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Christmas Married To A Pagan Feast

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[ABL photo]

“The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.”

~ Clement Clarke Moore

 

The first serious snow is falling. Outdoor Christmas lights across the street melt through a cover of snow – a sight I particularly enjoy.  So, I’ll reprint this – albeit edited – from a few years ago. Maybe it will become a tradition.

Christmas is a fake that has taken root like the holly, and it survives tenaciously. It has become a goodies grab fest, and helps keep our commercial society stable. Perhaps reason enough to exist.

The wily Christians conquered the outnumbered Celts, and supplanted their winter festival with the birth of their God. The wily pagans live on in the numerous traditions the Christians stole, so perhaps it is a fair trade. And no doubt those wily pagans chuckle over their cups o’mead, noting that this celebration of reverence has become a surfeit of greed.

I have been no fan of Christmas for decades, but its mixed legacy encourages me not to abandon it. My Christian background enhances my enjoyment of the music and traditions. Most commercial intrusions can be muted or turned off. I do have some personal traditions I follow religiously.

I do not even rail against Santa Claus. I heard his sleigh bells one Christmas Eve, when I was four. I saw his sleigh runner tracks in the snow a couple of years later.

I have even been mistaken for Santa a couple of times. Once, in the line-up in a bank near Christmas, a two-year old pointed at me. Unfortunately, my presence terrified him, and he started to scream and cry. I was wise enough not to go Ho Ho Ho. Another time – but this happened in early fall – a family approached me as I walked in a park. A boy, who looked to be six or seven, stopped in his tracks, then ran back to his parents. “Santa Claus!”  He pointed. Happily he did not cry. They walked past me in silence.

Also, for decades, I lived close to a residence where one of the very first recitations of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas happened. The author of that stirring piece, Clement Moore, who wrote it in 1822, sent a copy to his godfather, the Rev Johnathan O’Dell, of Fredericton New Brunswick. However, the poem was not published until 1837.

To be fair to myself, I’m not a total Scrooge, as I have written some Christmas tales.  Here is a wee segment from The Elephant Talks To God:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“I want to see you,” said the elephant, and the words raced from his mouth. “I don’t have to see you, you know that. I’ve believed even before you talked to me. But I want to see you, it would mean so much. I wasn’t around for the Baby, but cows and sheep and things got to see Him. I can’t explain but it would … ”

“Go home,” said the cloud.

“You’re not angry with me?” said the elephant.

“No.” The cloud started moving away. “It’s an honest request.” The rain stopped falling. “Thank you for coming.”

“You’re welcome,” said the elephant.

“Sing some carols,” the voice was distant. “I like them.”

The elephant turned and started through the woods. He ignored the tasty leaves within easy reach and the tall grass near the brook. He wanted to get home as quickly as possible so he could join the singing he knew was happening later in the evening.

He turned along the trail, snapping a branch here and there in his haste, when he noticed the stillness, the hush which had overtaken the forest. He slowed down and the stopped in his tracks. He turned his head, his small eyes squinting into the brush. There was movement coming toward him, and when the trees parted, he went to his knees with a gasp. Tears rolled from his eyes, and a golden trunk gently wiped them away.*

*Last line edited from an error in the book.

 

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The Druids Prepare For All Hallows As The Dead Approach

 slide_336017_3406844_freeThe Celts knew every celebration has its risks.

The Druids taught them this, and the Druids are correct. Samhain is a festival of the harvest; the end of summer; the preparation for the winter to come. Samhain is a juncture. 

As they all know, junctures lead to sundry places. There is both the leaving and the coming. A time of disquiet. A time of danger for those unprepared.

It holds the magic and the power of midnight. Midnight is a powerful time because it is the juncture of two days. Midnight of Samhain thus holds double the power. It can not be avoided. It must be met with all the power mortal man can muster. It must not be met alone.

On the Eve of Samhain, the border between Life and the OtherWorld is breached. A door swings invitingly open, but it is not inviting those who live. It is inviting  those who have died. The Dead who still miss their lives. The long Dead who still are curious.The distant Dead who get a whiff of fresh air, and have their memories stirred.

