'I was brought up in a fairly strict Christian setting. My parents both had a somewhat baptistic background, thus having been raised themselves, to varying degrees, in Christian households. So, as the case may be, I was brought up to mind my 'P's & 'Q's, in a manner of speaking. As a child, though for the most part, I behaved as I was expected to, I harbored a very rebellious streak! Somewhere between the ages of 10 & 12 ( more toward the lower end of the spectrum, I think ), I experienced something that scared the 'hell' out of me', so to speak. Right then & there, I decided I didn't want that to happen to me, so I 'accepted Jesus as my personal Lord & Savior', just like I'd been taught. That 'event', if you would know, was a certain part of a film by a popular Christian evangelist, that involved the burning of witches, which, as I'd also been taught, were an abomination to the 'God' of the Bible, 'Yahweh Elohim' of the Hebrews. I barely missed being baptized in water ( dunked ) on the spot, as several of my brothers were being baptized into the Baptist 'faith' several days later: I had not quite made up my mind about that yet! Several years later, though I had narrowly escaped being 'whelmed' in the waters of baptism, I did receive 'baptism by sprinkling', at my father's behest.
As I grew in the 'faith', particularly as I neared the later teenage years, I began to question certain of the things I had been & was being taught! My rebellious streak was beginning to show, faintly at first, but growing bolder all the time! Several years later, when I finally screwed up the courage, 'with a little help from my friends', to 'strike out on my own', I made a small leap & more or less began to establish myself as a bit of a pariah. I may have been accepted as a 'Christian', but some of the questions I was posing & some of the ideas I was espousing were pretty 'heretical'! One thing led to another as my Journey continued & I strayed farther from the 'faith' I had been brought up in! I never left the 'Path' that my Journey had started me on, oh, so long ago, but it had begun to look a bit different than the one in which my parents had trained me.
With the passage of Time, Life itself began to show me that things were not always as they seemed, especially as I'd been taught to believe. Events began to 'happen' in the midst of my Journey that convinced me that my 'faith' didn't have the answers I needed. Not only the questions of Life on our good Mother Earth, but even theological questions like, 'who or what really IS 'up there'?'; 'IS there SOMEONE 'up there'?!' It occurred to me, for instance, that the 'God' of the Bible, though usually pretty patient with 'His' own, wasn't really fundamentally much different than the 'Allah' of Islam! Then there came the experiences with the Teaching of the Masters of the Far East; 'that was a real 'Eye' opener, let me tell you!' If people thought I was a heretic before....................
So, fast forward to the 'Now', as I sit here having coffee with a new, yet very old acquaintance, relating my previously untold Story ( thus far ); I have begun to explore the very thing which 'scared the hell out of me' in the first place'! Witches, I have learned, are not inherently 'evil', as I had been taught. Witchcraft was not 'of the devil' as our Bible clearly told us! Witches are simply Guardians of the Earth & their Purpose is simply to remind us who we are & where we came from. As more of a Way of Life, like, yet unlike Christianity, Witchcraft in general & Wicca in particular holds to no such dogma as the Big Three ( Judaism, Christianity & Islam ). They follow this 'creed' & this only, that 'an ye harm none, do what ye will'. Even according to the Bible, one might note, the Earth is our Mother! I myself began to realize this & other comforting Truth as my Journey continued to motivate me along the Path of Life. I had not strayed from the 'Path' in all my manifold & manifest ramblings, I had simply gone where it led me, instead of where everyone else around me seemed to believe it led!
Life is a 'funny' thing, I was quickly learning; It was not what It seemed! Truth had a way of revealing Itself, whether it came in a package from the Far East, or was bottled up in Western 'rigmarole'. I was taught that Life was made up solely of 'absolutes', or black & white, but I was beginning to see that there are as many shades of grey involved as there are different people. Whatever 'God' you pray to, even if it's simply your Higher Self, as long as you live your own life, not intruding on others or bringing harm to them, you ARE on the Path, no matter what you have been taught to believe!
Rebellious though I may be, my religious upbringing is not a cause of regret to me! If I had not been brought up to believe the way I had, in all probability, I would not be where I am right now. Where I AM is a good place, a Place of Peace, a 'place' where I am at peace with where I have been, where I am NOW & where I am headed. I have learned that I am like a turtle; I carry my Home with me. My new mantra, 'it is what it is', has made Life so much easier! Simply letting Life, like yourself, just BE has brought a much-needed freedom. When we go through Life not trying to be 'judge, jury & executioner' ( even if we leave the 'executioner' part up to 'the powers that be' ), we are freed up to focus more on our own part, our own responsibilities in Life; but I digress.........................
My Life is a blessed one! I have seen much in my relatively short Journey, much that others in my 'world' have refused to see & much I haven't seen that others in my ever-expanding 'world' have seen. I know that there is much more ( infinitely so ) for me to explore; 'the realms of possibility are endless'! One might note that I've come ( some would say 'strayed' ) a long way, but I realize that I've got a long way to go; you might even say 'I've only just begun'!'
So ended our conversation, as far as my failing memory serves me. Bil's Story is not so far from my own experience, nor, I imagine, some that might read this account. Though our personal Journey might not exactly match that herein, or even show much semblance at all, I can only imagine that most who peruse this account will find something here that resonates with their Spirit, the Divinity that rests Within each & every one of us!
Namaste' & Blessed Be,
Charles Haddon Shank