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Requiem Aeternam Dona Eis: Some Thoughts on Misruletide

’Tis the season. But what season? This is an interesting time of year.

Winter.

A time of rest.

The land stands fallow and sleeping.

The days shorten, the nights lengthen.

The shadows stretch, the darkness grows.

What season?

There is a time, a time outside of time. A season? Certainly. Better, a time, a tide.

A time outside of time. The Time of Misrule. The Tide of Misrule. Misruletide.

I’m not talking just about the Christmastime, Christmastide, celebration by this name, but the portion of time starting at All Saint’s or All Hallow’s and extending to Candlemas. I’m talking of a year ending at Hallowtide and starting at Candletide. The year has ended. The year has not yet began.

It is a time of rest. Certainly. A rest for whom? The land, well, yes, but who else? If it is the Time of Misrule, the Season of Misrule, the Tide of Misrule, we should start with what Misrule is, both in the festival use of the word and how we mean it here.

I won’t go much into the festivities or history, but the tradition of Feast of Fools and similar celebrations on Christmas and around that part of the year, was a celebration where everything was turned on its head, socially. It was a time or revelry and irreverence, a time of no rules, or, namely, misrule. Depending on where and when, it was sometimes a large scale celebration and sometimes a private affair. Regardless, the “ruler” over the festivities was among the peasantry or the lower clergy, taking the role of king or abbot. In Britain, the Lord of Misrule. One aspect of this, anything trying to hurt or cause problems for those higher in society would be mislead into going after those low in society as well. I can’t rule out that this aspect was not a part of things as well.

This is the sense I am using for this part of the year, from its end at Hallowmas to its beginning at Candlemas. The Time of Misrule, the time when the normal order of things is tipped on its head.

It is during this time of year, at various points, in various forms, that we see lore of the Wild Hunt and traditions and folktales that have descended from the Hunt. In its many forms, the faeries or the dead or witches or other beings ride abroad. They are lead by various figures, Öðinn, Frigg, Frey, Freyja, Holda, Frau Holle, Berchta, Diana, Gwydion, King Arthur, Nuada, Herne, the Devil, Sir Francis Drake, Manannán, Arawn, Nicnevin, Ankow, and many others. The Wild Hunt is said to occur, depending on the lore, on All Hallow’s Eve, on Midwinter’s Eve, on Christmas Eve, or on Twelfth Night (Epiphany Eve), or simple during the winter months, during the Misruletide we are discussing.

The variations veil and hide things, for it is the nature of lore to shift, but under it all, we see a Hunt lead by a figure, or two figures, and a host of the Dead or of spirits. It is interesting to note that the lore of All Hallow’s Eve is of a time when the Dead or spirits roam in the world of the living. This is not the “normal” state of things, it doesn’t follow the normal rule. And many of the figures seen leading the Hunt are either dead folk heroes or gods or goddesses of death.

If we consider the parallel of a time when the Dead walk lead by a lord or lady of death with the Feast of Fools led by the Lord of Misrule, the idea becomes apparent.

Consider for the moment an image.

See a woman dressed in black robes with a red veil hiding her face. She stands in a stone chamber deep beneath the ground, a round chamber with stone benches carved in the sides. There are two thresholds in the room, an empty doorway with no door to her right, and a pair of massive doors to her left. A figure stands before the black doors, watching her, still as death, silent as the grave. In front of her is a black altar, a cube of unworked black stone, the colour of deepest night, deepest shadow. A body rests on this altar, or a Thread, there is less difference than there seems. The body is familiar. In one shrivaled hand, she holds a rod or wand, wood, made of a blackthorn root. In the other, she holds a knife.

When the time becomes full, when the tide is complete, the knife drops, the Thread is cut, the blood flows from the body, blood black in the shadows, covering the black altar. This time has ended, the Thread cut, the Cutter’s knife has fallen.

