Shams of Shamans! (Story)

Based on real events. Enjoy!

There was once a young, hairy-arm-pitted, “I’m a healer” -type girl, who was full of notions.
She had been consuming a great deal of magic mushrooms of late and was convinced she was becoming a sort of enlightened mystic. Despite constantly succumbing to petty fights with her parents and siblings… whom she still lived with. This young woman was called Una. 

One day Una convinced herself she was meant to become a shaman. She immediately and impulsively began researching ways to get ‘trained up’. Though she also hoped the path would unfold magically, without too much rational thought, as that seemed the most shamanic way to go about it!

She searched online and found that there was a college for shamans situated somewhere in the midlands. She quickly figured out the fastest and cheapest route to get there from Dublin, where she lived. She hadn’t given much thought to what she would do when she arrived. But again, she wished to leave that up to fate… or the mystic powers… or the angels… or whatever it was she believed was guiding her at the time. She questioned not whether she was a suitable candidate. She simply supposed that after all her mushroom experiences, her aura would be so pure, that when she turned up, she’d be bound to be embraced with wide-armed shamanic warmth!

She packed her bag with a sleeping bag that stank of stale smoke, her tent, some sourdough bread, a jar of honey and some magic mushrooms. A public coach dropped her to the middle of nowhere, where she then stood at the side of the road, sticking out like a sore thumb… while sticking out her thumb. Many cars passed her by. Eventually one stopped. It was a grey-haired man in a flashy BMW who seemed nice. Una declined the lift, on the basis that she did not hitch lifts with men traveling on their own. However a couple hours later Una was desperate and when a large tar-truck stopped to offer her a lift, she was more than happy to clamber aboard, knowing what people said about the correlation between truckers and rapists.

The trucker was a simple man, whom Una considered simple-minded. He could pass for normal, despite his skin being stained by the black tar he worked with. He never married and lived alone with his mother. He mentioned more than a few times that he had read one of Eckhart Tolle’s books. She guessed it was his best effort at trying to relate to her make-up-flouting, bead-adorned self. She asked him to drop her about half a mile down the road from the college, to cover her tracks. As she hopped out, she noticed the truck-driver’s impressive hard-on, protruding from his work pants like a magic wand.

She lugged herself and her bags along the road and down the long, luscious driveway of the shaman college. “Whoever these people are, they sure have a lot of money! Maybe they are Freemasons?” Una thought. There were large old oaks and beech trees lining meadows which were populated with ponies. There were prayer flags, statues of various deities and crucifixes shrouded in trees, to name just a smattering of the spiritual iconography to be found in the gardens. She eventually wound her way around to the the manor house. To her surprise there were numerous folk drinking tea and having the chats outside the house. She noticed a marquee in the garden to the left of the house, and people sitting on the ground in pairs, facing each other and staring into each other’s eyes. A woman stood on a stage at the top, beating a large drum.

It was not what Una had expected. Though what could one really expect to expect at a “college for shamans” in the centre of good-auld Catholic Ireland? She walked up to one of the men who was standing around, with his cuppa. His eyes shone out of his weathered head, like fresh buttons on an old tattered coat. Una felt a pleasantly uncomplicated, yet sophisticated energy in his gaze. “Hiya! What is going on here?” she asked him. The man looked amused and hesitated before saying “This is a ‘Shamanic Practitioner Level 2 Course’” It was obvious to her now that everybody here was here specifically for this course and that she looked a right fool for turning up without a clue what was going on. “Do you know who I can speak to about taking part?” she said. Further amused, the man said “You can go and speak to John or Madeline inside. You might find them in the office” Una thanked him and waddled her way inside, rather encumbered by her bags and growing sense of insecurity.

She entered through an enormous front door and into a grand entrance hall. It had all the features of a typical manor house. A great big chandelier dangling from the ceiling. Burgundy carpet and matching coloured wallpaper on the walls, which were finished with ornate plasterwork. The great difference between this and a typical old manor house of the Old English Gentry was that in place of portraits of old, sagging, disgruntled aristocrats, there were large paintings of scenes of pagan rituals. One such painting depicted a naked colony of men wrestling each other in the forest under the full moon. Another was of a naked woman lying back with her legs wide open, her vulva painted like a blooming rose.

Una wandered over to an open door to the right of the entrance. Inside, there was an old woman sitting upright at the desk, reviewing some papers. She had a school-principal aura about her. Apart from her pentagram pendant and long witchy skirt.

