1930:  Dion Fortune wrote about nonhuman persons and vampires in human bodies in Psychic Self-Defense .

1967:  The Church of All Worlds was established.

1972(ca.):  Elf Queen‘s Daughters was founded.

1972:  Stephen Kaplan opened the Vampire Research Centre.

1974:  Dungeons & Dragons RPG was first released.

1975:  Elf Queen’s Daughters was renamed Silver Elves.

1976:  Brad Steiger’s Gods of Aquarius referred to aliens on earth as “star people.”

1976:  Anne Rice began to publish her enormously successful vampire novels.

1979:  Silver Elves renamed Silvan or Sylvan Elves, began to publish the zine, Magical Elven Love Letters .

1980s:  Mailing lists were used to keep contact between Elven groups.

1984:  Elfquest RPG was released.

1986:  The revised version of Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon [1979] included a description of Elven-identifying people.

1990:  The Elfinkind Digest listserv was established and included the possible first use of the term “Otherkin.”

1990s:  Usenet groups became used for discussions of various other-than-human identities, including vampires, animals, dragons, elves.

1991-1995:  A series of table-top role-playing games involving supernatural identities was released by White Wolf.

1997:  Doreen Virtue began to publish books on incarnated beings.

1999:  Several now-defunct forums were founded and online texts for Otherkin, Vampires, and Therianthropes were written and distributed.

2006:  Danielle Kirby published the first scholarly work on Otherkin, “Alternative Worlds: Metaphysical Questing and Virtual Community amongst the Otherkin.”

2007:  Lupa published A Field Guide to Otherkin, an important resource for those within and outside the community.

2012:  Orion Scribner wrote a detailed history of the development of the Otherkin movement.


The term “Otherkin” refers to the identity and the identity-group of individuals who believe themselves to be, to some degree, non or other-than human, despite having a human appearance. As described by Lupa, the author of A Fieldguide to Otherkin and a self-professed Otherkin, this is a label for “anyone who relates internally to a nonhuman species either through soul, mind, body or energetic resonance” (2007:26). Some of the most common Otherkin species could divide into categories, for example:

•  Therianthropes (animal-people) including living animal species; extinct animals; mythical animals, like dragons; hybrids, like mermaids: and shapeshifters, such as werewolves.

•  Fantastic beings like elves, fairies, elementals (nature spirits), angels and demons.

•  Vampires of either the energy-drinking or blood-drinking variety.

•  Extraterrestrials, usually types of beneficent alien species that have come to Earth rather than the typical “greys.”

Because the most frequent non-human identities of Otherkin are supernatural creatures that tend to draw liberally from sources both mythical and fictional, the religious context of Otherkin can be seen variably as New Age, Pagan, esoteric, or “popular occulture” (Partridge 2004); a form of alternative spirituality; or, as Adam Possamai has claimed, “hyper-real religion” (2012). However, Otherkin hold a heterogeneous array of beliefs, and to be Otherkin does not require the keeping of any doctrinal beliefs, practices, or affiliations. Further, as a group that exists purely online, issues of authenticity, anonymity, and authorship compromise the collating of data and information. Consequently, it is difficult to provide an overview of the basic tenets of such an eclectic crowd, but themes and popular ideas can be identified and have come to represent the term at large. It is the same feature of the Otherkin that makes them tricky to study as makes them what they are. As Danielle Kirby states, they are a group that is “situated upon the nexus of metaphysical inquiry, fantasy narrative, digital communications, and popular culture” (2013:4).