The woman raises the rod and points at the doors, and the figure before it moves. The figure it tall and thin, covered in black tattered robes. His face is hidden in the shadowed cowl. Folded at his back is a pair of skeletal wings with shadow stretched between the bones. His hands, sticking from the arms of the robes, are nothing but bone. In one hand, he holds a book, chained to his wrist. His other hand is em

When the woman raises the rod, the winged figure wipes a line from his book with one skeletal finger. The ink flows like smoke off the page and a figure rises from the body and joins it, the two becoming one, a spectral image of the body still on the altar. The figure reaches and opens the doors wide. Beyond, it is both as dark as the night and bright beyond imagination. A wind fills the cavern, and the body crumbles to dust and blows away.

The figure beacons, silent, and the spectre walks through the Gates of Life and Death, which are closed fast behind them.

It is finished.

This is the normal rule, the Quick die, becomes the Dead, cross through the Gates, and rest until the time comes for them to return, becoming Quick again. But this is the time of Misrule, the Dead don’t always stay dead, sometimes the Wild Hunt rides.

But who sides at the front of the Hunt? Who leads the Dead? Death. Like Hel leading the people of her domain in Ragnorak, like the Queen of Faerie leading the people of her domain forth, like Odin or Freyja leading the Dead they have gathered forth, Like King Arthur leading the knights that died, Death rides forth at the front of the Host.

But, if Death leads the Hunt, who guards the Gates? Ah. The Time of Misrule. The Quick caught up in the Host become Dead, and the Dead beyond the Gates can walk. This is Misruletide. Among other things.

Now, when the Keeper of the Lost sits as Regent, and the Quick and the Dead can switch station, now is when things aren’t always what they seem.

So, what do we have at Hallowtide? Not just All Hallow’s Eve. It is the Eve of All Hallows, of course, All Hallow’s Day, All Saint’s Day, which is followed by All Soul’s Day. Three days focussed on the Dead, in different ways. But let’s look specifically at All Soul’s Day.

This is of course best known in the part of the world I live in as the Mexican celebration of Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, when masks are worn and feasts and presents are prepared for the Dead, often at grave sites, is a similar fashion to the tradition practiced by many of my Craft brothers and sisters in a Dumb Supper on All Hallow’s Eve. The giving of food to the Dead is present in many cultures throughout the world and throughout time, though not always this time of year. It is common this time of year, however.

In Catholic practice, All Soul’s Day is a day of commemoration for the “faithful departed”. This is a somewhat enigmatic phrase to many. It’s taken to mean those who have died and are in Purgatory. The phrase is, “fidelium animae”, fidelium, fidelis, fides, faith/belief/trust/confidence, so faithful, believing, or trustable, animae, anima, soul/spirit/life/air/breeze/breath, so spirit of the dead in this context. Those that believe but haven’t obtained heaven, basically.

Misruletide begins with a focus on the dead, and another use of the phase “fidelium animae” gives some interesting things to consider. A prayer has been commonly prayed for the “faithful departed” is as follows:

English:

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let the perpetual light shine upon them. And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Latin:

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine. Et lux perpetua luceat eis. Fidelium animae, per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace. Amen.

The last phrase, many of us are familiar with, at least in English, “rest in peace”. This has become the most common expression for those who have died, though if you read lore of the dead from many times past, this directive implies a desire for the Dead not to be unrestful, not to rise. The Dead don’t always rest peacefully, that the Gates aren’t always sealed, as we’ve been discussing.

Consider this phrase in Latin for a moment, “requiescant in pace”. “Pace” is “pax”, meaning peace or harmony. The sense is not in terms of no war, like we often see in in English, it’s the sense of being silent, not being dissident, not conflicting. “Pax!” was also used like we would use, “Be silent!”, or “Hush!”. “Requiescant” is “requiesco”, to rest or repose or sleep. Rest in peace, sleep peacefully and don’t cause me trouble. If you pardon my humour.