So the Dead approach.

The Dead approach. The living must prepare to meet them, just as they prepare for the vicissitudes of winter. The same threatened cold holds sway over both. The living assemble the treats and threats that will assuage the longings of the Dead.

Because the living have a healthy fear of death, they equally wish to avoid the Dead. The Dead can prove to be envious, and attempt to relieve the living of their lives. Lanterns from the earth are hollowed out of turnips. Their light will guide the dead to safer places (safer for the living). Candles will shine through carved faces. Some faces are friendly and welcoming. Some are ugly and fierce, to give aggressive Dead a pause.

There will also be treats to entice the Dead – apples and pastries and savouries and some roasted game fresh from the bonfires. There will be ale and other spirits to keep the Spirits at bay. The living will wear costumes and masks to disguise themselves from those Dead who might wish their company to be more permanent.

They will remove the masks if the Spirits are friendly.

They will dance and sing and raise a right ruckus to entertain the Dead.

The boneyard is on the outskirts of town. Revellers approach with noise and caution. A bonfire is set. The moon hangs from the trees. The gated fence stands closed and latched. The living pause and watch. And listen.

Is it the wind, or do the hinges scrape the stone?

(image)i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/336017/slide_336017_3406844_free.jpg

On Guard At Stonehenge For The Summer Solstice

salisbury-stonehenge

I do find it grand to have such this connection to the Celts, about whom I have written three novels.

During World War Two, my father had the unique experience of guarding Stonehenge. Not by himself, of course, there were other members of the Canadian Army with him.

The vast plains around Stonehenge were utilised by the military in both world wars. During the First War, the area was a training ground for troops from various countries. There were many encampments for recruits, with both basic training and preparations to train for the trench warfare awaiting on the continent. There were thousands and thousands of men, and huge amounts of supplies.

During the Second War, the area was used as staging ground for the D-Day invasion. There was great security, and as much secrecy as possible. Soldiers were in place to guard the perimeter.

So, my father found himself not only guarding Stonehenge, but doing so on Midsummer Morn, when the sun rose over the monument.
He was a learned man – a school teacher – and versed in the history of the place. He knew of the Celts and the Druids and some of the mythology. He knew this was sacred ground and that Midsummer Morn was especially important.
He might have paused and tried to look into the past, and see more in the morning mist than was actually there. I do not know.

He did, however, when their shift was over and they got to eat, tell the other soldiers of the history of the place.
He mentioned that, during such celebrations by the Celts, the Druids might have a virgin killed to appease the gods.
They were aghast.

“What a waste,” said one
.
DE
(image)//media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/02/e1/1d/c3/salisbury-stonehenge.jpg

 

Ogma Meets A Unicorn (for National Unicorn Day)

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Twitter and many other parts of the world are awash in comments and observations about National Unicorn Day. Since so much of it seems frivolous, here is an excerpt from my novel, A Lost Gospel, where unicorns are as real as the fingers on your hand.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“You want us to think like the unicorn?” Ogma was irritated, and spoke with deliberation. “The ways of the beasts are even beyond the girl. At her best, I believe she just follows.”

“There are times, Ogma, when the worth is not in the accomplishment, but in the attempt.”

“I’ll be a better man by trying to think like the beast?”

“You can’t help but be a better man, Ogma.”

“Well. That’s spoken like a Head Druid.” Although Cowin could not see his actions – perhaps because Cowin was unable to see him – Ogma held out his hand and rubbed his fingers together. “Here, beastie, beastie. Uncle Ogma has a wee treat for you.”

“Is that what you think a unicorn thinks?”

“But if you come up to Uncle Cowin,” Ogma’s voice now had a sing-song tone. “Just jab him in the arse with that big horn, for he doesn’t have anything for you at all.”

“A least I promise nothing.” The Head Druid had finally deduced what Ogma was doing. “But what will be the reaction of those very sharp teeth when your hand is found to be empty?”

“What?” Ogma hesitated.

“Does the unicorn possess your sense of humour?” Cowin did not try to suppress a chuckle. “Or will your empty hand be empty even of fingers?”

