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Explore Books
is an imprint of
Heart of Albion Press

 

Heart of Albion launched Explore Books back in September 2002. The aim of the series is to provide accessible overviews of the latest academic thinking relating to folklore and mythology. These books look specifically at how folklore and mythology form a major, if usually unrecognised, part of modern day popular culture. Whereas the majority of books on folklore and mythology published for the general public mostly reiterate ideas and approaches that were dropped by academics in the 1970s, the Explore Books series reveals that more sophisticated and exciting ideas now prevail.

Reviews and reader feedback for the Explore Books titles has been very encouraging. A recent example starts:

I just wanted to let you know that Explore Folklore is brilliant. It is excellent to have a proper theoretical exploration of folklore. It is also very readable (even unputdownable!) and deserves to be the standard work in the field. Congratulations on producing something so brilliant and well-researched.
Yvonne Aburrow, author

William Doty, Emeritus Professor at University of Alabama and author of Mythography: The Study of Myths and Rituals, wrote:

I finally got to Explore Mythology last evening, and was extremely impressed with the depth of your research and your clarity of writing.


Jeremy Harte's Explore Fairy Traditions wins national book prize!   More details...


Current Explore Books titles:


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EXPLORE VAMPIRES

Bob Curran

Vampires, it would seem, have always been with us. The notion of the returning dead, intent on drinking the blood of the living has been an extremely potent image at least as far back as Classical Greece and Rome, while various blood-drinking 'revenants' and 'undead' feature in the medieval lore of several European countries.

Dr Bob Curran's new book, Explore Vampires, shows how the pedigree of vampires is far older than recent literary and cinematic trends would suggest. By combining history and folklore he sheds light on a subject so often shrouded in gloom and murkiness. Far from 'debunking' all this as so much legend, his investigation of blood-sucking ghouls adds to their powerful fascination.

While the reputation of a certain Transylvanian Count is little more than the fantasy of an Irish author whose original intent was an anti-English political metaphor, the reality of vampires is far more enthralling and extends in time and place well beyond nineteenth century Europe. The fascination with vampires has been linked to some real twentieth century deaths, as the evidence of several twentieth murders confirms.

Explore Vampires will appeal to all who want to get behind the superficial 'shock horror' of popular contemporary culture and instead want to understand how vampires are a timeless manifestation of a deep human fear truly a myth that itself is very much 'undead'.

Bob Curran is an educational psychologist at University of Ulster at Coleraine. His interests are broad-ranging but are focused especially on history and story. He has written several books, including The Field Guide to Irish Fairies, The Wolfhound Guide to the Shamrock, Creatures of Celtic Myth, The Truth about the Leprechaun, Encyclopedia of the Undead and Vampires.

'At last, a book about vampires which panders neither to the Gothic tendency... nor to those who would believe that all myth is morbid social psychology manifested in folklore. [...] Highly recommended.' Jerry Bird Merry Meet

'An impressive volume that is the perfect startig place foir anyone with an interest in the subject and for students of myth and folklore who want to get beyond the pervasive Hollywood/ Transylvania mythos... Highly recommended.' D.J. Tyrer Monomyth Supplement

'Highly recommended.' Michael Howard The Cauldron

'Bob Currran portrays many of the principal characters in the vampire world with insight and clarity. His scope is wide, and his approach both scholarly and accessible. He deasl with all possible categories of vampire... ' Martin Murrell Facts and Fiction

Published by Explore Books, an imprint of Heart of Albion Press.
ISBN 978-1-905646-03-6. October 2007
Demy 8vo (215 x 138 mm), 164 + viii pages, 11 b&w photos, 11 line drawings, paperback.

£12.95


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EXPLORE ALCHEMY

Cherry Gilchrist

Is alchemy the quest for transforming base metals into gold? Or is it a metaphor for spiritual transformation, or else the pursuit of the elixir of eternal life? Or is it, as some people think, merely an early attempt at chemistry?

Alchemy can be as elusive as mercury, one of the chief materials that it uses. Like quicksilver, it has a shape-shifting nature, and cannot easily be pinned down to one fixed interpretation. Whatever form it takes, however, the alchemical process is one in which transformation plays a key role, and in the best traditions, this involves the soul of the alchemist as well as the material in the alchemical vessel.

