On Being a Beginning Witch, Doing Protection Rituals, and Guarding Against Magical Attack

Live the magical life for any length of time and you will eventually run afoul of someone who would prefer to see you six feet underground.  It’s inevitable; though, the frequency and type of magical throw-downs will vary according to the sort of work you do (and, by extension, the magical groups you frequent). 

For example, spend a lot of time with ceremonial magicians and mystics in the “linear” post-Masonic traditions (Golden Dawn, OTO, Martinists, SRIA, Theosophy, Argenteum Astrum, Aurum Solis, AMORC, etc.) and you’re probably not going to meet many people who have developed magical attack skills.  Those groups are far more interested in mystical states, pathworking, controlling the elements, and developing the “Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.” 

Sometimes, the grimoire traditions are studied in those groups (at high levels and only with a great amount of preparation and care).  But mostly such magical systems emphasize self-development and attaining “harmonium.”  Ceremonial magicians typically know a lot of magical history and theory and are often more comfortable in a study or a library than in the ritual chamber.  There is nothing wrong with that.  It is just one way to lead the magical life.

Contrast this with practitioners of the African Traditional Religions (“ATRs” like Kimbanda, Santeria, Vodun, Louisania Voodoo, Curandismo, Umbanda, 21 Divisiones, Palo, and many other traditions and styles), who come from cultures where being a working sorcerer is often a serious full-time profession.  In those communities, your reputation as someone who can do effective work and who is not to be messed with is also your professional standing. 

You have clients who trust you and who often put their lives in your hands.  You can’t afford to lose face and there is a lot of pride involved in these lineages and the magical transmissions they provide to their magicians.  In those groups, magical warfare is an inescapable part of one’s practice.  The stakes are always high.  And rivals can seriously harm you with their malefica.  But such groups aren’t necessarily any more powerful or better than the European ceremonialists (power depending, as always, on the individual in question and not on the system).  They’re just different, coming out of a different cultural background, and serving different cultural needs.

Eclectic witches, magic-doing Wiccans, folk magicians, neo-pagan shamans, hedge witches, and traditionalist-craft witches fall somewhere between these extremes.  The state of the craft is always changing, has trends and popular practices that come and go, and reacts positively or negatively to whichever b-list magical celebrity authors are currently being promoted by a small group of niche publishers. 

Certain deities emerge along with these things (consider that magical energy and magical energy beings primarily follow human attention).  And the amount of depth and scholarship also changes with the times.  Goofy new age pop-magic witch books from the 1970s may seem laughable on the surface but may also really work.  The most gravely serious Scarlet Imprint trad-craft grimoire put out yesterday in black leather, full of spooky neo-Latin invocations, might look cool and be utterly useless (cf. “dark fluff”).

Facing this extremely confusing array of styles, traditions, and practices, the beginning witch can feel really turned around.  Where should one begin?  If you’re on your own, I usually recommend beginning with a simple eclectic Wicca book because that will at least give you a foundation and a way to start leading the magical life.  A great one is Scott Cunningham’s Wicca: a Guide for the Solitary Practitioner.  DJ Conway’s Wicca: the Complete Craft isn’t bad (but could be much better) and has a lot of information.  Skye Alexander’s Modern Guide to Witchcraft is solid.  And Paul Huson’s Mastering Witchcraft is probably better than all of the above, but is harder than them, too.  If you want a graduated course in the craft, you could do worse than Timothy Roderick’s Wicca: a Year and a Day in the Path of the Wise.  I’m sure there are others, but these are the ones that come to mind as I write this.

I say read everything and develop a practice that feels right to you.  But no matter which craft book you read, you will encounter a few things which are repeated almost dogmatically.  One of them is: you must banish, ground, and center.  Banishing means dispersing negative and obsession-inducing energies (and energy beings) from your body and immediate surroundings.  Grounding means taking the excess energy in your body and sending it into the earth where it can disperse.  And centering means gaining an inner balance such that you feel in harmony inside and with what is around you.