Ogma momentarily considered the question, then quickly raised his hand. He was about to make an obscene gesture, but instead turned in the direction of a distant noise. He could feel by the brush of Cowin’s cloak that the Head Druid did the same.

“We’re being approached without hesitation.” Ogma whispered the words.”By more than one, if the sounds don’t play tricks.”

“That isn’t possible in this fog.” As the oncoming noise shifted, Cowin turned slightly. “I don’t suppose you have a knife under your cloak?”

“No, Head Druid.” Ogma stared into the dark. “Like most, I rarely carry arms while on the Island.”

“The times are changing.” Cowin looked at the vague shape of his companion. “Keep no more than a few strides distant.”

“We’re not prepared for a fucking invasion.” Ogma got into a crouch and flanked the Head Druid.

“Maybe they won’t see us.” Cowin leaned toward the approaching noise.

“I think that’s a false hope.” Ogma moved into his fighting position, bracing for an attack. “They’re aiming right in our direction.”

“The fog will give some protection.” The Head Druid also crouched into a combat stance. “Let as many as possible go past, then jump the ones at the rear. If they’re armed, we might wrestle a weapon from them.”

“Or a body to use as a shield.” Ogma wrapped his cloak around his arm to help deflect a thrusting sword.

“Nothing fancy.” Cowin dug his heels into the earth. “We have to go on this voyage – nothing is more important. If we’re overwhelmed, we must try to escape.”

The fog seemed to muffle noises which were close, yet make distant sounds crack like a whip beside their ears. This aided to the druids’ confusion, and they couldn’t tell who was approaching, or from where. It was Ogma who spoke first, using an oath which held traces of fear around the words.

“Something’s brushing against me.”

“What do you – ”

“Curse Manannan’s damn fog – it’s at my legs.” There were sounds of commotion, and then of a body rolling on the earth. “Fucking sword of death.” Ogma’s voice was high.

“Where are you?” Cowin stared uselessly through the fog.

“By the gods of hell. Get it away from me.”

“Ogma.” Cowin moved toward his voice. “I can’t even – ”

“It’s the beast.” Ogma shouted. “The damned beast.”

“Beast?”

“The unicorn.” Ogma was sputtering in anger. “It’s pulling my clothes with its teeth, and that horn has come inches from – ” Ogma’s voice moved. “Oh, for fuck’s sake.”

“Ogma.” The Head Druid was both concerned and relieved. “Don’t struggle – it’s not going to hurt you.”

“You don’t think being frightened can’t hurt you?” Ogma’s voice was sharp, but the rage was ebbing from it. “I’m stopping, you bag of shit. I’m sitting on my arse and not lifting a hand, so get your head away from me.” There was a pause, filled only by the heavy breathing of the unicorn. “This damn thing is bigger than you’d think, Head Druid.”

“Do you still have all your fingers?” Laughter surrounded Cowin’s words. “Or does the unicorn look upon you with a smile?”

“This was its game?”

“Be thankful.” Cowin walked toward the other man’s voice. “You found out the unicorn has a sense of humour.” He reached his hand to help Ogma to his feet.

“The beast does not go after your fingers,” complained Ogma.

“I don’t tease him.” Cowin rubbed the animal’s neck. “Nor do I speak of him in such a rough manner.”

“You think it understands me?”

“Not the words – but the intent.” Cowin felt the unicorn become tense under his hand. “The girl approaches.”

My Father And The Summer Solstice

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Not that I post this every first day of summer, but I do find it neat to have such a connection to the Celts, about whom I have written three novels.

During World War Two, my father had the unique experience of guarding Stonehenge. Not by himself, of course, there were other members of the Canadian Army with him.
The vast plains around Stonehenge were utilised by the military in both world wars. During the First War, the area was a training ground for troops from various countries. There were many encampments for recruits, with both basic training and preparations to train for the trench warfare awaiting on the continent. There were thousands and thousands of men, and huge amounts of supplies.
During the Second War, the area was used as staging ground for the D-Day invasion. There was great security, and as much secrecy as possible. Soldiers were in place to guard the perimeter.
So, my father found himself not only guarding Stonehenge, but doing so on Midsummer Morn, when the sun rose over the monument. He was a learned man – a school teacher – and versed in the history of the place. He knew of the Celts and the Druids and some of the mythology. He knew this was sacred ground and that Midsummer Morn was especially important. He might have paused and tried to look into the past, and see more in the morning mist than was actually there. I do not know.
He did, however, when their watch was over and they got to eat, tell the other soldiers of the history of the place. He mentioned that, during such celebrations by the Celts, the Druids might have a virgin killed to appease the gods. They were aghast.
“What a waste,” said one.

