Venus in the emotionally transformative 8th sitting atop her native societal Black Moon Lilith (plus universal Sappho), this is also Agatha turning her back on what others may think. It's her turn now.

And as such things work in the Land of Karma, as Agatha turned her back on accusations, in turn so did public opinion begin to turn from suspicion towards adulation for her (Leo) creative (Venusian) talents.

You know this one: you can't love me until I love me. You won't enjoy me until I enjoy being me.

So it happened. Agatha began to expand and enjoy her life, using her raft of new experiences in the Middle East as the backdrop for a whole set of novels - to include the very popular Death on the Nile and the vastly famous Murder on the Orient Express...which was published in 1934 and written (as it happens), in an Istanbul hotel near the terminus of the rail segment referred to in the book. 

Room 411 in the Hotel Pera Palace (Istanbul, Turkey) where
Agatha Christie wrote "Murder on the Orient Express" 

But then came WWII. Returning to London, Agatha reverted to early training and put her beliefs to work, taking up pharmacy work at the University College Hospital in London. And it was in that position that she learned so much about the poisons which were to play such lusciously nefarious roles in post-war novels...

 The historical buildings which are part of 
University College Hospital London

Never let it be said that life's detours don't have good uses, right? When we apply our native attributes purposefully for the good, eventually what we find we own are tools honed for purposes we might have otherwise envisioned.

The transits of this period were interestingly telling, too. Pluto was conjuncting her Chiron - turning the Chirotic 'unknown' into grist for Agatha's Gemini (thought/text) Pluto-Neptune 10th house writing powerhouse.

And this brings up a point: because so many of Agatha's natal position numbers are so close...(Chiron at 1 Leo, Ascendant at 1 Virgo, societal Jupiter at 2 Aquarius, nurturing Ceres at 2 Sagittarius, solution-oriented Juno at 4 Sagittarius)...we have to know that as Pluto conjuncts Agatha's Chiron, it's also affecting (or beginning to affect) the rest of this list. 

So as Pluto entered Leo (leaving an era of family for the realm of entertainment) Agatha began feeling differently about life. In conjuncting Chiron (the need to do what you don't know how to do) we have the signal that Agatha began feeling secure in her craft. And that she did so with Pluto simultaneously semi-sextiling her Ascendant? Well, that suggests an interesting combination of factors. With semi-sextile always being self-reflective 'traumas' (large or small depending on the transiting planet creating the aspect) Pluto semi-sextile Ascendant was indeed an inconvenient interruption of what Agatha was doing. And with rationing and bombing and all the rest, WWII London was hardly an easy or safe place to be. She was helping people who had been through physical trauma...and committing to memory much about poisons which could inflict such trauma.

You know...should someone want to, say...murder someone.

But that's not all. As during this WWII period Pluto was moving into Leo signaling such a shift in Agatha's outlook Uranus was also moving into Gemini, creating a whole dynamic of 'break throughs' in Agatha's Pluto-Neptune-North Node complex amidst the explosively Uranian blasts of Nazi bombing raids on London.

And as WWII ended, transiting Neptune opposed what we would have to assume was Agatha's resistance to her own sense of power: natal Sedna in the 8th house. She was done being her young self, her immature self, her less than potent self.The ticking of her life came to the moment of maturity and with the first resonant chime Agatha let go. And in letting go, she was able to grasp her most creative power. 

WWII was over, Agatha returned to writing full-time and her life clock struck the ringing chimes of fame. Agatha became outrageously famous: according to the Guinness Book of World Records, only Shakespeare is with Agatha Christie as the best selling (single) author of all time. In terms of books, only the Bible has outsold either one of them

And that's no idle claim. Translated into over one hundred languages, Agatha Christie novels have sold over four billion copies.

That's billion with a 'B.'

Honored countless times, Agatha Christie was awarded  royal recognition in 1956 when a solar eclipse hit her  Gemini writer's North Node, and again in 1971 when another solar eclipse opposed her sometimes limiting, eternally striving Virgo Saturn from the 7th house, the house of the audience.

And that's singularly fitting. With the 7th house always colored by its natural sign (Libra) we see the whole of Agatha's chart forming a rewarding, satisfying cycle. She gave to the audience and the audience - royal and otherwise - gave back. Agatha's Mercury was in the 2nd house of her personal self worth and she used that to write to the audience. That Mercury was ruled by a Scorpio Venus/Medusa, so she wrote murder mysteries. And in doing so, she certainly achieved financial security - the pop-astrology delineation for the 2nd house - but far more than that must have had some sense that she had weathered her own challenges.

We may be rich, we may be poor - but when we're satisfied with who we are, that's good enough. It is not money, but satisfaction which is the ultimate wage in this life.

Agatha Christie died on January 12, 1976 as three astrological notices happening together revealed the end of her tale as told in present tense...

 Agatha Christie's headstone in the churchyard of 
St. Mary's Church in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, England

...The first was Mercury Communicator going retrograde while in trine to Neptune and Pluto, a symbol of Agatha's murderously inspired writer's voice turning inward - and to the beyond. Only her words remain with us, living on in that fickle combination of imagination and imagined  deception (Mercury/Neptune) everlastingly entwined with intrigue and a wholly intriguing insight into human behavior: a mind at work (hers) working to understand minds at work.

And thus her mind lives on through words which stir our minds and get us to wondering what really is real and what is illusion. What we can trust and what is merely our confused delusion that we really know anyone...

...including our nearest and allegedly, dearest.

The second signal was Juno going retrograde conjunct her Sun, the will and life force, with all in opposition to that same Eris Discord which had timed her break from reality leading to her subsequent vast success. That this would happen in a square to the always social and societal Nodes marks her parting from us...and how the world, a world of discord would feel the loss of going on without her.

The third notice was Pluto also going retrograde, doing so in trine to its own natal position and that of Neptune, all while tightly conjunct Agatha's Mercury - a virtual reciprocation of the Mercury trine to Neptune Pluto - signaling an implosion and sealing of a life force, a stilling of pen, an unraveling of one vital mental tongue. 

Agatha's mind put itself to rest. She had transformed herself - and all of us - through probing explorations which in the end became as much about examining who humans are capable of being as using characters to cavort her tales across the pages of her many, many books.

That's what great writers do. They embody the conceptual Plutonic ability to unearth and distill human nature. They transport us into a world of entertainment where Neptunian fantasies free us, enchant us, move us and in dissolving away, allow us to feel better about living our daily lives. The Mercurial words make us do the Mercurial thing: we think. We process. And thus we become more alive in our everyday lives.

How that happens...exactly? That's the greatest mystery of all. And alas, Agatha is no longer with us to explain it...but we wish her happy birthday anyway.  

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