In Explore Alchemy Cherry Gilchrist shows how alchemy has been at the heart of human wisdom from Taoist sages, through medieval Arabic magi, to heretical monks, twentieth century psychologists and modern day practitioners of the tradition. She reveals how alchemy has manifested in various ways, such as the distillation of alcohol, the invention of baroque music and the musical language of Monteverdi, the works of William Shakespeare, and the scientific insights of Sir Isaac Newton and his contemporary Robert Boyle. She provides a concise yet comprehensive guide to the complex wisdom of the alchemists.

Cherry Gilchrist read English and Anthropology at Cambridge, and holds a post-graduate diploma in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology from the University of Bath Spa. She has a wide range of interests within the areas of the hermetic tradition, ancient cultures and mythology, and she is also a specialist in Russian traditional art and culture. Cherry is the author of over twenty books for adults and children, and she lectures for the arts organisation NADFAS, and for conferences, cruises and museums. She lives in the city of Bath, is a keen traveller, and has a love of singing and baroque music.

From reviews of Explore Alchemy
 
'Highly recommended!' D.J. Tyrer Monomyth Supplement

 
'... an excellent introduction to the subject.' Gerry Bird Merry Meet

 
'... the history of alchemy here is sound, reliable and clear – actually the best introduction to the subject that I know of and the only one currently in print.' Jay Ramsay Caduceus

 
'So, the one question every review reader wants to know is – should I spend my hard earned cash on this book – to which the resounding answer is yes!' White Dragon

From reviews of Cherry Gilchrist's previous books, Elements of Alchemy and Alchemy: The Great Work
 
This work, one of the best that I have read from the Aquarian Press, is sufficiently clear to serve as the introduction to Alchemy it is claimed to be, yet sufficiently detailed to offer fascinating glimpses into the obscure depths of that murky subject. Gilchrist is a highly organised, concise and polished writer, and she arranges her material well. The book presents the colourful history of alchemy and its alchemists and-most usefully-an account of alchemical symbolism in theory. There are discussions on the use of dreams and emblems, the relation between spiritual and physical work, the role of alchemy in this century, and an excellent bibliography. One of the most attractive features of the book lies in Gilchrist's frequent quotation from alchemist, alchemical manuscripts (she uses secondary sources, but the book is not intended as original historical research). The quotations illustrate and lend credence to the clear generalised descriptions of alchemical practice. I know of no other work on the subject is so accessible and yet so comprehensive.
Professor Tanya Luhrman Light
 
This is a history and evaluation of the Western Hermetic Tradition and a concise history of the philosophy and practice of alchemy from its beginnings to the 20th century. So nice to have all this in one volume if one is not fully acquainted with the subject. Alchemy is the art of transformation, and this is what our age is all about.
The New Humanity
 
I read this book was great interest, as not only do I have some personal involvement with alchemy as a spiritual/our cult, but also I learned a good deal of what I know about astrology from Mrs Gilchrist's personal tuition. She has the gift of the teacher, that of clear and informative communication, which gives pleasure along with the process of learning. Much of the historical material will be familiar to those already acquainted with alchemical literature. But there is a valuable chapter on 20th-century alchemy and a good grasp of the wider cultural manifestations that flowed from clever men's devotion to the great work. It is an excellent introduction to the subject and is well served by the bibliography and index, included in all the books of the series that I have seen. Alchemy needs an advocate in this sceptical age and Mrs Gilchrist has marshalled the evidence for the defence in a way that is both absorbing, and also pregnant with the most intriguing possibilities.
Lightning Flash

Published by Explore Books, an imprint of Heart of Albion Press.
ISBN 978-1-905646-02-9. 2007
Demy 8vo (215 x 138 mm), 170 + x pages, 29 b&w photos, 31 line drawings, paperback.