The possibilities and repercussions of human entanglement with supernatural beings has long fascinated Westerners, and a general interest in other-than-humanness has been an ever-present motif of our entertainment media. The twentieth century,especially with the advent of cinema-going and, later, television, saw the manifestation of this curiosity, fear, even desire in novels, plays, films, and television programs of the horror, fantasy, and science fiction genres. These genres and their fandomsexperienced significant expansion and development in the 1960s and 1970s, a period characterised by Colin Campbell by the rise of the “cultic milieu” (1972). Alongside the growing engagement with fantastic fiction was the interest in theorising alternate realities, experimenting with altered states of consciousness, and modes of spiritual enlightenment, with a consequential questioning of the boundaries of the real and the imaginary. A telling moment of confluence can be seen in the advent of Gnosticon, the Gnostic Aquarian Convention of 1971, which was modelled on the science fiction conventions that have their origins in the 1930s. The following year, Oberon Zell of the Church of All Worlds, a religion based on a science-fiction novel, would win a prize for his costume at the World Science Fiction Convention (Cusack 2010:67). As part of this zeitgeist, particular movements consolidated beliefs in the existence of supernatural creatures beyond their fictional bounds, and legitimated the claim that one could identify as a supernatural entity, either instead of or as well as being a human being. Though these movements often have their own independent histories (some of which are explored in depth elsewhere (see Laycock 2009; Robertson 2013; Kirby 2013), even a cursory glance at a selection of them indicates the strong influences of the counterculture on their development and subsequent place in the contemporary Otherkin community.

The cultic milieu described by Campbell was comprised of currents of unorthodox, deviant, and mystical beliefs and practices, taken up in defiance of the perceived imposition of both secularisation and mainstream religion. In certain corners of this milieu, groups took spiritual inspiration from Eastern traditions, folklore, esotericism, mysticism, and epistemologies of wellness, consciousness, and self-actualisation drawn from schools like Jungian psychoanalysis. The intermingling of these “occultic” ideas with media and text products from popular culture produces what Christopher Partridge has called “popular occulture,” an important resource for Western re-enchantment (2004). This emergent approach is well-illustrated by the ‘Tolkien Spirituality’ professed by Pagan groups like the Elf Queen’s Daughters, the Silvan Elves, and the Silver Elves, of 1970s America (Davidsen 2012). These practitioners took their beliefs from the author’s Legendarium, and, according to Margot Adler in 1986, would “ feel themselves to be the genetic and spiritual descendants of all the gentle folks through the ages whose cultures have been obliterated, oppressed, and absorbed” (1997:522). That is, they identified as Elven.

People have been accused of being otherworldly beings infiltrating human society for unseemly purposes, either as changelings, fairies, monsters, shapeshifters, or vampires, for many centuries. Western esotericist Dion Fortune wrote in 1930 of the unfortunate nature of those persons who resulted from the abnormal coupling of a human and a supernatural force and who resultantly remain “aliens in a strange land,” isolated, dissatisfied, and restless (2001:72). Such nonhuman beings are, for Fortune, inherently dangerous, especially those she describes as psychic vampires, an energy-draining rather than blood-drinking type of ‘vacuum of vitality’ (2001:42-50). Yet, alongside the spiritualisation of other-than-human identities in other corners, the 1960s and 1970s witnessed growing vampire fandoms formed around media like the television show Dark Shadows (1966-1971) and the Vampire Chronicles of Anne Rice (1976-2014). In combination with the nascent goth subculture, individuals who felt an affinity with the aesthetics and mythology of these sinister, seductive, and sanguine race of immortals came forward as Vampires themselves (Keyworth 2002:355; Laycock 2009:42-45). The first American “Vampire Research Centre” was founded in 1972, by paranormal investigator Stephen Kaplan to study the emergence of this supernatural identity group (Laycock 2009:65).

Around the turn of the century, the theosophic movements flourishing in America and Europe took an especial interest in contacting not just beings from the next world, but interstellar persons, to learn life’s higher truths. From the post-World War II period onwards, this sacralisation of the extraterrestrial would become a key aspect of New Age thinking (Zeller 2010:37-38). Forexample, Brad Steiger’s Gods of Aquarius (1976) argued that “star people,” aliens that either possess or were born into human bodies, (Ruth Montgomery would call the former “walk-ins” in her 1979 book Strangers Among Us ) are a type of supernatural being that live beside regular people on Earth, both sacralising and normalising extraterrestrial identities. The founders of UFOlogical New Religious Movements, like Herff Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles of Heaven’s Gate, would often recast familiar religious characters like Jesus, or themselves, as aliens that have been sent to this planet to help humankind (Zeller 2010:42-46). Over the past twenty years, Doreen Virtue (2007) has distinguished numerous categories of benevolent otherworldly beings, including “starseeds,” “incarnate angels,” “lightworkers,” and various forms of “elementals” (nature spirits), contributing to the continuing popularity of this idea in metaphysical circles. In summary, the counterculture of the 1970s fostered an environment wherein other-than-human identities, historically associated with “evils,” such as the Devil, demonic possession, mental illness or other pathologies, could be regarded as positive and beneficial ways of being.