But “requiesco” is “re-“ and “quiesco”. “Re-“ means back, backwards, or again. Basically, to go back to a previous state. “Quiesco” means to rest, cease, sleep, repose, abstain, cease, stop, and similar ideas. It is from “quies” and “-sco”. “-sco” changes a verb to have a meaning of starting to or beginning to. “Quies” means to rest, repose, quiet, and figuratively, to dream. So, getting to the root, we have the same meaning as we started with, but the combination implies a bit more specific sense than we saw with the original meaning. “Quiesco” would be, to begin or start to rest, repose, or be quiet. “Requisco” would be, to return to a state of beginning or starting to rest, repose, or be quiet. But beginning to rest or repose would be to go to sleep, basically, and to begin to be quiet would be to stop making noise. So, returning to these would be to go back to sleep, or to become quiet again. A returning to a previous state of sleep or quietness.

This brings to mind discussions of Charon the ferryman being silent, and of the Dead being silent until Odysseus provides blood, and other stories relating to the silent dead being given speak though blood or other methods. Bran the Blessed’s cauldron returned the Dead to life, but they were silent, unable to speak. This is common in much of the lore, the Dead cannot speak, they are silent, unless voice is brought by some means. To be Dead is to be Silent. “Requiesco” implies a return to a state of sleep and silence, a return to death.

In modern Catholic context, the prayer implies those in Purgatory moving on quickly to Heaven, but the wording has other repercussions, and begs the question, as this prayer was introduced by St. Benedict in the sixth century and is believed to be older still, was the meaning always what it is now seen as? The formalized beliefs concerning Purgatory were much later, though the concept existed in deferent forms back before Benedict. It seems possible, though, that the implications of the prayer as that to keep the Dead at rest is not impossible.

“Requiem aeternam” is of note. “Requiem” is of course from requies, also, a “place of rest”. “Aeternam”, “arternus”, is translated as permanent, lasting, eternal, endless, immortal. Hence, eternal rest, or an eternal resting place. The second word comes from “-rnus”, making it an adjective, and “aetus”, meaning lifetime or age. The root meaning is more about a resting place that will last a lifetime than the modern sense of eternity.

So, my tongue and cheek transition:

A place to sleep until we all die, O Lord please give them, and let the uninterrupted light shine on them, and those of the Dead who are trustworthy, by the mercy of God, keep quiet and not bother us. Amen.

Misruletide is a time when the Dead can walk among the Quick, and when much of the feasts, fasts, celebrations, measures, folk traditions, and rituals are concerned with keeping them from doing so, or misdirecting them so they don’t succeed in whatever they seek to do.

And, I say:

Hail, oh Builder of Storms, Keeper of the Lost, Regent of the North, Ruler of the Time of Misrule, bringer of Change.

Hail, oh Cutter, you whose Knife cuts every Thread when the time comes, the Last Witness, Priestess of the Black Altar.

Hail, oh Guardian of the Gates of Life and Death, Darkling Twin, Shadow of the World, Keeper of the Book in which all is written and all is erased.

May the Time of Misrule bring its secrets and lore and surprises, may the storms bring the life of spring, may the Dead speak when speech is needed, be silent when it is not, ride forth when it is time, and rest in peace when all is accomplished.

Dance, oh Spirits of Misruletide, dance through the long dark nights, and may the lights of the new year find us when Candletide comes again.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine. Et lux perpetua luceat eis. Fidelium animae, per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace. Amen.

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

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Posted by on November 24, 2016 in muninnskiss

 

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The Year is Drawing Nigh, a Samhain poem