“Hello?” the woman said in a somewhat accusatory tone when she noticed the unfamiliar young woman standing at her door. Her greeting demanded answers, answers that Una did not have! “Hi…Madeline…?” Una began and paused, feeling awkward and juvenile in the lady’s presence. The old crone rose from her desk. She was surprisingly tall. “Well what are you doing here?” she snapped. “There’s no charming this one!” Una thought. “Well, em. I just decided to come here, a friend told me about this place… I thought I could come, you know, maybe camp out here for a few days and learn a little about the place…” The level of offense on the old woman’s face soared with every word uttered from Una’s mouth. Una was rusty red by now. “I’m really interested, you see, in shamanism… well I guess, you know, I always felt a certain, eh, connection to nature and all… I mean maybe I could join the course that’s going on… or I was thinking I could just camp outside and get a feel for the place…” By this point the witchy-school-mistress lady looked absolutely putrefied. “So you think you can just rock up here out of the blue and piggyback on a course that everybody here has paid a lot of money for? Are you not aware that people here are right in the middle of a very intensive and sensitive personal process and here you come just barging into the middle of it? Hm?” Madeline said, making out as if she was expecting Una to give an answer, but really hoped for nothing more than a pitiful, cowering expression of guilt. Una did feel like a jolly fool alright. The woman proceeded to fire a number of questions at her. Including how did she find out about this place and what her intentions really were. When she was finished with her intimidation she told Una to take a seat out in the hall and wait as she fetched her husband.

Una sat there trying to cover over her awkwardness and resumed her usual jovial, casual, playful manner. A few minutes later what seemed to be a very tall man marched into the hall, directly towards Una, followed by Madeline. He stared down at Una and she noticed he was partially cross-eyed. She had never felt intimadated by a cross-eyed person before. For a brief moment he adopted a friendly expression “Hi there. So you came here to hang out is it?” the man said. “Em, hi. Michael, is it? Yeah… I was just thinking maybe I could pitch up my tent and just get a feel for the place…”
Michael looked at her for a moment. “Are you ok in the head?” he asked. “No seriously. Are you right in the brain?” he said, suddenly shooting his ferocity into Una’s gaze.
“Jeez you’re the one running a shaman college in the middle of conservative, Catholic Ireland and you’re asking me if I’m right in the head for proposing something slightly unconventional?” was what Una wanted to say, but didn’t. Instead she said nothing. “I am going to ask you to leave my property immediately and never come back.” he said. Una stood up. She realised she was actually taller than the old man, it was just his intensity as he marched into the room which added inches to his height. “I have no problem leaving. I don’t want to be somewhere I’m not wanted.” Una said. She trotted out the door and down the steps, back to where all the chilled-out, tea-drinking folk were gathered. She had a feeling that they were all quite nice people who really wouldn’t be bothered in the slightest by her hanging around there. She waved goodbye to the man she spoke to previously and a few others smiled at her as she made straight for the gate.

Una’s pride was seriously aggravated. She believed that the old couple would be stunned one day once they found out who they so rudely ejected from their Shaman School! What if she were the Messiah in disguise? How could they be so careless in their treatment of people? Especially when they were running this school, supposedly to make people’s lives better. “They have nothing to teach me clearly.” she thought “What kind of ‘shamans’ have so little time for an adventurous free-spirit like me? And why treat me with such disgust when I approached them with friendly openness? Isn’t shamanism all about healing and becoming a better, more loving person and all?” Una thought. Before she left the grounds she went over to an enormous old oak tree. Its trunk was as wide as a car-seat. It must have been centuries old. She gave it a huge hug and whispered to it “You have more to teach me than those old fools… they think they own this land but I know you are wiser.” She didn’t really know if she bought into her own words but it felt comforting. The tree did seem to hug her back.

Once she got outside the gate it immediately started lashing rain. The rain droplets were so pregnant, they pelted the puddles, making loud smacking noises. Una slumped beside the stone wall next to the entrance gate and covered herself with her rucksack. She then took out some dark chocolate, her go-to comfort, and it immediately became wet and slippery in her fingers. She ate it anyway. She didn’t know where to go next. It would be a shame to have come all this way for nothing. She knew that one of the heritage sites, Loughcrew Cairns was nearby and figured she could probably hitch a ride there. Sure enough the first car that stopped was heading right by it. It was a man by himself in the car, but he was small and shrimpish and could hardly do harm. She hopped in.

