Zar

Mya

New member
Hello All,

I just read this article on Zar :

egyptian_zar_belly_dance_costumes_bellydance_dvds

I thought it was an interesting insight into the culture. My question then is, is it kind of disrespectful for bellydancers in performing to imitate some of the things described there? When I was studying drum rhythms with Jenna's Heartbeat of Bellydance dvd, Raquy was saying that to a zar rhythm you could toss your head or do "any trance-like movements".

Now i know the article says that the middle and upper class of Egypt don't really ascribe to zar so it mightn't actually matter much to them, but what do you think?

Where i'm from in Trinidad there's alot of rich cultural history and there's certainly some of it that my family doesn't ascribe to, but my mother always says "don't interfere in things you don't know about". For example, obeah - which has its roots in african mysticism but tends to have alot of negative connotations. My mother doesn't believe in obeah, but she wouldn't mess with it either - it's like a kind of respect in a way for what could be.

Does anyone feel the same way about Zar? Or am i just silly and superstitous?
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Zarr

Dear Mya,
I was the Zarr ritualist in a dance company that I used to belong to many moons ago. It really is a trance ritual and it works....

Hello All,

I just read this article on Zar :

egyptian_zar_belly_dance_costumes_bellydance_dvds

I thought it was an interesting insight into the culture. My question then is, is it kind of disrespectful for bellydancers in performing to imitate some of the things described there? When I was studying drum rhythms with Jenna's Heartbeat of Bellydance dvd, Raquy was saying that to a zar rhythm you could toss your head or do "any trance-like movements".
NO. it is not disrespectful. In fact, I have video of both Lucy and Heyertum doing Zarr type movements to Ayoub rhythm, in belly dance costume. (In fact, Heyertum is on the verge of losing part of her's).

Now i know the article says that the middle and upper class of Egypt don't really ascribe to zar so it mightn't actually matter much to them, but what do you think?
Can I get back to you on this and tell you alter about my freind's uncle in Alexandria, who happens to be a Coptic priest, who has performed Zarr rituals?

Where i'm from in Trinidad there's alot of rich cultural history and there's certainly some of it that my family doesn't ascribe to, but my mother always says "don't interfere in things you don't know about". For example, obeah - which has its roots in african mysticism but tends to have alot of negative connotations. My mother doesn't believe in obeah, but she wouldn't mess with it either - it's like a kind of respect in a way for what could be.
When I get back here later, I will try to tell you what a people, have told me about Zarr ritual, both dancers and on-dancers. I will also try to relate my own experiences with Zarr since I got really, and I mean REALLY into it when I was much younger dancer. Nothing scary ever happened.

Does anyone feel the same way about Zar? Or am i just silly and superstitous?
I think that there is nothing silly or superstitious about being careful about other people's rituals and rites.

Regards,
A'isha
 

Tarik Sultan

New member
Hello All,

I just read this article on Zar :

egyptian_zar_belly_dance_costumes_bellydance_dvds

I thought it was an interesting insight into the culture. My question then is, is it kind of disrespectful for bellydancers in performing to imitate some of the things described there? When I was studying drum rhythms with Jenna's Heartbeat of Bellydance dvd, Raquy was saying that to a zar rhythm you could toss your head or do "any trance-like movements".

Now i know the article says that the middle and upper class of Egypt don't really ascribe to zar so it mightn't actually matter much to them, but what do you think?

Where i'm from in Trinidad there's alot of rich cultural history and there's certainly some of it that my family doesn't ascribe to, but my mother always says "don't interfere in things you don't know about". For example, obeah - which has its roots in african mysticism but tends to have alot of negative connotations. My mother doesn't believe in obeah, but she wouldn't mess with it either - it's like a kind of respect in a way for what could be.

Does anyone feel the same way about Zar? Or am i just silly and superstitous?
Just read the article. Its not really as simple as the article leads to believe. Its a whole religious system, its not a dance or a "ritual" but rather, rituals and ceremonies are part of the larger system. Its similar to our traditional systems in the Caribbean like Santeria, or Chango Baptist in Trinidad, or other systems derived from Orisha devotion. What is actually done depends on the circumstances of the person involved. In some cases it could be that the person is being harmed by negative forces sent by someone or attracted to the person because of something they did. That would require one type of ceremony. It could be the case that the spirit is what we would call a guardian angel, protector, who for whatever reason needs to establish a closer relationship with the person and therefore, does things to get attention so that they are aware of the situation. It could be that the person is meant to be a sheikha or shaman herself and once again, their guardian spirits are trying to get their attention so the process of apprenticeship can begin. In the latter two cases, this is a life long relationship which will require annual parties to honor the guardian spirit.