DE

(image)http://www.telegraph.co.uk/content/dam/news/2017/06/21/TELEMMGLPICT000132550612-large_trans_NvBQzQNjv4Bqek9vKm18v_rkIPH9w2GMNoGXySPv9M1Jbe0Fc3Bi1Fk.jpeg

The Pagan Feast Of Christmas Where Jesus Tags Along

irish-christmas-angel

Christmas is a fake that has taken root like the holly and survives tenaciously. It has become a goodies grab fest, and helps keep our commercial society stable. Perhaps reason enough to exist.

The wily Christians conquered the outnumbered Celts and supplanted their winter festival with the birth of their God. The wily pagans live on in the numerous traditions the Christians stole, so perhaps it is a fair trade. And no doubt those wily pagans chuckle over their mead, noting this celebration of reverence has become a surfeit of greed.

I have been no fan of Christmas for decades, but its mixed legacy encourages me not to abandon it. My Christian background encourages my enjoyment of the music and traditions. Most commercial intrusions can be muted or turned off. I have some personal traditions I almost follow religiously.

I do not even rail against Santa Claus. I heard his sleigh bells one Christmas Eve when I was five. I saw his sleigh runner tracks in the snow a couple of years later.

I have even been mistaken for Santa a couple of times.

Once, in the line-up in a bank near Christmas, a two year old pointed at me. Unfortunately, my presence terrified him and he started to scream and cry. His parents said things like “But Santa is nice and kind.” I was wise enough not to go Ho Ho Ho.

Another time a family approached me as I walked in a park. A boy, who looked to be six or seven, stopped in his tracks then ran back to his parents. “Santa Claus!”  He pointed. Happily he did not cry. They walked past me in silence.

Also, for decades, I lived close to a residence where one of the very first recitations of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas happened. The author of that stirring piece, Clement Moore, who wrote it in 1822, sent a copy to his godfather, the Rev Johnathan O’Dell, of Fredericton New Brunswick. However, the poem was not published until 1837.

This year, I have been brushed by Christmas but twice.

I entered a restaurant to meet a friend for lunch. Before any query was out of my mouth, I was ushered to the correct table. I found out the maître d ‘ had been told to be on the outlook for Santa Claus.

And, just this morning, I was told by a revered friend and writer that she was going to write a Christmas Eve column about how silly Christmas really is.

Silly is a kind word.

DE

(image)http://www.irishcelticjewels.com/celtic-wedding/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/irish-christmas-angel.jpg

Thank The Druids And The Celts For Halloween

stonehenge2

As I write this, friends are an their way to Stonehenge for a private guided tour. I’m guessing this will make a tour easier, considering the masses who can descend upon this ancient place.

Perhaps my friends will know before they arrive – for I have sent used our modern communications to tell them – that I have an odd connection to Stonehenge. My father guarded the structure, and did so on Midsummer Day.

During the Second World War, it was feared that Germany would invade England. Many of the Canadian soldiers stationed in England were spread in a wide circle around London. An outright invasion would be a do-or-die situation, and Canadian soldiers had it been known to them – without direct orders – that no prisoners were to be taken.

One of the areas put under guard was Stonehenge. Though less so now, at that time Stonehenge was surrounded by vast planes. It was feared that the Germans might use these open areas for paratroopers, and also gliders full of troops. Thus the area was defended.

My father was part of this protection, and it so happened that he stood guard duty near Stonehenge itself on Midsummer Day, and watched the sun rise over the monument. He was aware of the significance of both time and place, as many of his comrades might not be. Indeed, when he informed them that the Celts, at one time, sacrificed virgins on altars at Stonehenge, they expressed – in more earthy soldier language – what a waste.