“It has already been noted that popular occulture, and especially the immersive worlds and mythologies generated by the sacralisation of science fiction and fantasy works, has been formative for the Otherkin. Not only have fandoms and conventions provided the model for engaging with fictional texts as resources for community-building, for expanding belief structures, and for giving credence to the existence of supernatural, non-human species, they have promoted important techniques of identity play. This is illustrated well by role-playing games (RPGs) like the classic table-top fantasy-adventure game Dungeons & Dragons (1974-present) wherein players could act out the role of a nonhuman race like an elf, gnome, or halfling and wield magical powers. Because of the central importance of magic and supernatural identities, D&D has been attributed occult significance both by enamoured players and concerned religious conservatives (Laycock 2015:165-69). Later iterations of the D&D RPG model like Elfquest (1984), developed from the popular eponymous comic series, and White Wolf’s Vampire: The Masquerade (1991), Werewolf: The Apocalypse (1992), and Changeling: The Dreaming (1995) increased role-play opportunities for those interesting in other mythical characters and stories. The enormous success of massive multi-player online fantasy games like World of Warcraft prove the ongoing appeal of this genre. It is not uncommon for Otherkin to recount playing these games as integral to their discovery of the Otherkin community and their own non-human identity (Laycock 2012:76-78).”

Only in the age of the Internet would these independent, though sometimes overlapping, identity-groups gather under the umbrella term “Otherkin.” While the Pagan community provided some spaces for the articulation of non-human identity, the World Wide Web could link people of disparate geographic locations, cultural backgrounds, and religious traditions like never before. In its nascence, the net could offer little more than listservs to its users, but this was an essential component to the founding of the online Otherkin community. Usenet, an early precursor to bulletin board systems, fostered discussion groups like alt.pagan, alt.horror.werewolves, and alt.culture.vampyres. Here people congregated to exchange ideas on having non-human identities alongside a spate of fandom and magic related topics of conversation and inquiry in the opening years of the 1990s. Scribner has traced the origin of the term “Otherkin” to a mailing list called Elfinkind Digest that branched off from alt.pagan in 1990 (Laycock 2012:25). Alternative terms were proposed and used in various online groups, such as “weres” for animal-human persons, “faeborn” for fairy persons, and “vampire” for modern vampires. Though initially “otherkin” was used only for elf-identifying persons, it would come to describe other-than-human persons more broadly (Scribner 2012:25-47). As one Otherkin recalls (quoted in Laycock 2012:72): “we were ‘sort of’ related to each other but not exactly the same and we were ‘sort of’ related to humans, by virtue of inhabiting human bodies, but definitely not human in our thought patterns and spiritual beliefs. Otherkin evolved as a cultural shorthand term.”

With the new millennium, more sophisticated platforms for communication were being offered by the Internet and taken up by Otherkin. Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) documents had been, and still remain, significant resources for newcomers and the freshly “awakened” as they outlined what the Otherkin (or Vampire, or Therianthrope etc.) community had designated “the basics” of having an other-than-human identity. With increasingly user-friendly, democratic, and affective multi-user spaces like forums, more voices are being added to the debate over what constitutes such tenets. FAQs, glossaries, and pedagogical guides are thus continuously re-written, updated, and formulated based upon the leading definitions of relevant terms in the community. Many-to-many formats of contact also enhanced opportunities to organise physical meet-ups for those in adjacent areas, bringing the communal aspect into the nonvirtual world. Today, the internet supplies multitudinous and elaborate systems for the sharing of content and personal expression. Comics, artworks, You Tube videos, and newsletters have all been popular outlets for fun and creative participation in the Otherkin movement. Social networks like tumblr, Facebook, and reddit are avidly employed to expand discussion and research, as well as to enunciate other-than-human identities to audiences both private and public.