However, unlike what the article leads to believe, Zar is looked down on by the orthodox Islamic community, just the same way that the official Christian clergy looks down on Shango Baptist, Pocominio, Obeah etc. Its also considered to be a very low class thing, but you know how it goes. Just like in the West Indies, people say one thing, but when they need help, they tend to visit the most strangest neighborhoods, of course without telling their friends where they're going.

There is no problem going through the motions in a staged show though. You'd only be doing a theatrical tableau, not an attempt to conduct an actual ceremony.
 
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Mya

New member
Thanks Tarik for the additional information and the examples that i can relate to.

A'isha, i look forward to what your sources have to share as well! :D
 
:clap:Mya, I congratulate you on your inquistive nature and the sincere desire to research the dance culture.It is evident that your respect it!! I, too, had such reservations, but have since learned otherwise.
Even if you choose not to perform Zaar in a theatrical presentation..you will have a wealth of knowledge about..what, where, who, why and how!
Peace Sister
Yasmine
 

Sita

New member
Hi Mya,
It's funny you posted this as I have started seeking information on Zar rituals I'm quite interested in spiritual dances and researching them but I come from a very how shall I put it fay.. spiritually.. ...sensitive/respectfully aware family (e.g halloween is not celebrated in our house at all, going out in the evening on the day :naghty: in case of the shee and bad spirits) ... not to mention my religion is not so keen on such matters .. So I tend to act tentatively on such matters... ( as my mama tends to quote 'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,Than are dreamt of in your philosophy')
So I do understand how you feel and the desire for caution.:)
However I think you are approaching it in the right way by seeking guidance and being cautious and respectul to the... otherworld these acts inhibit... I think respect is the key here.. you shouldn't offend anything/one if you are respectful in your actions or thoughts :)
Not sure if this will help but I found this clip on youtube


I'm also really interested in your experiences A'isha and look fwd to reading them :)

Sita
 
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Aisha Azar

New member
Zarr

Dear Mya and Sita,
I am so sorry that it took me so long to get back to this. I have been working night and day on getting these huge Nejdi style dresses built for a performance on Saturday and it just did not leave much time for anything else..... like combing my hair for example... I hope to do that today, too!! ( Mahmoud, if you are reading this, they are FINALLY done!! Well, three of them... I will put the other dancer in a regular Hindi style thobe with 4 other dancers.)
If you can get hold of the March 2005 issue of "Egypt Today" there is an excellent article on Zarr. The author is Manal El-Jesri, the article discusses the origins of Zarr according to Zar musicians who are some of the few remaining in Egypt now. They say Zarr was originally for a small circle of people to communicate with spirits and that it is one of the "few healing ceremonies performed mainly by women and for women in an attempt to pacify the spirits and win some measure of inner harmony". The music originated in Africa and is poly-rhythmic and has a very different tradition than most Egyptian music. Participants often experience not only catharsis but often altered states of consciousness. ( I know I did!!). In 2005 there were only 24 Zar performers left in Egypt, not counting some types of Zar that are more like Sufi trance dance.

Here are some Zar related terms:
Hadra- the place where the Zar occurs, usually someone's house.
Sangaa- Male Zar leader
Leila- Night, which is what a zar performance is called.

According to the people interviewed for the article, the Mazaher group of musicians, the Zarr is requested by the family of a woman is "not feeling well", but never to cause conception,which can only happen at the will of God. "It is mostly people with psychological problems who come to us."
People also come to Zarrs to be entertained, it seems.