She judged him to be a simpleton, like the tar-man from earlier. And while his style of speaking was plain, and the way he held himself was in that self-conscious, ‘meek-shall-inherit-the-earth’ kind of way, he turned out to be of considerable interest to Una. He spoke of old superstitious traditions as if there was no reason to doubt them. He also seemed to have a great respect for the land and pointed out some sights to her along the way. Local hills and rivers and stories about how they got their names and so on. Eventually he dropped her off at Loughcrew Cairns and she gave him a friendly farewell.

She went and pitched her tent under a patch of trees at the foot of one of the hills. Once chilled out inside her tent she gobbled a small handful of magic mushrooms. “A microdose” she called it. She listened to some music and began to feel that familiar, faint feeling of euphoria creep in. She got up and decided to go and explore the site. She had been here once before but it was at a one of those Summer Solstice gatherings where she spent more time talking to smelly crusties around the carpark bonfire than actually exploring the land.

It was a quiet and peaceful afternoon. She greeted some of the tourists and visiting families that she encountered along the way. On her way back from the well, where she took a few pleasant mouthfuls of water, she encountered a middle-aged, bald man in scraggly clothing, who carried himself in a somewhat scraggly way. Colourful cotton pants, the likes of which Westerners who try to dress as Indians wear. His hoodie was grey, tattered and stained. He also donned a pair of dark sunglasses. He had in his hand a hurley . “Howaya?” he said to Una, revealing his teeth; some rotten, some gold. As well as a rough, inner-city Dublin accent. “Ah loving this place I am, such a nice day.” Una said. “You practicing your pucking?” she asked. He smiled. “Beautiful day we have love… Ah yeah, I like to come out here and have a puck around, like Setanta himself, you know? Was it Setanta his name was?” he said.
“Yeah I think it was Setanta, before he was Cú Chulainn” she said.
“I thought Cú Chulainn was the dog?”
“No. He got the name because he killed the dog. Cú means dog. It was Chulainn’s dog. He killed the dog in self-defence and then they gave him that name so that they’d replace the dog”
“Oh right yeah” he said
“I should learn these myths better. I would know other ones better, from abroad like.” he continued.
“That’s cool… do you come here yourself often?” Una asked.
“Ah yeah I’d be up here almost every day. I’ll tell you something. I’m a shaman. I come here because the energy is so good. It’s a great place to do me drummin'”
“No way! You’re a shaman? You won’t believe it but I was just kicked out of a shaman school!” Una said
The scraggly dude was either too stoned or too weird to be surprised by Una’s unusual comment.
“Oh yeah? Well if you’re interested in shamanism maybe you want to try some of the drumming yourself.” he said. “You wait here. I’ll go get some drums from my car. You can try it out.”

What had she to lose!

So just like that Una and the man were standing atop one of the hills, drumming away in steady rhythm, the sounds casting an ominous, yet majestic air over the landscape. “You’ve already got the hang of it” the man said placidly. (It turned out he was stoned.)
“Do you feel them?” he asked.
“Feel what?” said Una.
“The Angels.” he said, closing his eyes, sinking into some kind of ineffable bliss. “I just love this” he went on, “I feel ‘em. They’re there.” After that Una tried to listen out for the angels. She began to play around more with the rhythm, as the man, who was called Brendan, hammered away in a steady beat. Sure enough she began to sense something celestial, but she wasn’t sure if that was the mushrooms speaking or really angels.

After a while they came to a natural stop and Brendan thanked Una for drumming with him, saying it was an immense pleasure to share the experience with her. He invited her back to his car to smoke pot and listen to spiritual music, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to do that. However she did have an idea of gifting him something. He had saved the day with his flavour of shamanism, after the traumatic shamanic ousting earlier! She went back to her tent and got the rest of the mushrooms she had brought and went and found him in his car. He was already kicked back and smoking a bud off a coke can, “Om Nama Shivya” was on full blast on the radio. Tones of harmonium and Indian tabla drums booming in the background. She opened the door and got in the front passenger seat, following his gesture for her to. When she was inside, he told her to close the car door. He was thankful for the mushrooms but said he would never take them alone, and that she should call him up to take them with him some day. He passed her the coke can and invited her to take a drag. She declined and let the harmonious kirtan music soothe her instead. It was after a few minutes she began to pick up on the man’s slightly unsettling energy, despite his so-stoned-he’s-almost-dead appearance. It was then she realised she felt quite out of it herself and then it dawned on her… they were hotboxing! That’s why he had asked her to shut the car door… “Shit” she thought. She was not planning this. She only took the mushies to perk up her senses, but instead she found herself zombified. “I’m going to go on a walk now, get some fresh air” she told him, getting out. “Ok love. I’ll be back here tomorrow. Would love to do more drumming withya” he said. Then he stretched across to give her a hug. She did not enjoy it too much.