The history of the Otherkin movement to date, and especially as it has manifested online, has been the subject of several researchprojects undertaken by members of those communities. Lupa’s Fieldguide to Otherkin (2007) was a semi-academic attempt by an insider to bring together primary sources in the form of hir own experience and participation in the community, surveys and interviews with Otherkin, and research coupled with analysis to provide an introductory text for those new to the movement. The ongoing project of Otherkin artist and author Orion Scribner, The Otherkin Timeline: The Recent History of Elfin, Fae, and Animal People (2012-) aims to chart the pre-millennium events that led to the establishment of an online community for non-human identifying people, recording the opening and closures of important forums, the releasing of notable documents, and updated regularly to include the recent broadcasting and publication of Otherkin-related media. Archives (like darkfang.net) and wikis (for example, anotherwiki.org) similarly intend to retain a record of the development of the movement in the past, in the present, and in the continuing process of its growth and change.


As already stated, there are no core beliefs that Otherkin must hold except for the idea that they somehow identify as an other-than-human. Spiritual explanations for these non-traditional identities are quite common within the Otherkin community, but they are far from singular. They may include the claims that one was a mythical creature in a past life and has retained memories, or that the soul of a mythical creature has reincarnated in their human body. Some prefer to couch their Otherkinness in scientific or psychological terms, seeing it as a neurological tic or a mentally constructed coping mechanism, for example. Others take a revisionist-historical approach, and regard their genes as mixed with the DNA of cryptozoological or extinct and supposedly legendary species. However, the majority of Otherkin appear to follow a line of magical thinking that problematizes the regular epistemological assumptions of Western society regarding reality, truth, and belief as entirely subjective and yet actively powerful. With no authoritative body or text, Otherkin draw on a varied range of materials from religion, popular culture, fiction, and individual insights to learn about and articulate their “true self.” In doing so, it is the consequent “personal mythology” (Laycock 2012) that acts as the primary proof of their other-than-human identity and which ultimately relies upon “unverified personal gnosis,” beliefs reached and legitimated by introspection.

The term “awakening” is often used to describe the moment of realisation that an Otherkin has when they recognise their nonhuman self. Though many believe they were “born that way,” it may take some time before uncovering the nature of their other-than-human identity. The notion of “awakening” is tied to the associated state of “sleeping” (a phase of obliviousness prior to enlightenment that most of the world is stuck in), an idea with Buddhist, Jungian, and western esoteric overtones, also used in the influential White Wolf RPG Mage: The Ascension (anotherwiki.org/wiki/Awakening). To awaken, then, does not only mean that the truth about oneself is revealed, but often that cosmic truths are also unveiled. Vampire spokesperson Michelle Belanger echoes this sentiment, saying: “ Awakening is a process of expanded awareness … in which we are transformed from dross to spiritual gold … becoming more than the little self of this lifetime, grasping the totality of who we were and who we are to be—our Essential Self” (2000: IV). Awakening can happen in many ways, such as a triggering dream or message received during a state of meditation, but many Otherkin information sites directed to newcomers to the community recommend taking time to research and “soul-search” in order to better understand an affinity felt with an other-than-human species or feeling. Because such self-discovery can take time, and Otherkin may experience false starts, or find they identify as multiple kinds of beings, or periodically learn new things about their nonhuman self, Lupa recommends regarding awakening as “an ongoing process” (2007:32).

An early Frequently Asked Questions document for Otherkin put together by members of the community suggested that those who are “ open minded, into metaphysics, into magic/energetics, into role-playing, pagan, wiccan, have imagination, read, watch tv, etc [sic]” are more “likely” to become awakened (quoted in Crisses et al. 2000). Fiction and entertainment media can play a pivotal role in an Otherkin’s awakening or discovery of the details of their nonhuman identity, by providing a visual representation, vocabulary, and mythology or history that helps in articulating their characteristics. For example, Jarandhel, an Otherkin with memories of past-lives as an elf, dragon, and a stag-human shapeshifter, speaks of how the alien and magical humanoids of various science fiction and fantasy worlds have helped him understand his elven self: “ I resonate strongly with the Minbari of Babylon 5 , with the Taelons of Earth: Final Conflict, and with the Tayledras of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series. All three of these groups are fictional, and I do not believe that I was or am any of them. But each of them has qualities that remind me of my elven life” (Jarandhel 2012). Similarly, an Otherkin can feel an affinity with the lore of specific cultures and religions. If one identifies as fae, for example, this could mean the ancient and aristocratic Celtic sídhe or Tuatha Dé Danann, the more sneaky and seductive fairies of medieval legend, the diminutive and often cheeky pixies that were popular in the Victorian era, a combination of these fairy types, or an entirely different filiation, depending on the individual.