This is from a friend of mine who is from Alexandria and Coptic: Her uncle is a Coptic priest and when she was a child of nine years old, she witnessed him performing a Zar with a woman who was possessed and she thought the event was very creepy. The woman "talked in a man's voice", which seems to be a sign of demon possession in the Middle East, this seems to have been a different kind of Zar from he usual more communal event that is described above, and there seems to have been cause to believe that this woman was not just "married to a Djinn", but that some other kind of possession had taken place with a seriously evil entity to be driven out. In usual cases, the Djninn does not seem THAT nasty and it is with the woman always, and just acts up now and again. My friend said that this Zarr involved her uncle doing a lot of praying and the woman acting very bizarre.
About the woman talking in a man's voice thing. The same night I was talking with my Alexandrian friend about Zarr, a friend from Saudi Arabia was there and she mentioned that when her class was taking exams at university, a woman in the class room started talking in a man's voice and they made everyone else leave the room. She does not know what happened after that.

This is info from several people, but Sahra Kent contributed to it also and I want to give her credit since I remember the conversation with her very vividly. We were both very into studying Zarr at the time. This is just sort of a typical scenario and it is how I explain Zarr to my students:

Fatmeh is newly married and she lives in the countryside in Egypt. She lives with her new husband's family, including his mother, father, brother and wife and three children and two unmarried sisters. Fatmeh finds that she is at everyone's beck and call, helping with the children, the cooking, the cleaning, working in the garden, taking care of the chickens, etc. She is 17 years old and does not think much of this life of her's. She goes along for a time and resentment builds because she is tired of doing so much work with so little reward. One day she just snaps and has a huge temper tantrum and lets everyone know just how she feels. when she stalks out of the house, the family all look at each other and think, "Ooooh, Fatmeh has a djinn!" It's time for a Zarr. Other people who are having problems with their family members will also attend a Zarr and the musicians and leaders are called and arrangements made.
The event is social as well as functional and music is played and socializing is done. The people who are afflicted with an active and ornery djinn get up and start moving around in rather jerky movements, This will go on all night and in some cases, they get totally exhausted and the movements become more and more violent and eventually they fall on the floor, worn out. This is the time when someone will approach Fatmeh and her fellow sufferers in hopes of finding out what it is their djinns want. Mostly they seem to want things like new shoes or a dress, and the family will take pains to get it for them, in order to appease the djinn. Everything will go back to normal for some time after this. From a sociological point of view, this seems to be a great way to relieve pressure in the community and especially in the family. It also allows people to act out without having to take any blame or place any blame on a familial situation that has no solution.

I am afraid this may be getting too long ,so I am going to post and continue later with my own experiences with Zarr.
Regards,
A'isha
 
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masrawy

New member
"Khozablat"

Dear A'isha,
I am reading this post with some interest in the subject I'm not expert in it, but I have different takes in such ritual. I am not Islamist fundamentalists but my Muslim background guide me to see the light through the darkness of "Khozablat" can't think of a good translation to this word at this moment. Salam~Mahmoud
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Khozablat

Dear A'isha,
I am reading this post with some interest in the subject I'm not expert in it, but I have different takes in such ritual. I am not Islamist fundamentalists but my Muslim background guide me to see the light through the darkness of "Khozablat" can't think of a good translation to this word at this moment. Salam~Mahmoud

Dear Mahmoud,
Please look high and low for the meaning of the word. Should I call one of my friends who speaks perfect English and ask if she knows anything about the word, what it might mean as a translation to English? Your English is really good, though, so maybe it is just a completely hard word to translate??
Please share with us your feelings and ideas about Zarr.
Regards,
A'isha
 

masrawy

New member
Zarr

Dear A'isha and gang,
Well, despite the misconception as Muslims we do use logic and reasons and that's why is the Zarr is rejected by educated Muslims. It's a ritual but not spiritual ... it does not even rise to cult it plays to a simpleminded individual who they have to believe in it in order for it to work and will what it does it robs them the little money they have. A similar example of it in the West is exorcism and speaking in tongues and the like of TV evangelists who can cure you though your TV set in high definition too. So I don't know what's the West attraction of such a ritual that is rejected in the East for its harmful effects in simple people lives. I hope that explain my view in this matter. Salam~Mahmoud
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dear A'isha and gang,
Well, despite the misconception as Muslims we do use logic and reasons and that's why is the Zarr is rejected by educated Muslims. It's a ritual but not spiritual ... it does not even rise to cult it plays to a simpleminded individual who they have to believe in it in order for it to work and will what it does it robs them the little money they have. A similar example of it in the West is exorcism and speaking in tongues and the like of TV evangelists who can cure you though your TV set in high definition too. So I don't know what's the West attraction of such a ritual that is rejected in the East for its harmful effects in simple people lives. I hope that explain my view in this matter. Salam~Mahmoud

Dear Mahmoud,
You share this view with many people of many faiths and even people who have no faith. Having participated in Zarr, I can only say that is has an effect. I would not say it is involved with djinn or with other types of spirits for me, but is a sort of moving meditation that has certain side effects as well. There are two main effects that I noted every time I was involved in Zarr.