These are all very good fundamental practices for a witch to know, because someday someone or something will want to harm you magically.  But here I want to talk about an obsession with protections themselves.  It’s like constantly washing your hands.  You do it once.  Then you feel like you got some bacteria on your hand an hour later.  So you wash your hands again, just to be sure they’re clean.  Then you start noticing that your hands are getting dirty a lot (compared to how they feel when you just wash them).  So you start washing your hands every hour, then every 30 minutes.  Then you begin to feel nervous about situations where you could get contaminated, and so on.  If this sounds crazy to you, it isn’t.  It’s just a habit of mind that people get into when they become hyper-aware of the shifting line between “clean” and “dirty.”

As with hand-washing, so with magical protections.  If you are engaging in constant banishings, you will resonate (your inner self will “vibrate”) at a very high level.  Your presence will feel very “clean” to people who can sense such things.  And certain classes of spirits, especially those who are aggressive or bound closely to the earth, will not enjoy hanging around.  That is all very good.  Unfortunately, it has a down side: miss a day and you will definitely notice.  You won’t be as lucky.  You will feel energetically unhealthy and grumpy.  You may even feel a strong need to isolate yourself and perform some cleansings because you have become so hyper-aware of the difference between walking in fully banished space and not.  Moreover, there will be some magic you just can’t do because your shields and personal wards will be so powerful that they will block everything.

If all you’re ever going to do is spiritually cleanse yourself (which is a completely legitimate way of leading the magical life), that’s fine.  Stick to your rigid cleansing routine and go about your business.  But if you want to work operative magic, if you want to be a well-rounded practitioner of the craft, you need to get a little dirty from time to time.  You need to let spirits in and take risks.  Witches are, almost by definition, risk takers.

So back to that person who wants to do you in.  Someday, you will encounter him or her and you may not realize s/he “threw on you” until things start going very wrong in your life.  You don’t want to put off learning how to protect yourself until this day comes, but you also don’t want to live in fear of it.  So here is a simple set of texts and practices to enable you to recognize and respond without having to do a hundred Lesser Banishing Rituals of the Pentagram every day.

First, get a magical wash.  I like concentrated “Chinese Wash” but you can get creoline or ammonia (I like Lucky Mojo’s “Buffalo Ammonia” for this).  You can also just use lemon-scented Pinesol and add lemongrass, chamomile, and bay leaves to it.  In any case, get that wash, mix some into water, and wipe down the walls, the floors, and the windows.

Second, make a simple “protection hand.”  Get a black flannel bag or a black bandana.  In it put 3 bay leaves, some lemongrass, and some dragon’s blood resin.  Light a paper match and throw it, lit, into the bag.  Shake it up.  Then say, “Creature of air, earth, fire, and water, I give you life that you will protect me and these premises from all threats.  Be ruled by me in this.”  Feed it with a sprinkle of whiskey once a week on Saturday. 

Third, actually learn a banishing ritual.  If the LBRP is too churchy for you, you can cast a simple shield (Google it) or use the simple banishing rituals given in the aforesaid texts.  Do this about every other or every three days unless you notice something nasty coming at you.  Then do it every day until safe.

Lastly, put a dream catcher up in your bedroom and, when you go to sleep at night (somewhere that kids and animals can’t reach), set out a glass of water close to your bed.  For extra zip, you can add a capful of Hoyt’s or Jockey cologne to the water or a splash of Florida water to it.  That will protect you all night long from being ridden when your defenses are down.

Hammer nails into the corners of your property to stake your spiritual claim.  And if you are attracted to the idea of setting wards and tasking guardian spirits, you can research those things on the internet for some basic practices.

Get and study the following four basic protection manuals: Have You Been Hexed: Recognizing and Breaking Curses by Alexandra Chauran; Protection and Reversal Magick: A Witch’s Defense Manual by Jason Miller; Magickal Protection by Damon Brand; and Angelic Protection Magick by Ben Woodcroft.  Optional: Psychic Self-Defense by Dion Fortune and The Witch’s Shield by Christopher Penczak.  By the time you finish these books, you will know a lot about how to detect magical attack and how to respond to it.  You will also know the difference between being an obsessive banisher and someone who uses protection in harmony with other forms of magical work.

 

 

 

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Being right and getting even: it’s hard to be an emo Satanist in this day and age.