The Year is Drawing Nigh
A Samhain poem by Muninn’s Kiss
As darkness fall, the veil thin,
The year is drawing nigh.
Shadows lengthen, gather strength,
The year is drawing nigh.
The dead they stir, and look around,
The year is drawing nigh.
Tonight they walk, tonight they dine,
The year is drawing nigh.
The sinks down, she’s dying now,
The year is drawing nigh.
Beneath the hills, the dying sun,
The year is drawing nigh.
Hollow hills, they open wide,
The year is drawing nigh.
Faerie folk, the mighty dead,
The year is drawing nigh.
Samhain’s fires, burning bright,
The year is drawing nigh.
To dance around, in death’s embrace,
The year is drawing nigh.
Ancestors dead, some long gone,
The year is drawing nigh.
We tip a glass, we place a plate,
The year is drawing nigh.
Death stands up, tonight he reigns,
The year is drawing nigh.
In darkness strong, the dying year,
The year is drawing nigh.
The revelers grow deathly quiet,
The year is drawing nigh.
All knees bend and all tongue stilled,
The year is drawing nigh.
For Death takes all and all will come,
The year is drawing nigh.
The Gates of Death, they open wide,
The year is drawing nigh.
His face you meet, at Death’s great doors,
The year is drawing nigh.
A friend, a judge, a lover, a blade,
The year is drawing nigh.
His embrace is sweet, but deathly cold,
The year is drawing nigh.
In love he strips you, bone from bone,
The year is drawing nigh.
Nothing left, you pass beyond,
The year is drawing nigh.
The veil it parts, the doors swing wide,
The year is drawing nigh.
Your last strong breath, last orgasm,
The year is drawing nigh.
And through you go, to what’s beyond,
The year is drawing nigh.
But Death’s great doors and Life’s fair doors,
The year is drawing nigh.
What’s dead and gone, will be reborn,
The year is drawing nigh.
A new breath breathed, a new day dawns,
The year is drawing nigh.
Death to Life, he takes your hand,
The year is drawing nigh.
All is gone, but all in new,
The year is drawing nigh.
The new dawn’s sun, in the east,
The year is drawing nigh.
The cold it flees, the shadows hide,
The year is drawing nigh.
Dark Samhain’s night to new year’s light,
The year is drawing nigh.
What was dead has come again.
 
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Posted by on October 31, 2011 in muninnskiss

 

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Nine Acts of Witchcraft Become the Three Grimr, Part 1, Nourishment…

In 2009 and 2010, I wrote a series of ten posts on the first nine acts of witchcraft.  These posts were an analysis of the nine acts, the nine changes, G-d did at the beginning of Genesis which brought about the creation of the world.  I looked at them in sequential order as they occurred over the seven days in the myth.  I’d like to take another look at these acts by looking at them in a different way.

The nine acts are:

  1. Let there be light.  (link)
  2. Let there be a firmament.  (link)
  3. Let the waters under heaven be gathered.  (link)
  4. Let the earth put forth.  (link)
  5. Let there be lights in the firmament.  (link)
  6. Let the waters swarm and let fowl fly.  (link)
  7. Let the earth bring forth the living creature.  (part 1) (part 2)
  8. Let us make man in our image.  (link)
  9. And he rested.  (link)

People usually focus on there being seven days, but few ever mention that there are nine acts.  The number nine doesn’t occur often in Hebrew texts and thoughts compared to other numbers, but is is very common in Norse and Germanic myth.  Among many other occurances of the number, there are nine worlds, Odin hung on the Tree, a sacrifice by himself to himself, for nine days, and nine of the gods survive Ragnarok.  Also, in Greek myth, there are nine muses.  In Robert Cochrane’s letters, you circle the alter three time three (9) times for the Maid, three times six (18 which is 9 time 2) times for the Mother, and three times nine (36) times for the Hag.  Also, he indicates nine Rites or Knots of the year during which the male and female clans would come together.

But nine is always related to three in myth, as is six.  Six is three sets of twins, and nine three sets of three.  When you look at the nine acts as groups of three chronologically, not much emerges.  In the first trinity, we see separation, separation, coming together.  In the second, we see three things coming forth.  In the third, we coming forth, making, resting.  While these sets are interesting and shouldn’t be ignored, they don’t form any patterns that are common for all three sets.  But if we group them by taking each one in the chronological grouping and put them with each in the next set and so far, some interesting details emerge.

Let there be light.  Let the earth put forth.  Let the earth bring forth living creatures.