1. At the end of even short periods of Zarr ritual movements, I felt very calm, very alert and was sort of able to look at things extremely objectively, as if any judgement of the actions of my fellow human beings had left me, but I was able to see clearly who they were.... if that makes sense.
2. For a short period of time, I was unable to speak. The thoughts were clear as crystal in my head, but the part of my brain that connected to my actual speech somehow did not function for awhile afterward. I am assuming that some neurological process takes place. I can't remember the exact circumstances, but I could swear that someone else told me that this happened to them when they used to do Zarr rituals, too,
I got to the point where I was doing this all by myself almost every day and I finally began to think there might be some detrimental effect, so I stopped. I was about 25 when I was doing all this.

I do not ever claim to know that Zarr is a way to get free of evil spirits or that it is a spiritual ritual, but I can report my own experiences with it and I would say they were rather interesting and amazing in some ways.
Regards,
A'isha
 

Mya

New member
Dear A'isha,

Thank you for sharing! It's nice to have folks like you around to share your experiences and knowledge with us.

Masrawy, i hope you don't think that it is some sort of morbid intrigue that i'm expressing here in Zar because it's ritualistic in nature, it's really just a matter of me trying to have some sort of understanding of something i've been seeing references to since i started dancing.

I try not to judge things like this, but to value and respect it for what it is to the people that it matters to. It may not matter to educated or sophisticated persons and they may discount its value but that wouldn't make me criticise or look down upon those in society that are "simple" (i hate that term!) and believe in it and what it does.

I would never disrespect their beliefs by mocking them even if i do not hold those beliefs myself or if many other members in their society do not either. That was one of the reasons for my intitial post. Also, superstitions or folk beliefs i find give interesting insights into societies sometimes and even help you to understand people a little better. I thank you for your perspective though, it was also useful to me!
 

Tarik Sultan

New member
Dear A'isha and gang,
Well, despite the misconception as Muslims we do use logic and reasons and that's why is the Zarr is rejected by educated Muslims. It's a ritual but not spiritual ... it does not even rise to cult it plays to a simpleminded individual who they have to believe in it in order for it to work and will what it does it robs them the little money they have. A similar example of it in the West is exorcism and speaking in tongues and the like of TV evangelists who can cure you though your TV set in high definition too. So I don't know what's the West attraction of such a ritual that is rejected in the East for its harmful effects in simple people lives. I hope that explain my view in this matter. Salam~Mahmoud
Dear Masrawy:

It is very easy to dismiss things like this as nonsense and your opinion is one that is shared my a lot of people. However, I would just caution you to not assume that all of it is rubbish. These sort of practices and experiences are things that have to be experienced in order to understand them. They make up the practices of a great deal of people, not only in Africa, but Korea, China, Japan and Native Americans as well. However, like anything else, there is always the risk of abuse and exploitation, whether we are talking about mainstream Christianity, Judaism, Islam or any other faith system. When human nature is involved in anything, there is the risk of abuse. However, that doesn't mean that there are not those who practice in sincerity and that there isn't something very real to what they are doing.

Every day science is finding evidence that things once considered supernatural are in fact very real and natural. Traditional peoples have always believed that all things have life, or energy, and science has shown this to be true. They also all have a strong belief that all life is connected and interdependent and now with the threat of global warming and ecological collapse we know that this too is real.

There is a level of existence and reality beyond that of our 5 sense. Just consider the phenomenon that when groups of women spend long periods together their menstrual cycles all change to the same time. How does this happen? Why does this happen? Our bodies and its cells have a consciousness that is independent of our conscious minds.