£12.95


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EXPLORE DRAGONS

Richard Freeman

The dragon is the most ancient and widespread of all monsters. Dragon legends are told in every culture and in every continent on Earth. Its breath condenses and forms rain in China. It slithers across the heavens in Mexico as Quetzalcoatl. In Scandinavian lore its coils encircled the whole earth. No other monster is so universal in its occurrence or so varied.

But the Britain Isles are the homeland of the dragon. Although a small country, it is seething with dragon legends. Explore Dragons puts British dragon stories into their international context and attempts to fathom out what really lurks behind these fanciful tales. Could dragons once have been real creatures? Are such creatures still alive?

Richard Freeman is a former zookeeper and has a degree in zoology. He is the zoological director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology in Exeter. A full-time cryptozoologist, he has searched for monsters and mystery animals in Indo-China, Sumatra, and Mongolia as well as in the UK.

'If you are in any way, shape or form interested in tales of dragons... then this is a book definitely worth investing in.' Nick Redfern See Nick Redfern's online review:

'... as an introduction Explore Dragons, like the others in the 'Explore' series, fulfills its purpose admirably.' Bob Rickard Fortean Times

'... even as a knowledgeable and committed dragonologist, I learned a lot.' Paul Screeton Folklore Frontiers

'... a wonderful book.' D.J. Tyrer The Supplement

'... this book convinces me that [dragon legends] might well have an origin in actual experience... ' John Rimmer Magonia

'An enjoyable and well-written book that will find favour among folklorists and fantasists alike. Highly recommended' Merry Meet

Published by Explore Books, an imprint of Heart of Albion Press.
ISBN 978-1-872883-939. 2006
Demy 8vo (215 x 138 mm), 187 + viii pages, 7 b&w photographs, 13 line drawings, paperback.

£12.95


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EXPLORE HINDUISM

Bansi Pandit

Hinduism is the oldest living religious tradition in the world. Explore Hinduism is a concise but well-rounded introduction to the variety of beliefs and practices, and describes how Hindus think, act and practice their faith in the modern world. Most importantly, it illuminates the 'soul' of Hinduism, its spirituality.

Bansi Pandit has an excellent grasp of the depth and breadth of Hinduism and his style is readable, making Explore Hinduism simple and undaunting for those approaching this religion for the first time.

This book is recommended for Key Stage 2 and 3 Religious Education and as background reading for all teachers who need to be aware of Hindu beliefs and religious practices.

'Explore Hinduism is an excellent manual about Hinduism for all.'
Balgrim Ragoonanan www.svoong.com

'Explore Hinduism by Bansi Pandit is one of the best introductory books on Hinduism available. It manages to be comprehensive yet simple and clear. It is suitable both for the person who knows nothing about Hinduism and for the student who wants to find all of the necessary information in one book. Each section is brief yet complete, and it is an excellent reference work for quickly finding the essential information on all the main aspects of Hinduism. If you were able to have only one book on Hinduism, this book would fill the bill.
 
'Explore Hinduism is divided into two sections: one deals with the practical and cultural aspects of Hinduism; the other deals with the deep spirituality which forms the core of Hinduism. Although Hinduism is the most ancient of religions, there is nothing primitive about its teachings. Its scriptures contain the most sophisticated teachings on spiritual truth and practices ever written. Not only do the Hindu scriptures describe the revelations of the ancient sages, but they provide explanations and practices by which the student can experience that knowledge himself (or herself).
 
'It is amazing that such a small book as Explore Hinduism could contain such an extensive treatment of the subject. Mr Pandit is able to impart not only information but an understanding of each topic, so that the reader gets a real feel for what Hinduism is. This book certainly belongs on the shelf of anyone interested in Hinduism.'
Swami Vardananda www.svoong.com

Published by Explore Books, an imprint of Heart of Albion Press.
ISBN 978 1872 883 816. 2005.
demy 8vo (215 x 138 mm), 187 + viii pages, 10 b&w photos; 12 line drawings; 6 diagrams, paperback

£12.95


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EXPLORE PHANTOM BLACK DOGS

edited by Bob Trubshaw

The folklore of phantom black dogs is known throughout the British Isles. From the Black Shuck of East Anglia to the Moody Dhoo of the Isle of Man there are tales of huge spectral hounds 'darker than the night sky' with eyes 'glowing red as burning coals'.