Working backwards, we see the the earth bringing the living creature, and the earth putting forth plants.  The connection here between the two is easy to see.  The earth brings forth both.  The interesting thing is there are two words here.  Let the earth put forth uses dasha (דָּשָׁא), but when the earth obeys, it brings forth, yatsa’ (יָצָא).  Dasha is to sprout, to grow green.  Yatsa’ is to put forth, to depart or cause to depart.  So it sprouts, then grows up, out, away from the ground.  But G-d tells the land to bring forth, yatsa’, the living creature.  And all the living things of the earth (not of the water or the air) are brought forth, pushed out of the ground.  And then, it says, G-d makes, ‘asah (עָשָׂה), fashions all of them.  So they come forth, then are formed.

But back to the first triune, the first of the Grimr.  The first two are easily connected, the earth bringing forth.  Out of the earth they come.  But how does that connect to the first?  Let there be light.  To see the connection, we must understand nature and cycles.  Let’s start with the creatures.  To begin with, they only eat plants.  Only later do some eat other creatures.  Plants.  So animals, the third part, eat plants, the second part.  So what do plants live on?  If animals get their energy from plants, where do plants get their energy?  Light.  Ah ha, light!  The first part.  So light feeds the plants and plants feed the animals.  Now this triune starts to make sense and come together.

But there’s another element here.  The plants and animals come out of the earth, but where does the light come out of?  Let’s look back a bit:

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2 Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.
3 And God said: ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light. 

And afterwards:

3 And God said: ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light.
4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.

So, before light, there was the earth, darkness, waters, and the spirit of G-d (The four elements.  Earth and water.  The spirit is wind, air.  The darkness is black fire, see The earth was (tohu va-vohu), chaos and void…)  And it’s the darkness that the light is intermingled with, not the rest.  So it would seem that the light came out of the darkness, just as the plants and animals came out of the earth.  There is a verse somewhere in the Zohar that says that light is brightest that comes out of the darkness.  The black fire of inspiration brings forth light, illumination, Truth.

So the darkness, the fire, brings forth light, and the earth brings forth plants, then animals.  The light nourishes the plants.  The plants nourish the animals.  The three are a cycle, the three become one.  On the first day.  On the third day.  On the sixth day.  The first act.  The fourth act.  The seventh act.

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2011 in muninnskiss

 

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Odin: The True God of All Witches

“You’re walking on gallows ground, and there’s a rope around your neck and a raven-bird on each shoulder waiting for your eyes, and the gallows tree has deep roots, for it stretches from heaven to hell, and our world is only the branch from which the rope is swinging.”
~American Gods, Neil Gaiman

Viking stone, 600’s AD,
from Gotland, Sweden.
Image from  History for Kids.

I’ve noticed that modern followers seem to sanitize Odin.  They make him into a benevolent loving god.  They make him fluffy and safe.  But Odin was Hangi (Hanged One), Hangaguð (God of the Hanged), and Hagvirkr (Lord of the Hanged) not just because he hung from the Tree for nine days, but also because the sacrifice to him was to hang someone on a tree.  This wasn’t the mystical experience people seem to like today of going out and hanging yourself upside down to commune with Odin.  They would tie the unwilling sacrifice to a tree, stab them in the side so the bled out, and leave them for the ravens and crows to eat.  To gain favour from Odin.

Odin wasn’t a loving god, though he did usually take care of his own.  He was generally more concerned with preparing for Ragnarök than the welfare of the common person.  He was a god of warriors at war, out fighting, while Thor was a god of farmers, fighting to defend their land and their home.  You prayed to Thor for your crops, for food, for provision, never to Odin.  And even the warrior had to worry about Odin.  If you were a good warrior and Odin thought you would be good in Ragnarök, he would take you in the middle of battle, even if it meant your people, who also prayed to Odin for victory, might lose.  Odin wasn’t much easier to trust than his blood brother, and in many ways Twin, Loki.  But in battle, you prayed to Odin.  Before battle or for thanks for surviving, you sacrificed to Odin.  You had no choice.

Muninn and Huginn.
The eye represents Odin
sitting in  Hlidskjalf on
his throne where he can
see all that passes in
the world.
Image from Alpha Stamps.