An Otherkin may feel that they, literally, embody aspects associated with the physiology of their non-human self. So, a vampire-kin may have low tolerance for silver or a fairy-kin an allergy to iron, a mermaid-kin may be an excellent swimmer and an elf-kin may have notably pointed ears. Some Otherkin attest to having phantom limb syndrome: the phenomenological experience of an absent body part. In the case of Otherkin, the phantom limb is a usually one ascribed to the physique of their nonhuman side, for example, a Therianthrope who identifies as an eagle in a human body may feel, at specific times during a “shift” or all the time, the sensation of having wings, talons, or a beak, despite knowing they are not physically present. Metaphysical explanations for this include a sensitivity towards the astral, etheric, or energetic shape of the nonhuman soul, or having a memory of another body from a past life (Lupa 2007:42-3). This can contribute to discomfort in one’s corporeality and appearance, with some Otherkin describing this in pathological terms as body dysmorphia or dysphoria. The words “transspecies” or “transspirit” are occasionally used to label this experience, and, as this Otherkin writer does, liken it to that of transgendered persons: “Transgendered people feel they were born into a body of the wrong gender. Trans-spirited otherkin usually feel they were born into (or are residing within) a body of the wrong species” (Crisses et al. 2000).

Many of the beliefs affiliated with being Otherkin are occultural, and so it is apposite that many Otherkin describe themselves as following occultic schools of thought, with the majority coming under the neo/pagan label (Lupa 2007:211). One’s kintype and their religion may be heavily intertwined. For example, a wolf Therianthrope may practice shamanism and find it a useful way to interact with and learn about their animal side, while a Celtic elf Otherkin may be more attracted to Druidry, or a Vampire to a left-hand path form of esotericism that embraces the “dark side.” Otherkin may also hold syncretic beliefs in order to accommodate into a spiritual worldview the existence of a non-human self in a human body, classifying themselves as Christian for example, but with a belief in reincarnation. Some religions and religious groups have formed around other-than-human identities, such as the Temple of the Vampire or Michelle Belanger’s House Kheperu (Laycock 2009:111-17). But like most aspects of the Otherkin community, religious views are diverse, fluid, and processual; and though metaphysical beliefs are common, they are not essential to an Otherkin identity.


As a group, the Otherkin are loosely-affiliated, acephalous, and eschew doctrine; thus they have little in the way organisation and have very few formal authority structures (Kirby 2013:40). It does not constitute a religion, but metaphysical terminology and a spiritual worldview is typically used to parse Otherkin identities, making the group, in large part, a religious movement. Though real-life gatherings are extremely rare, the online community provides a truly communal aspect in that it is entirely responsible for the production and dissemination of the vocabulary, central ideas, texts and imagery of the movement. The codifying of group-specific jargon, for example, using terms like “Kin,” “awakening,” “shift,” etc., provides a unifying language for their shared experiences. The design and adoption of a symbol such as the heptagram, a seven-pointed star often referred to as an Elven or Fairy Star (pictured), is another element that can encourage group cohesion.

The community uses a number of digital platforms to communicate, debate, and generate content, with common examples being forums, tumblr accounts, Facebook groups, and personal web pages, all with varying degrees of inclusivity and privacy. Like any online community, this means that the systems of membership, censorship, and rule-enforcement that social media platforms enable tend to maintain group harmony by establishing insider/outsider distinctions and by regulating the themes and approaches of discussions. Moderators, whether individuals or teams, will decide these boundaries in accordance with their own interests and the purpose of the website. Such dynamics of control may be implicit rather than explicit, for example, through a collective process of “othering,” but nonetheless effect on the success of certain ideas and interpretations in the community at large (Getzler 2013; Robertson 2014). But, as the academy, the mainstream media, and the general public become increasingly exposed to Otherkin ideas, the Otherkin are, more than ever before, taking efforts to consolidate and guard their group identity and reputation, a potential source of tensions discussed in the next section.