She met a few more locals while on her way back to lie down in her tent. Including an eccentric old man who was selling homemade honey in the carpark, a skinny Brazilian gay dude who was reading poetry aloud at the well and a middle-aged man and woman who were both married, but probably not to each other, who were yapping and kissing at the bottom of the hill.

It took her a while to get to sleep that night. She had never gone camping on her own. She could act brave and jolly all day but once night fell and there was not a human, nevermind a familiar human around – and that was a frightening thing for an animal designed to live in a pack. She did eventually fall asleep after many hours of repeating comforting mantras to herself.

She woke up the sounds of birds twittering, sun-rays blurring her tent wall and the sound of a knackery-voice calling her name. She unzipped her tent and saw Brendan standing there. “C’mon kid I’ll buy you breakfast.” he said.

Something about waking up from her first mildly frightening night camping alone and somebody greeting her like that really warmed her heart. Even though she recognised at the same time how bizzare it also was. “That’s so kind of you Brandan. Just give me a few minutes to get ready.”

They went and got a hot breakfast and coffee at the visitor center. Brendan struck her as a lonely type. He was a twice-divorced fifty-somethings year old who was back living his his elderly mother. He was probably as glad to wake up and have a plan to see someone, as she was to be greeted as she woke up after her lonesome night. She listened intently as he told her the details of the life and the horde of strange ideas he held. He told her he had four children he never saw and two he sometimes did. That he had summoned demons and fought them with his spiritual powers. He showed her a dent that appeared on his head after multiple ‘rows’ with ‘an angry ghost’. He told her he was one of Ireland’s most powerful shamans, a Templar and a re-incarnated Cathar. He spoke of spiritual warfare and the new world order; the usual conspiracy crap she had heard a-plenty around those crusty fires over the years. With all his talk of battling entities and being a chosen one, it struck her as rather odd that his life on the outside seemed, well, pathetic. Was it just a classic example of a broken man keeping himself alive with delusions of grandeur? Or was he really what he believed himself to be? Una certainly hadn’t met anyone like him before and she liked to give people the benefit of the doubt. But she was also a mushroom-mad, naive, young hippie. The truth lay buried under the sand.

Things started getting weird for her though, when he told her about “his pre-emptive vision”. He preluded by asking Una a few questions. Among these he asked her if she had a quirky side and a conservative side that were always in conflict. He also asked her was she struggling in her relationship with her parents. Una was quite shocked. It was uncanny for him to mention these things. He couldn’t have just brought it up out of the blue. A shiver ran down her spine as she believed fully for a moment that he really did have special spiritual powers and therefore all the crazy things he told her were actually true. “It was about a week, no, two weeks ago, that I had this vision. Something telling me I would meet this person… It said the person would be like that… It told me some other things too, which do seem to match up… but there’s no need to go into them now…” Una was quite curious to know what these things were but she didn’t push him on it. “Well, let’s just say that a lot of things do match up between you and the person who was described to me… I’m not saying it’s definitely you… but when I was doing the drumming with ya yesterday, I had a feeling… If it’s you, then… I don’t know if it is you, but it definitely could be…” Una was intrigued. Had someone sat her down and said all this to her a couple of years ago she would of had none of it. But ever since she had unlocked the wonderful world of psychadelic substances and discovered that reality was truly made up of many layers, she was open to believing such claims.