The phantom black dog of British and Irish folklore, which often forewarns of death, is part of a world-wide belief that dogs are sensitive to spirits and the approach of death, and keep watch over the dead and dying. North European and Scandinavian myths dating back to the Iron Age depict dogs as corpse eaters and the guardians of the roads to Hell. Medieval folklore includes a variety of 'Devil dogs' and spectral hounds. Above all, the way people have thought about such ghostly creatures has steadily evolved.

In the last hundred years East Anglia and Dorset have received the greatest attention from folklorists interested in such canine apparitions. This book includes a detailed study of the lore in Norfolk, showing how oral tales become interwoven with published accounts and the heritage of historic places.

But are phantom black dogs nothing more than myths and tales? There is also an assessment of the psychology of phantom black dog sightings. Another chapter quotes emails from various people in America and Canada who have been terrified by phantom black dogs without any prior awareness of such folklore.

The concluding part of this book is a comprehensive annotated bibliography of phantom black dog literature, including listings by geographical area.

This book will appeal to all those interested in folklore, the paranormal and fortean phenomena.

Contributors: Jeremy Harte, Simon Sherwood, Alby Stone, Bob Trubshaw and Jennifer Westwood.

'9/10'
Paul Sieveking Fortean Times

'I think this must be the best entry in the Explore series I have seen so far... '
Aeronwy Dafies Monomyth Supplement

'... a very important contribution to the literature... highly recommended.'
Andrew Bates Silver Wheel

'This is an excellent work and is very highly recommended.'
Michael Howard The Cauldron

See Mike Burgess's online review of Explore Phantom Black Dogs

Published by Explore Books, an imprint of Heart of Albion Press.
ISBN 978 1872 883 786. 2005.
demy 8vo (215 x 138 mm), 152 + viii pages, 10 b&w half-tones, paperback

£12.95


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Winner of the
Folklore Society's
Katharine Briggs Award
2005

 

EXPLORE FAIRY TRADITIONS

Jeremy Harte

Winner of the Folklore Society's Katharine Briggs Award 2005   More details...

We are not alone. In the shadows of our countryside there lives a fairy race, older than humans, and not necessarily friendly to them. For hundreds of years, men and women have told stories about the strange people, beautiful as starlight, fierce as wolves, and heartless as ice. These are not tales for children. They reveal the fairies as a passionate, proud, brutal people.

Explore Fairy Traditions draws on legends, ballads and testimony from throughout Britain and Ireland to reveal what the fairies were really like. It looks at changelings, brownies, demon lovers, the fairy host, and abduction into the Otherworld. Stories and motifs are followed down the centuries to reveal the changing nature of fairy lore, as it was told to famous figures like W.B. Yeats and Sir Walter Scott. All the research is based on primary sources and many errors about fairy tradition are laid to rest.

Jeremy Harte combines folklore scholarship with a lively style to show what the presence of fairies meant to people's lives. Like their human counterparts, the secret people could kill as well as heal. They knew marriage, seduction, rape and divorce; they adored some children and rejected others. If we are frightened of the fairies, it may be because their world offers an uncomfortable mirror of our own.

'... the best modern book written on the British and Irish fairy traditions... '
'Beach' Top Ten Fairy Books

'... this is the best and most insightful book on fairies generally available... '
John Billingsley Northern Earth

'An erudite and well-referenced guide... 9/10'
Paul Sieveking Fortean Times

'Explore Fairy Traditions is an excellent introduction to the folklore of fairies, and I would highly recommend it.'
Paul Mason Silver Wheel

'If you really want to know about fairies, good bad and gremlins, then this book is for you.'
Francis Cameron Pentacle

'Explore Fairy Traditions is a very good book, both an entertaining read and useful source of information. [...] newcomers to the subject will be impressed... [and] An excellent primer that has much to recommend it to more advanced students of the field... Highly recommended.'
D J Tyrer Monomyth

Published by Explore Books, an imprint of Heart of Albion Press.
ISBN 978 1872 883 618. 2004.
demy 8vo (215 x 138 mm), 171 + vi pages, 6 line drawings, paperback

£9.95


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EXPLORE SHAMANISM

Alby Stone

Shamanism is a complex and confusing subject. There are many different ideas about what shamanism is, who is a shaman, and what a shaman does. Explore Shamanism provides a much-needed up-to-date guide to the study of shamanism.