Here’s another good passage from Phil Hine’s Prime Chaos on the Will-to-Edginess one finds in self-designated Left Hand Path magical groups:

In a culture where the edges of present time are crumbling into the future at a rate that is often difficult to comprehend, the sense of connection to historical time is vague, to say the least. The contradictions of post-Capitalism have fragmented consensus reality to a point where alienation and powerlessness are endemic in our culture. Occultism offers an alternative: a sense of connection, perhaps, to historical time when the world was less complicated, where individuals were more in touch with their environment, and, (allegedly) had more personal control over their lives. The occult sub-genre holds up a mirror to Consensual Reality.

Occultists readily sneer at Slave-God religions and then piss themselves in ecstasy buying a genuine set of Aleister Crowley socks. There is much talk of the magician as a dangerous rebel or anarch of the soul by people who go on to legitimate their position by waving charters, certificates and copyrighted logos. I mean, who really gives a fart, other than those who will buy into anything which resembles even faintly ancient wisdom. This is often the position taken by so-called magicians who seek to elevate themselves (in the eyes of their peers) by claiming to evoke demons, summon Satan, or command entities such as the Great Old Ones from other dimensions.

These are the cries of the powerless and fatuous attempting to elevate themselves by claiming authority over forces which they imagine can be controlled by such as they. There does seem to be an attraction between would-be superman occultists and an exhaustive range of dark gods, dead gods, deep-fried gods. It seems to me that the would-be superman/satanist/mighty adept magician (delete as appropriate) is, underneath all the justifications, out for legitimisation of himself as outsiders as it’s easy to maintain such a view of yourself as the noble, doom-laden outsider, whilst at the same time being invisible and insignificant.

Lovecraft’s vision is that of the utter insignificance of humanity in the rolling darkness of the cosmos. I have usually found that those who profess to know this void, who call themselves Satanists, Supermen and Outsiders, are entangled in two virulent memes—BEING RIGHT and GETTING EVEN. Alas, apart from imagining themselves as the lords of De Sade’s Castle of Silling, or dreaming of power without responsibility found in some paperback tome with a Latin name, these self-avowed creatures of darkness never quite seem to manage any actualisation of their ‘will to power.’

William, S. Burroughs once commented that “anyone who can pick up a frying pan owns death.” All too often, it seems that many people are content with vicarious thrills, attempting to own death by surrounding themselves with the icons of their heroes. Isn’t it a shame that most of those who cry that ‘Might is Right’ will never get the chance to stamp on the weak unless of course they cease to be ‘outsiders’ and join some institution which allows them to do so with impunity and government approval.

There are great practitioners who take the Left Hand Path very seriously as a way of spiritual development. But most seem engaged in an ill-conceived fashion experiment.

When it Looks Like a Curse, Don’t Go to a “Lightworker”

The only thing more pathetic than the term, “spiritual entrepreneur,” is the individual who describes him- or herself that way. It may seem a bit ironic that I’m saying this, given that I practice public sorcery and charge for such services. But there is definitely a difference between a “spiritual entrepreneur” and a “spiritual worker” as the terms are commonly understood and used.

A spiritual worker is a magical individual (rootdoctor, sorcerer, Reiki master, herbalist, card reader, etc.) who provides a set of spiritual services to a community. These days, that includes an online community. This person may work through various established spiritual traditions and usually tries to educate and counsel his or her clientele. For example, my Black Snake Conjure is not only dedicated to conjure, evocation, and Reiki. It’s also committed to fostering multiculturalism, tolerance, and sharing across ethnic and spiritual boundaries. I do this work not just for my own monetary benefit but also to teach the art of magic and, in the process, to make the world a better place.

Conversely, a spiritual entrepreneur may or may not be a magical individual but will try hard to seem like one (using the most trendy suburban Wiccan* or new age styles, keywords, and assumptions). This person promotes a spiritual technique, product, or service, relying heavily on e-marketing, focused spam via “newsletters,” usually a content-lite YouTube channel, and niche customer targeting to generate as much passive income as possible. A spiritual entrepreneur’s focus is on his or her multi-platform business first, then content, then the clients. For this person, it’s all about the “brand.” If you go to YouTube and type in one of the key words associated with spiritual entrepreneurialism, “witchy,” you will get a veritable phone book of unimaginative cliché examples. After watching one or two of those videos and looking at the linked websites, you wouldn’t be wrong to wonder whether we need another post entitled “Six Signs You Might Be a Witch” or “Crystals Dealing with Toxic Family Energy Over the Holidays” or “Working with Angels and Spirit Guides.”