The predominant challenge faced by the Otherkin community can be categorised as one of authenticity. Individuals from inside and outside of the community have contested the validity of the beliefs of singular Otherkin and the movement generally, on a number of grounds. Otherkin have been the subject of several pieces in the Western media that, despite the level of acceptance aimed at by the author or journalist, invariably provoke responses of umbrage, incredulity, and revilement from the audience. Joseph Laycock has suggested that such anger from detractors “seems to be inspired not by the deviant claims of the Otherkin but by the fact that they are able to find support for their beliefs and present a potential threat…when a community adopts a deviant belief system, substantially more effort is required to subjugate its worldview” (2012:83). Because of the predilection for outsiders to perceive the Otherkin phenomenon as an example of immaturity or insanity, Otherkin like Jarandhel advise others to “steer clear of the media” (2012, emphasis in the original), and Lupa states “keep in mind that non ‘kin often see us as complete lunatics … the concept of not being human is relegated to the psychiatric ward” (2007:253).

The questioning of which beliefs are acceptable, believable, and valid comes from within the Otherkin community as well. Sources for understanding an other-than-human being do not only come from traditional wisdom, but from innovations in popular culture, especially via influential films, television shows, novels, and games of the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres (television’s True Blood and Being Human are prime examples). Therefore, any text can become a reference for understanding an Otherkin identity. However, the degree of credibility commonly afforded to these texts is markedly different depending on their historicity and origin. For example, though rare, there are Otherkin who identify as plants, machines, and characters explicitly from works of contemporary fiction, including supposedly “low brow” products like video games, comic books, and cartoons. Kirby notes that contemporary source material is generally judged as “silly and infantile” (2013:45) and those who find it spiritually edifying are suspect. Members who are considered young, and those with a supposedly faddish or fannish interest in related media rather than a sincere engagement with other-than-human being, are likewise subject to scrutiny. This may create rifts within the community and can result in accusations that insincere infiltrators (such as “trolls,” “fakes,” or “try-hards” are diluting the good intentions of the movement. Subsequently, those with more fringe ideas or identities can find themselves isolated from the core community (Getzler 2013; Robertson 2014).

Finally, the suggestion that the condition of being Otherkin is inauthentic because it is not just “not real” but actually a justification for a serious underlying psychopathology, is a criticism frequently levelled at those with non-human identities, as Lupa has stated. The medical community acknowledges a range of personality disorders and delusional misidentification syndromes, such as clinical lycanthropy, the mental and behavioural state of believing one is a wolf (Blom 2014), that present symptoms that may be seen as similar to descriptions of Otherkin phenomenology. Indeed, there are those within the community who believe their otherness to have a psychological or neurological cause, and also those who are comfortable with the notion that they possess multiple identities in a way not dissimilar to that which would be regarded in traditional medicine as being indicative of a mental illness. However, there is very little interest in, and in fact much protest against, finding a medical “cure” for being Otherkin, or for including it in the psychiatric literature as a personality disorder.

* The timeline consists of select events discussed in this profile that have contributed toward the history of the Otherkin movement, but it is far from comprehensive. The author would recommend the meticulously researched Otherkin Timeline by Orion Scribner (2012) for a more detailed look at the historical development of this group.

** Images:
Founder/Group History Section
Image #1: Banner of the Otherkin Alliance forum by Myenia (first paragraph)
Image #2: Elves from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film trilogy (third paragraph)
Image #3  British sanguinarian (blood-drinking) Vampire, Julia Caples (fourth paragraph)
Image #4: Jack Chick tract excerpt from ‘Dark Dungeons’ (1984) (seventh paragraph)
Image #5: Book cover of Lupa’s Fieldguide to Otherkin (final paragraph)
Doctrines/Beliefs Section
Image #6: Cover art for Doreen Virtue’s Earth Angels (first paragraph)
Image #7: FAE magazine cover (third paragraph)
Image #8: Body modifications to look other-than-human (fourth paragraph)
Organization/Leadership Section
Image #9: Stylised Otherkin symbol, the heptagram or Elven Star, attributed to Sarah Mitchell
Issues/Challenges Section
Image #10: Leopard Therian Shroud from the documentary ‘I Think I’m an Animal’ (2013) (first paragraph)
Image #11: Otherkin confession from Whisper.com (third paragraph)


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Venetia Robertson

Post Date:
5 September 2015



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