Focusing mainly on the shamans of Siberia and Central Asia, Explore Shamanism includes a historical survey of academic approaches to shamanism, an overview of the various theories about shamanism, and a discussion of the origins of shamanism based on the latest ideas. There are also more detailed explorations of the initiation of shamans; the costumes, drums and other tools of the shaman's trade; journeys to the spirit world; and the place of trance, spirit possession and ecstasy in shamanic performance.

Explore Shamanism also surveys revived and reconstructed shamanisms in the world today.

Alby Stone has been studying and writing about shamanism for twenty years. This is his sixth work published by Heart of Albion Press.

'... this book I consider essential for anyone claiming a serious interest in shamanism... '
John Billingsley Northern Earth

'Despite the literature devoted to it (or perhaps because of it) shamanism remains a complex and confusing subject for many beginners. Alby Stone focuses on indigenous forms of shamanic belief and practice including spirit journeys, working tools, the spirit world and the role of trance and possession. There are also chapters on the academic aproach to the subject and modern forms of urban and New Age shamanism. Recommended.
Michael Howard The Cauldron

'This is one of a growing series of informative volumes from the Heart of Albion Press. A scholarly assessment of the literature concerning a wide variety of practitioners with special attention to the 'originals' in Siberia and Central Asia... Five pentacles'
Frances Cameron Pentacle

Published by Explore Books, an imprint of Heart of Albion Press.
ISBN 978 1872 883 687. 2003.
demy 8vo (215 x 138 mm), 184 + x pages, 2 photographs; 17 line drawings, paperback

£9.95


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EXPLORE GREEN MEN
 
Revised and expanded second edition

Mercia MacDermott with photographs by Ruth Wylie

From reviews of the first edition:
 
'A friendly and intriguing work of architectural scholarship.'
The Guardian

'The enigmatic silence of the Green Man has been broken in the last decade by a flood of books, with a new study coming out pretty much every year since 1990. Most of them were lavisly illustrated, which is just as well, since much of the commentary was nonsense. [Explore Green Men] features new photographs from Ruth Wylie's superb archive, and it has a text which makes sense. Mercia MacDermott comes to this myth-laden territory with a cool head... '
Jeremy Harte 3rd Stone

A must-have future classic!
David Taylor White Dragon

Explore Green Men is the first detailed study of the history of this motif for 25 years. Dr MacDermott's research follows the Green Man back from the previous earliest known examples into its hitherto unrecognised origins in India about 2,300 years ago.

The book starts by discussing the 'paganisation' of Green Men in recent decades, then follows backwards through the Victorian Gothic Revival, Baroque, Rococco and Italianate revivals, to their heyday in the Gothic and the supposed origins in the Romanesque. As part of this discussion there is background information on the cultural changes that affected how Green Men were regarded. The author also discusses the comparisons that have been made with Cernunnus, Robin Hood, Jack-in-the-Green, woodwoses, Baphomet, Al Khidr and Bulgarian peperuda. She also investigates which pagan god Green Men supposedly represent.

The second edition contains a summary of independent confirmation of the links with Asia together with nine more illustrations.

Explore Green Men is illustrated with 118 photographs and drawings, mostly of Green Men who have never before showed their faces in books.

This book will appeal to all with an interest in Green Men and to art historians looking for a reliable study of this fascinating decorative motif.

Published by Explore Books, an imprint of Heart of Albion Press.
ISBN 978 1 872883 946. 2006.
demy 8vo (215 x 138 mm), 212 + x pages, 109 b&w photographs, 8 line drawings, 1 map, paperback
£12.95


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EXPLORE MYTHOLOGY

Bob Trubshaw

Myths are usually thought of as something to do with 'traditional cultures'. The study of such 'traditional' myths emphasises their importance in religion, national identity, hero-figures, understanding the origin of the universe, and predictions of an apocalyptic demise. The academic study of myths has done much to fit these ideas into the preconceived ideas of the relevant academics.