She agreed to go with him on a field trip that day around some of the local sites. Even though she knew he was tapped, she got the sense that he would not do anything to her. She just had a feeling. First they visited a local forest with some ancient trees that Una was enamored by. He then took her to a ruin of an old castle, which they explored and climbed around. Next they sat by a local river. She rolled up her trousers and dipped her toes in the water. He lay down in the kong grass. After a few moments of silence he said “You know I’m just going to say it because I’m too old not to be straightforward about these things. I really like ya Una. I knew it from the moment I was drumming withya…”
“Oh right… thanks” Una said with an awkward smile.
“You know that vision. It didn’t just say I would meet that person. It also said that person I’d meet would become my wife… Now as I said, I’m not 100% it’s you… But I want you to know, I’d take care of ya. I would be real nice to you. Take you out to places like this, every weekend if you liked. Just name a place in Ireland and I would take you there.” he said.
Una swallowed the discomfort and continued to stare at the water, tickling her toes.
“You know I’d be 100% loyal to you?” he added.
Una was quite uncomfortable as this stage. He was basically was proposing to her.
If she was the hippy-dippy, twenty-something-year-old, that some older, slightly crazy 50-something year old was propsoing to, after having only just met, then she had to ask herself what that made her?
Had she really strayed so far from normalcy that this was her current reality?

It was then she remembered something. About two weeks previously, she had been lying in bed. She often liked to conjure up her own little fantasies to masturbate to. This night she came up with a fantasy of an older guy, who thought of himself as a shaman. This man was immediately devoted to her, but quite aloof. He lived alone in the country side and was disconnected from scoietal norms. It was as she remembered this that she asked herself had she somehow summoned this scenario to reality? And was it especially summoned because it was about a shaman, the very people who are tapped into “the astral plane” of reality. Had Brendan picked up an her orgasmic energy in the astral plane and perceived it as a vision intended for him?
The dots seemed to add up. She wouldn’t say that to Brendan though. She wasn’t going to bring up her sexual fantasises and give this man any more reason to feel close to her.

“Brendan… I think you’re really nice. And I think I would like to be your friend. Do you understand?”
Unfortunately she had to lie, she didn’t really desire to remain ‘friends’ in the normal sense after this day. Brendan sat there for a moment, a look of mellow disappointment washing over him.
“Alright Una. It is absolutely up to you. If you change your mind you can always let me know. I’d be delighted for you to call me up some weekend and we can go anywhere you like in Ireland. The Giant’s Causeway is great. I was thinking of going there soon…”
“Shall we head back?” Una said.
“Yeah let’s go” he said.

It was almost as if he had read Una’s mind because as they were walking back to the car he asked her “Did you ever have a vision?” Una made the mistake of saying “Yeah… I think I actually had a vision that I would meet a shaman…” She was very bad at keeping the lid on.
He perked up “Oh really? What did the vision say?”
“Oh I don’t really remember… It didn’t tell me much more. Only that I would meet a shaman…” she said, trailing off, hoping he would naturally lose interest. He asked a few more questions until he got the picture that no more information would be disclosed.

On the way back to Loughcrew they stopped at a service station and Brendan bought them both 99s. She gladly ate hers while Brendan sped down the hilly roads, she chose the tunes and turned up the volume and the evening Summer Sun streamed through the windows.

“Thanks Brendan” she said. “I’ve had a really nice time these few days”
“It’s been a pleasure to spend time with you Una. And remember, if you ever want to go somewhere, just call me up, ok? I love your company, your energy, spending time with you is a pleasure.”

He dropped her back to the carpark and before they parted ways he took something from his pocket. It was a little statue of a faery. “A fairy for a fairy” he said as he gave it to her. He had bought it at the giftshop while she packed up her tent earlier. It was then she saw the pure sweetness, behind the kooky, unstable and questionably creepy exterior of this older man. His gesture was like that of a young boy in the schoolyard, picking a flower for the girl he fancied. Why should his sweet feelings be scorned? She knew that if she told her friends or family about her weekend they would be worried for her. But she relied on her own judgement. And she was right in knowing there was no harm Brendan would do to her. Quite the contrary. He had made her weekend special – even if there were weird moments involved. He gave her a window into a life very different to hers and yet a life that, like hers, was contoured by individuality and the essence of uniqueness.

She gave him a hug goodbye.
“Call me if you ever want to do those mushrooms. Or go on a road-trip. Anywhere in Ireland, you name it and I will take you.” he said.
“Thanks Brendan” she said and headed off to the bus stop.

What a couple of days they were! She marvelled at what her quest for shamans to ‘train her’, brought her. The ‘shamans’ she supposedly met that weekend were more sham than shaman. But that didn’t mean they didn’t teach her anything. She had been exposed to humanity, in all its flaws, absurdity and contradiction. Throughout all of it, she had stayed close to herself and her own inner compass, despite how unconventional her actions her. Perhaps that was the best she could hope for on her search for wisdom at this stage.


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