In the 1990s, more serious (or at least more style conscious) magical people coined the term “fluffy bunny” to describe Wiccans who pretend that they only work with love and light (with an equally pretentious subsequent reaction, “dark fluff”). And many spiritual entrepreneurs still believe that a generous helping of fluff will more easily part a certain type of customer from his or her money. But spiritual entrepreneurialism isn’t about love or “ascension” or, actually, anything at all beyond branding. It’s the most cynical commodification of spirituality available in the West and we see it everywhere. It’s the reason why occult publishers like Llewellyn and Weiser have taken so much criticism from real practitioners over the last 20-30 years, even though they’ve published quality work along with poorly researched, padded, repetitive trash.

Most of what I’m saying here is obvious and anyone who spends time looking through social media and reading Tumblr will quickly come to these conclusions.  As in all things Theodore Sturgeon’s “garbage theory” applies: 90% of a given set of things is crap to support the 10% that isn’t. All well and good. However, it’s not so good when we need spiritual services that actually work.

Uh-oh. Maybe you’ve been cursed. What then? If you think only members of certain ethnic communities worry about curses, you’re dead wrong. Every culture has them. And I can tell you confidently that if you haven’t been the target of a curse or some other form of psychic attack at least once, you will be someday. It’s part of life.

Now imagine you find yourself in a situation where a highly suspicious chain of nasty events is taking place in your life. Maybe you’ve also come down with a case of heavy depression and insomnia. You’re having reversals and problems at work and at home. And all of this happens to coincide with a falling-out you’ve recently had with someone or with some envy-inducing advancement, like a raise or a new relationship or a financial windfall. You say to yourself, why would anyone want to curse me? I haven’t done anything wrong! But curses don’t just work for justice. You can get crossed up by any individual who resents your happiness enough to do something about it.

Most of us, if we’re leading adult lives and not living in a cave, have a sprinkling of enemies who want to see us suffer. Often, a few of those people will either have some metaphysical aptitude or will be willing to go to a sorcerer-for-hire. And many times those people will be very close to us—ex-lovers, family, or coworkers. If you’re a decent person, like most people are, you won’t want to believe it. Jane from accounting?! She’s still bitter about me turning her down but, really, is that enough for her to pay a hoodoo worker to fuck up my life? Sure. Why not? You have no idea what’s going on in her head. She may just frown at you and avoid eye-contact when you pass her in the hallway, but maybe she’s lurking on your Facebook page, spending a lot of time fixating on why you turned her down, etc. With that in mind, do you think it’s so far-fetched that if she has a few books on magic, she might try something? Maybe she starts searching for “love spells” and comes across a professional’s website. And the rest is, as they say, academic.

In a situation like this, do you want to go to a spiritual entrepreneur who charges you $300 to change your vibration with a $10 quartz crystal and some essential oil? Do you want to go to a cute-as-a-button Wiccan girl on YouTube who says she can sage the bad juju away? Really? How about getting a reading from a teenager on Tumblr who snaps it out in just 20 minutes? Because I’ve been contacted by people who’ve taken that route at first. They nearly always write the following: I’ve gotten burned by workers before. Paid a lot of money and nothing happened. Or got a tarot reading and it made no sense / was totally vague. Or so-and-so cursed me and now my life is in tatters and Jenny the Lightworker told me my chakras were just out of balance. And then I have to clean up both the mess that their lives are in and whatever half-baked work the spiritual entrepreneur did (if anything).

All the new-age stuff, all the Wiccan stuff, all the watered-down pop-occult techniques and Law of Attraction and “abundance manifesting” can work. I don’t want to give the impression that “my way is the only way.” The problem is not actually with the techniques. It’s with the branding and the people who think they can make a living off of others by doing very little beyond curating their feeds and smiling into the camera. Most of the clients I get are desperate and sometimes locked in life-or-death circumstances. Many of them have been victims of baneful magic or a deep run of crossed-up luck or some force, whether human or otherwise, holding them down. They have been unjustly harmed and they feel like their options have become very limited. Understandably, they have no sense of humor about this stuff. They’re not playing. They need help and they need it yesterday.