My mother, when she was a girl, had been very ill to the point where she had died. The hospitals and doctors could find nothing wrong with her. It was at that point the doctor told my grand mother to find a healer. She was revived and that's when she was taken to a shamanic healer. They performed a ceremony that was exactly like the one described in one of the articles. It involved drumming, singing, sacrifice and other things, I won't go into, but the point is, she came out of her coma that very day during the ceremony. We may not know exactly what happened, and maybe we call things spirits because our technology hasn't caught up to being able to detect certain energies and so to us they seem mysterious.
 

Makeda Maysa

New member
I don't know much about the Zar ritual, so I am following this thread with great interest.

I do just want to agree with Tarik that we not pooh-pooh things that we do not understand. I am deeply rooted in my Christian faith and that has led to experiences with things that other people swear don't exist or that they do not understand, including spirits and angels, speaking in tongues, etc. All these things are real to me and millions of others. For people who participate in the Zar ritual, this is real to them. I do not put down things I do not understand, nor do I seek to engage with energies, spirits, or what have you, that I do not understand and I think we are all wise to take caution in such matters. It is never wrong to treat subjects of spirituality with wisdom and respect.
 

Lydia

New member
Gosh dont let this get to you!! think about it with a clear mind....there is a lot of hocus pocus in the world ,aswell a lot of cheating and playing with poeple,s mind....have a clear brain about this...dont just believe what people say...if you believe everything pffffffffffff....the mind is a strong thing ..a very strong tool ..if you use it correctly..so dont let others ,use it for you THINK!!!!
 

masrawy

New member
I hope you guys understand that I'm not trying to put anybody down first of all I have said You have to believe in it in order for it to work. And obviously there is a scientific reason for that.
I can see how eager and ready to embrace a mid-east culture in this forum and that's good thing in my opinion. But a person as smart as A'isha can fall easily into a trap of mind game that zar play on you. Tarik and his ability to write two to three pages in any subject he ... at hand and bombard you with so many clips off of youtub to prove his point right or wrong. Makeda for holding the stick from the middle just in case it may be true and Mya who want to learn every thing about ME. Lydia well, she see it like what it is also she live their...
here is some clips that I found

This one is more or less of my opinion



Christian Egyptian also practice another version of it too



This is a Westerner point of view I don't necessarily agree with everything in it but it is in English.



From different parts in the Middle East











This is listed as Zar I have no clue what the hell is it interesting !!



I'm speechless in this one but it is listed as zar bellydance

 

Makeda Maysa

New member
I'm not "holding the stick in the middle" as you say, Masrawy. I know in my heart, mind and soul what is truth to me. However, just because my truth and another's isn't the same, that doesn't mean that I have any reason to call another's beliefs/traditions "hocus pocus" or whatever else. I have had many people say such to me about my Christianity and it is insulting. I treat people as I want to be treated.
 

Tarik Sultan

New member
I hope you guys understand that I'm not trying to put anybody down first of all I have said You have to believe in it in order for it to work. And obviously there is a scientific reason for that.
I can see how eager and ready to embrace a mid-east culture in this forum and that's good thing in my opinion. But a person as smart as A'isha can fall easily into a trap of mind game that zar play on you. Tarik and his ability to write two to three pages in any subject he ... at hand and bombard you with so many clips off of youtub to prove his point right or wrong. Makeda for holding the stick from the middle just in case it may be true and Mya who want to learn every thing about ME. Lydia well, she see it like what it is also she live their...
here is some clips that I found

This one is more or less of my opinion



Christian Egyptian also practice another version of it too



This is a Westerner point of view I don't necessarily agree with everything in it but it is in English.



From different parts in the Middle East











This is listed as Zar I have no clue what the hell is it interesting !!



I'm speechless in this one but it is listed as zar bellydance

Well yes I can write pages, especially when I know what I'm talking about, hopefully this wont be one of those occasions.:lol:

Okay, the clips you listed are all different things. Real Zar is a belief system and a way of life. It is not a dance or necessarily an exorcism. I can't tell you about the first clip because its all in Arabic, so I have no way of knowing if the reporters are portraying it accurately or slandering it. Also, I don't know what the practitioners were saying and if they were telling the reporters what they felt they wanted to hear, or bending the truth to gain acceptance in the public eye.