Only in recent years have such long-standing assumptions about myths begun to be questioned, opening up whole new ways of thinking about the way such myths define and structure how a society thinks about itself and the 'real world'.

These new approaches to the study of myth reveal that, to an astonishing extent, modern day thinking is every bit as mythological as the world-views of, say, the Classical Greeks or obscure Polynesian tribes. Politics, religions, science, advertising and the mass media are all deeply implicated in the creation and use of myths.

Explore Mythology provides a lively introduction to the way myths have been studied, together with discussion of some of the most important 'mythic motifs' such as heroes, national identity, and 'central places' followed by a discussion of how these ideas permeate modern society. These sometimes contentious and profound ideas are presented in an easily readable style of writing.

'Here's another brilliant volume, an account of mythology such as you are unlikely ever to have seen before. This is no mere collection of mythological stories. It's a thoughtful, well researched exposition which really gets down to the deep structure of the narratives which encode the consciousness of groups and societies.... Buy it! If you follow up even a fraction of the leads, there's enough here to keep you occupied for many a month to come.'
Francis Cameron Pentacle

'... this book is... a useful introduction to literature that many would find hard to come by, and offers a challenging perspective that does not let assumptions rest easy.'
John Billingsley Northern Earth

'I would encourage everyone to read this book. Why? So much of what Bob Trubshaw writes is relevant to day-to-day living. Having an understanding of the nature of politics, religion, the media, and the society in which we live and how these shape our personal myths, regardless of whether we live in a secular society or not, can enrich our understanding of our own values and, I believe, improve our quality of life.    Sile

Published by Explore Books, an imprint of Heart of Albion Press.
ISBN 978 1872 883 625. 2003.
demy 8vo (215 x 138 mm), 220 + xx pages, 17 line drawings, paperback

£9.95

Excerpts from Explore Mythology can be found at Foamy Custard, a Web site for folklore, mythology, cultural studies and related disciplines. Look for what are myths?, an overview of mythological theory, sacred sexuality, making time, liminality and the end is always now.


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EXPLORE FOLKLORE

Bob Trubshaw

'A howling success, which plugs a big and obvious gap'
Professor Ronald Hutton

"Highly Recommended" by the Folklore Society's Katharine Briggs Folklore Award 2003

There have been fascinating developments in the study of folklore in the last twenty-or-so years, but few books about British folklore and folk customs reflect these exciting new approaches. As a result there is a huge gap between scholarly approaches to folklore studies and 'popular beliefs' about the character and history of British folklore. Explore Folklore is the first book to bridge that gap, and to show how much 'folklore' there is in modern day Britain.

Explore Folklore shows there is much more to folklore than morris dancing and fifty-something folksingers! The rituals of 'what we do on our holidays', funerals, stag nights and 'lingerie parties' are all full of 'unselfconsious' folk customs. Indeed, folklore is something that is integral to all our lives it is so intrinsic we do not think of it as being 'folklore'.

The implicit ideas underlying folk lore and customs are also explored. There might appear to be little in common between people who touch wood for luck (a 'tradition' invented in the last 200 years) and legends about people who believe they have been abducted and subjected to intimate body examinations by aliens. Yet, in their varying ways, these and other 'folk beliefs' reflect the wide spectrum of belief and disbelief in what is easily dismissed as 'superstition'.

Explore Folklore provides a lively introduction to the study of most genres of British folklore, presenting the more contentious and profound ideas in a readily accessible manner.

Published by Explore Books, an imprint of Heart of Albion Press.
ISBN 978 1872 883 601. 2002.
demy 8vo (215 x 138 mm), 196 xii pages, 4 b&w photos, 4 line drawings, paperback

£12.95

Reviews of Explore Folklore

Excerpts from Explore Folklore can be found at Foamy Custard, a Web site for folklore, mythology, cultural studies and related disciplines. Look for an overview of folklore theory, problems with popular perceptions of folklore and contemporary lore and legend.


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