My recommendation is that if you are one of those people in need, do not waste your time on someone surrounded by a lot of slick e-commerce because that’s where all the energy is going. Instead, look for three qualities in a worker: (1) reasonable rates; (2) professionalism (i.e. scheduling, doing a small diagnostic reading in the beginning, providing updates, not seeming money hungry, ethical); and (3) doing more than just protecting and curating their brand / internet presence. It’s important to keep these things in mind if you want to avoid throwing your time, money, and emotion away on someone who doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

 

 

* I actually love Wicca. I’m not putting it down. I’m putting down those who cynically use it to hook customers in support of a superficial brand.

Codex Whatever: Dark Fluff Occult Books and Personal Insignificance

The fact that there is a “dark fluff” genre of occult writing doesn’t surprise me.  Anyone who starts to look for meaning outside established channels of consensus culture encounters poorly written, poorly sourced occultnik marketing before long (sometimes immediately).  And it has forced most of us to carry on a lifelong search for better materials, more authoritative texts, and generally better sources—which does not automatically mean they must be more scholarly or academic. 

Rather, we tend to prize books that are responsibly and sincerely written according to the tradition in question.  This often means the author has done research to the best of his or her ability and access, but it could simply mean that the anecdotal parts of an occult text are framed as such and the speculation is carefully identified.

The quest for quality occult writing is particularly important to educated ceremonial magicians who care about the provenance and history of their grimoires and of the magical discourse still very much alive and well all over the world.  Like most of my articulate, reasonably sane, magically active associates, I am constantly seeking out new books.  It’s a side of the magical life I particularly enjoy—the research side, which has a magic all its own.

Two great examples of non-scholarly yet well-written and responsible occult texts might be THEE PSYCHICK BIBLE: Thee Apocryphal Scriptures ov Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Thee Third Mind ov Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Psychomagic: The Transformative Power of Shamanic Psychotherapy.  These two come immediately to mind because they are very explicit about what is unverified gnosis (UPG) and technique.  They set up a teaching dichotomy between anecdote and praxis to empower the reader in her own pursuits—not simply to aggrandize the experiences of the authors.

Unfortunately, for every Joseph Peterson, Jake Stratton-Kent, Jose Leitao, Peter Carroll, Ramsey Dukes, Daniel Harms, and Peter Mark Adams, there are a hundred pretenders, who seem to be writing occult literature simply because it amuses them or makes them feel special.  No one ever got rich off occult publishing.  So the question I’ve asked for years is: why pedal worthless or pirated or wholly fantastical occult books?  Why would someone take the time and effort to claim that they have an insight or that they are the inheritor of a tradition that either does not exist or that they have never encountered outside their own imaginations?

I still don’t have a good answer to this.  The best I can do is come to the sad conclusion that some people need to feel special and wise.  In terms of cynical e-commerce, I can understand groups or individuals trying to interest potential followers by self-publishing low-cost occult books that promote their spiritual systems.  That’s just another form of easily identifiable marketing.  But just as there was a massive surge in poorly written mass-market Wiccan / neopagan texts in the 1980s and early 1990s, there now seems to be a horrendous glut of “dark fluff” grimoires, especially self-published through Createspace and Lulu. 

Last year’s dark grimoires of ultimate power.

So what is “dark fluff”? 

As a sorcerer for hire and a long-time member of the Studio Arcanis community of advanced practitioners, I often get public and private questions that go like this: I just bought Codex Diabolicus Maximus by Mordred Darktoe and I want to use it to destroy my ex’s life.  Does it work?  There is so much wrong with such a question (even in more subtle incarnations like: I’m wondering what your experiences with Darktoe’s works have been . . . ).  It’s one step removed from “spell begging” (where a person who has not done his or her homework asks a more experienced practitioner for a freebie) and it doesn’t reflect well on the questioner regardless of whether or not destroying someone’s life happens to be right or wrong.

As a conjure worker, I’m no stranger to people revealing that their innermost desire is to seek small-minded revenge on someone for some perceived wrong.  Usually, the preferred punishment is far out of proportion to the crime, having to do with a breakup, an undeserved promotion, an insult, or even someone not paying enough attention.  People (maybe most people) feel powerless and insignificant in their lives.  And if they have some kind of latent magical sensitivity but not a lot of confidence, they will seek out a conjure worker to help them get emotional satisfaction on a cruel world.