Though I have not been to Stonehenge itself, I have written three novels about Celts and Druids, one of them set during World War Two. I’m happy to believe that, in the supernatural realm, there is some ethereal connection.

With Halloween upon us, and it having become a major festival in the last few decades, let us give thanks were thanks is due. With some grudging recognition to the Christians.

DE

(image)http://gotostonehenge.com/images/Stonehenge2.jpg

The Seeds Of Halloween

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Halloween [All Saint’s Eve] has been imposed upon the Celtic festival of Samhain. That’s what the Christians did as they replaced other religions. Keep all the good bits and call it something else. In my novel, A Lost Gospel, Druids and the Celts go one better. They have to make sure that Yeshua [Jesus] gets crucified.

The following is a portion of the first chapter of A Lost Gospel, edited for clarification.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Segment from  A Lost Gospel:

It was a Sorcerer’s moon.

At least that is what the boatmen called it, and they feared travelling under its light. It gave false hope in the fog, disappearing just when it promised to show the way. And when it emerged again, it was only to reveal the distance the foundering sailors would have to swim.

“We can’t go in this, Head Druid.”

“No, Ogma. We can’t.”

“I don’t concern myself with the things you deal with, Head Druid.” Ogma stared into the fog before he continued. “You plot and plan.

You tell me our voyage will affect the world for thousands of years.” He laughed again. “You may be right, or you may get visions from the ale.”

“There isn’t drink strong enough to show me what I’ve seen.”

“None of us doubt you.” Ogma’s voice became lower. “You tell me what to do – and I do it. But I can’t do my job if I begin to worry about what might happen.”

“It isn’t that simple.”

“For me it is.” Ogma took a couple of steps closer to Cowin.

“You’d pull the oars alone, if you had to.” The Head Druid’s voice was less tense. “I don’t know if that’s single-minded, or simple-minded.”

“This might prove no worse than sailing around the island.” Ogma debated whether or not he should be insulted by Cowin’s last comment. “Going around the north tip of The Isle of Man is like going to the end of nowhere. We do it often.”

 

“That’s right enough.” Cowin turned his back to the water. “We add some days to our usual voyages, and we can reach Europe.” His voice became animated. “And after we arrive in the Alps, we won’t be travelling alone.”

“What do we know of these Mountain people?” Ogma turned abruptly from the sea. “We should stick to our own kind.”

“Do you need things repeated into your ears time after time?” The Head Druid was quickly annoyed.

“Perhaps.” Ogma pulled his cloak against the damp.

“What is it you want to be told again?”

“How are we supposed to kill a God?” Ogma’s voice rose as the words spilled out. “And why do we go to this place called Jerusalem to do it?” He leaned toward the other man. “And in this giant heathen encampment, how will we find one man named Yeshua?”

“We’ll know these answers when we get to Jerusalem.” Cowin’s voice betrayed his impatience. “We’ll get there with the help of these mountain people.” Cowin bent down to speak directly into the little man’s ear. “And they are our own kind. They’re Druids, and they join us with their unicorn.”

“The beasts.” Ogma shook his head. “One is trouble enough.”

“We need their woman, Glarus. She was with this god when he was born.”

“Why didn’t she smother him then?”

“Because it was not the time!” Cowin stared at the smaller man. “You’ve heard the oracles. You’ve seen the signs. You know the way the unicorn behaves. This Yeshua must die only when he is a man – and we must make certain that the man dies.”

“A God which is a man. A God which is able to die.” Ogma’s voice rose. “And you ask why I don’t understand.”

“Our own gods decree this change.”

The Head Druid made a cutting motion with his hand to show the discussion was over, but Ogma ignored him.

“These are not our beliefs.” Ogma moved his own hands in an agitated manner. “You mix us together with strangers, then cast us into the oven of Jerusalem to bake with Romans and Jews.” He shook his head empathically. “I’m more than willing to die, Head Druid – but for something which makes sense.”

“If you will die for our ways and beliefs, consider the glory of a God who accepts to die.”