Second clip was a Coptic exorcism. This has nothing to do with Zar or African spiritual beliefs in any way shape or form. The other clips with Koranic verses were not Zar or related to it in any way. The English clip I've seen before, sorry, they get it wrong. Its not an exorcism. Clip with the kid with the bug eyes was not listed as Zar but a comedy. Just another youtube kid acting silly to get a laugh out of his friends. Last clip was pure bullshit. Zar is NOT a dance and certainly isn't any form of Raks Sharki, much less really bad American style.

Simply believing in something is not enough. One has to use their common sense and be observant. I am a follower of a traditional Nigerian derived religion which is very similar to the system which Zar is a part of and that is how I know that there is more to it than a ritual. There is a whole philosophy and world view that is every bit as profound as anything in Christianity, Judaism or Islam, but we have been slandered because of the world wide belief that Africans have no religion beyond rattling chicken bones and freaking out to wild drum music. Anything taken out of context can seem ridiculous. Jews would have us believe the universe was made in six days and god made women from a man's rib. Christians would have us believe that a virgin gave birth to a kid who turned out to really be god in disguise, who was killed, came back to life and flew back to heaven. You, a Muslims believes that an illiterate camel caravan boy heard the voice of an angel in a cave telling him to write the word of god. You also believe that a virgin gave birth to the same kid the Christians follow, but that he spoke on the day of his birth, however, he's not god. He gets demoted to prophet.:( So far, I think all these religions are on a par. They can all be put in a light that makes them seem like something only the simple minded would get involved in. As far as money is concerned. Yes, depending on the ritual, or initiation it can be a sum of money involved. The majority of it goes to pay the musicians, make the food that is served, buy the necessary objects for the ceremony and lastly, pay the kadia. And so what? Islam isn't a free religion. All Muslims must make a journey to Mecca where they walk around a big black box, then run up and down a hill. It is an enormous expense and many poor people strain themselves to do it, not to mention, many of the die once they get there from being trampled.

Don't know about you, but I think killing a few chickens is more cost effective. For your money you get dinner, (even if you have to kill it yourself, hey, at least you know its fresh), you get music, a floor show and some exercise. Best of all, you don't have to leave home!:clap:

Shit I wrote a book after all.... but at least I didn't bombard you with videos!;) Look, this whole Zar thing has been taken out of context by people who do not understand it. It was first done by the fakelore groups trying to portray aspects of Egyptian folk culture on stage. This lead to the misperception that it is a different type of folk dance and that's why we now have westerners who want to do it. I personally find it silly. Its like saying I'm going to dance the Pentecostal, or dance the Catholic Mass, or Do the Muslim Jumma, or do the Zikr dance. Everyone would realize how silly this
is. But because this an African practice done by people on the lower economic ladder, we can make a "dance" about it because its just some mumbo jumbo. Why didn't Redda make a tablue about Friday prayers, or Zikr?

Whether its Zar practices, Christianity, Judaism or Islam, there are frauds in all of these belief system who seek to take advantage of people and exploit them for one reason or another. Hell, we have Muslims in Palestine telling young people that if they blow their nuts to kingdom come they go to Paradise and get 72 virgins to screw every night! I think I'll stick with killing chickens. Besides, we do wonderful thing to them with the curry sauce after wards!:dance:
 

masrawy

New member
Bullshit

Dear Tarik,
And your point after all this Bullshit is?! ... :clap:
Best of Regards~Mahmoud
 

masrawy

New member
I'm not "holding the stick in the middle" as you say, Masrawy. I know in my heart, mind and soul what is truth to me. However, just because my truth and another's isn't the same, that doesn't mean that I have any reason to call another's beliefs/traditions "hocus pocus" or whatever else. I have had many people say such to me about my Christianity and it is insulting. I treat people as I want to be treated.

I don't know much about the Zar ritual, so I am following this thread with great interest.
///Cut
I do not understand, nor do I seek to engage with energies, spirits, or what have you, that I do not understand and I think we are all wise to take caution in such matters. It is never wrong to treat subjects of spirituality with wisdom and respect.
Dear Makeda,
I call it as I see it .. here is the quote from your first post you seem to hold it from the the hip so we don't anger the spirits, we were talking about " Zar " it has nothing to do with your Christian believe if you think it is hocus pocus that is your problem not mine.
Best of Regards~Mahmoud
 
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