I understand and I listen to such requests without passing moral judgment.  Part of my job is to bring the client’s motivations and feelings into the light of truth where we can intelligently face them together.  Only then can we fix the situation.  This is the unpublicized part of being a spiritual worker in one’s community (even if that community is online). 

But sometimes the person has so much resentment, feels so belittled by the world, that she wants the power to subjugate everyone and everything: more money, more sex, more power, more revenge, more dominance.  This person has such a wounded ego, feels so wronged by life that she’ll never get enough.  When this happens, she doesn’t come to a sorcerer for work.  She wants to be the sorcerer.  And she falls prey to “dark fluff” occult marketing that seems to speak directly to her overblown desires.

In her lust for power, she’s blinded to the reality that 90% of the information in such texts is bullshit that comes from previously published, often lesser known, bullshit.  And therein lies the problem.  She’s receiving a cascade of dark-themed occultnik bullshit; she really wants it to be real; and she’s soon frustrated that she isn’t seeing results.  That’s usually when she comes slinking around to ask me or someone like me what I think of it because she’s worried that she missed a crucial step (or, gasp, that it is, in fact, utter BS).

Sure, everyone worries that all occult things are fake.  But this is not the sort of anxiety and doubt I’m writing about here.  I’m writing about predatory marketing that magnetizes and preys on the desperate emotions of people who have come to equate power with the ability to harm—because they feel powerless and harmed.  Certainly, I believe that paying back is a virtue and I am in no way against doing dark magic for justice and remediation.  There is a time to bless and a time to curse.  Knowing which is which is part of being a practitioner.  However, having a good BS detector is also essential. 

So how do you spot “dark fluff”?

The first thing I’m going to suggest is that you know yourself.  Self-honesty is very difficult.  Realizing that you feel small and injured and that you want revenge on a cruel world is a strong first step.  You don’t need to go to a spiritual advisor to have this degree of honesty but sometimes it helps.  An insightful stranger can often tell you hard truths that you can’t bare to admit to yourself.

The second thing would be to read widely.  This may mean that sometimes you will purchase occult books that turn out to be part of the BS cascade I mention above.  We all waste our money and time on a well-presented stinker now and then.  And the painful experience of realizing an author is offering you nothing of value is something we’ve all felt.  It’s an important feeling because it sharpens up your sense of what is and is not useful.

The third thing would be to look at the marketing around the book.  Does it talk about a secret tradition that you’ve never heard of, even in online forums?  Does it promise grandiose things, like becoming a living god, torturing your enemies to death, enslaving others, or calling up demons from fancifully named planes or dimensions that have no basis in historical occult literature?  Does it sound like (or even use language directly from) roleplaying games?  Does is present an overdone gothic aesthetic?  Does it seem like it was written in the tradition of “acausal Satanism” (i.e. The Order of the Nine Angles, a group whose vague Gnosticism has made room for many ill-conceived darkly fluffy occult groups and marketing schemes)?  Does it source the works or mythos of HP Lovecraft as if they were real without at least framing them as egregoric or chaos-magical constructions?  Does the author have a pen name out of bad fantasy fiction like “Severus Blackthorne” or something pseudo-Semitic like “Hassan ben Azazel”?  Does the work rely heavily (and usually indirectly, without documentation) on the works of Kenneth Grant, especially The Nightside of Eden, tossing around well-known names like Set, Belial, Samael, Lilith, Lucifer, and  Hekate?  Or, at the other extreme, completely made up “demons” that no one has ever heard of?  Not everything here will indicate “dark fluff” but as soon as you see it, your detector should start beeping.

                                           Not you.

The bottom line.

It’s good to seek power.  It’s good to take revenge when justice is due.  It’s good to pay back in like degree.  It’s also good to do magic, to seek out mysterious realities, states of mind, and uncover secrets.  Consensus culture (especially in the west) would have us believe that the only medium for having breakthroughs is STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).  But we know this isn’t the case.

When we truly realize that there is far more occult power in a Delta blues song about going down to the crossroads than in Baltar Venomblade’s Book of the Eternal Abyss, we know we’re making progress.  When we understand that marketing itself is a kind of mental magic that snares all of us from time to time, we can forgive our uninformed purchases of shit occult books and learn to find the good ones that will actually inspire, inform, and guide us further down the path of wisdom and capacity.