“Such a God would be dead.”

“Ogma.” Cowin forced himself to be patient. “We go to a wondrous place when we die. And it is most glorious to go through the Door of Death if we die for a valiant cause.” The Head Druid grabbed the small man’s shoulder, his voice no longer controlled. “Try to imagine where a God must go, once he is dead. How magnificent it will be. How powerful that God will become. Greater than any of the Gods we know.”

“A dead God greater than our Gods which live?” Ogma was silent for a long time, surprised by Cowin’s fervour.

“Much greater.” Cowin nodded his head.

“You talk like the Oracles, who speak of thoughts I don’t understand.” Ogma suddenly laughed, and slapped the Head Druid on the back. “But if this Yeshua becomes more powerful than our gods, it is wise to get on his good side.” Ogma grinned broadly. “I’ll be glad to kill him myself.”

“We don’t raise a hand.” The Head Druid walked away from the shore. “We make certain that the Romans nail him on their tree.”

“What?” Ogma hurried to catch Cowin. “We trap this Yeshua, and do the dirty work of the fucking Romans?” He grabbed the sleeve of the other man’s tunic, and forced him to stop. “I won’t help those dogs.”

“You’ll do what’s necessary.” The Head Druid waited until the small man loosened his grip. “We join these other people, and we do this job.”

“A slave’s job.”

“We deliver nobody to the damned Romans.” Cowin resumed his brisk walk. “We help the woman Glarus get to Jerusalem, and she makes Yeshua deliver himself.”

“Yeshua is to surrender to the Romans?”

“Yes.”

“What real man gives up?”

“Ogma.” The Head Druid paused to look closely at his companion. “The reason you can never lead the Council, is that you don’t see past the end of your sword.”

DE

(image)https://secure.static.tumblr.com/bb62cf3a73c3175c5273d07845e61917/6kzsitn/yDEno3nja/tumblr_static_tumblr_static_c2f9vxf6tnkkgsg0sokwocgkc_640.jpg

The Druids And Celts Present Halloween – It’s Just Around The Corner

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(image)http://www.zionstower.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/druids7flat1.jpg

They have learned that every celebration has its risks. The Druids have taught them this, and the Druids are correct.

Samhain is a festival of the harvest; the end of summer; the preparation for the winter to come. Samhain is a juncture. As they all know, junctures lead to sundry places. There is both the leaving and the coming. A time of disquiet. A time of danger to those unprepared.

It holds the magic and the power of midnight. Midnight is a powerful time because it is the juncture of two days. Midnight of Samhain thus holds double the power. It can not be avoided. It must be met with all the power that mortal man can muster. It must not be met alone.On the Eve of Samhain, the border between Life and the Otherworld is breached. A door swings invitingly open, but it is not inviting to those who live. It is inviting to those who have died.

The Dead who still miss their lives. The long Dead who still are curious.The distant Dead who get a whiff of fresh air and have their memories stirred.

So the Dead approach.

The Dead approach.

The living must prepare to meet them, just as they prepare for the vicissitudes of winter. The same threatened cold holds sway over both.

The living assemble the treats and threats that will assuage the longings of the Dead. Because the living have a healthy fear of death, they equally wish to avoid the Dead. The Dead can prove to be envious and attempt to relieve the living of their lives.Lanterns from the earth are hollowed out of turnips. Their light will guide the dead to safer places (safer for the living). Candles will shine through carved faces.

Some faces are friendly and welcoming.

Some are ugly and fierce to give any aggressive Dead a pause.

There will also be treats to entice the Dead – apples and pastries and savouries and some roasted game fresh from the bonfires. There will be ale and other spirits to keep the Spirits at bay.The living will wear costumes and masks to disguise themselves from those Dead who might wish their company to be more permanent.

They will remove the masks if the Spirits are friendly.

They will dance and sing and raise a right ruckus to entertain the Dead.

The boneyard is on the outskirts of town. The revellers approach with noise and caution. The bonfire is set. The moon hangs from the trees. The gated fence stands closed and latched.

The living pause.

And watch.

And listen.

Is it the wind, or do the hinges scrape the stone?

DE

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