Odin is a god of wisdom and knowledge, but also of war and death.  He is a dark god, not the benevelent old man many portray him as today.  There’s a reason he’s accompanied by wolves and ravens, both of which feed on the dead after battles.  The dead are his, well, half of them.

In many Germanic and Scandinavian areas, Odin/Woden was seen as the Lord of the Wild Hunt, or as it was sometimes called, Odin’s Hunt.  The Wild Hunt is a common element in much of Europe and even in the Americas.  The Huntsman comes riding on the Winter Solstice, the Longest Night, the Darkest Night, for Odin truly is the Winter King.  If you hear the horn, you either join the Hunt (forever or the night, depending on the story, often depending on if you cursed the Hunt or joined it willingly) or you are hunted down by it and torn limb for limb.  In much of the British Isles, you find the Wild Hunt associated with the Fey.  In the Old West in the United States, there was the story of the ghost riders, forever condemned to chance the devil’s herd across the skies, immortalized in the song Ghost Riders in the Sky.  There’s a similar story in India of Shiva, King of Ghosts astride a bull with a host of ghosts accompanying him.  Regardless of the story, the Wild Hunt was greatly feared, and the Huntsman especially.  Odin as Huntsman is terrifying indeed.

Odin leads the Wild Hunt.
Image from Orkneyjar.

In his Basic Structure of the Craft, Robert Cochrane identifies Woden with Tettens, the Wind God who is Lucet’s Twin:

In the North lies the Castle of Weeping, the ruler thereof is named Tettens, our Hermes or Woden. He is the second twin, the waning sun, Lord over mysticism, magic, power and death, the Baleful destroyer. The God of War, of Justice, King of Kings, since all pay their homage to Him. Ruler of the Winds, the Windyat. Cain imprisoned in the Moon, ever desiring Earth. He is visualized as a tall dark man, shadowy, cold and deadly. Unpredictable, yet capable of great nobility, since he represents Truth. He is the God of magicians and witches, who knows all sorcery. Lord of the North, dark, unpredictable, the true God of all witches and magicians if they are working at any decent level at all. A cold wind surrounds Him, age and time so ancient that it is beyond belief flows from Him. Dark is His shadow, and he bears a branch of the sorrowing alder, and walks with the aid of a blackthorn stick. Sorrow is printed upon His face, yet also joy. He guards, as a rider upon an eight-legged horse, the approaches to the Castle of Night. He is also the Champion of the glass bridge after the Silver Forest. Cold is tho air as he passes by. Some say tall and dark, I say small and dark, speaking in a faint voice which is as clear as ice. ~Robert Cochrane’s third letter to Norman Gills

Storm’s version of Arddhu
entitled The Royal Darkness.
Image from  Faerywolf.

He is the “true god of all witches” and the last face you see at the Gates of Death (Arddhu?).  Are you willing to face him?  He is terrible, he is to be feared, he is unpredictable, but all come before him and “every knee shall bow.”

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2011 in muninnskiss

 

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Snows of Winter, Heat of Summer

Image from SodaHead

Snows of Winter, Heat of Summer
By Muninn’s Kiss

Snows of Winter, heat of Summer,
Two times, two worlds.
The Twins, they dance.

Winter King, in darkness reigns,
Death and darkness, ice and cold.
A crown of thorns upon his head,
Clothed in shadows, hidden light.
Magic dark and waning sun.
Tettens, Woden, Hermes stalks,
From the Castle of Weeping comes.

Summer King in brightness reigns,
Life, rebirth, light, and heat.
Winged crown, light rebounds,
Clothed in fire, born in light.
The sun it rises, warms the land.
A Child is born to warm our hearts.
Lucet, Lucifer, Morning Star,
Riding forth on wings of the morning.

The Twins, they dance,
The passing year.
Light, then dark, then light again.
Two Kings reign, both to die,
Two grooms for oh blessed Night.
Life and Death, Light and Dark,
Ever changing, ever the same.
Snows of Winter melt and thaw.
Heat of Summer takes their place.
Out of darkness shines the brightest light.

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2011 in muninnskiss

 

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