It was a great many years ago that I last came across the word Shaman. At that time, it came to me after being tucked neatly away for goodness knows how long, in an adventure book for youngsters. In the story it seems brothers Bill and Jim decided to sneak away from their campsite, which happened to be near the heart of the Amazon jungle, while their parents were sound asleep in the family's current housing, if one can call it such, a tent. Each daring the other to go on, as brothers apparently do, which by the way I have no way of knowing the validity of that statement for the sheer fact that I was an only child, a single star in my parent's heaven, if you will. 

So Bill and Jim find themselves dared straight into the deepest and darkest parts of the formidable Amazon jungle which is practically the living room, nay the den of animals like crocodiles and caiman and many other ferocious things no doubt that with "C" as well as a slew of nefarious cretin that begin with other letters as well. At some point it becomes apparent to one that they may very well be completely lost. He points this out to the other and the anxious feelings rise not just with Bill and Jim but with the reader, too. Now a funny thing happens. These two hapless boys stumble upon a Shaman and what I mean to say is that they don't literally trip over the fellow but this native witchdoctor of sorts jumps out at them in all of his tribal regalia and coaxes if not scares the bejesus clean out of them. While I personally wouldn't have much bejesus left to scare out, they, being younger, apparently had quite a sum. I'm fairly sure, however, that they were quite exceedingly low on bejesus after this fright. Now what I find very strange here, is that Bill and Jim begin trying to communicate with the Shaman and he actually attempts to communicate back to the boys. Ah, if the world were only so docile. It's more than safe to say that I would not receive near this kind of working relationship if I were to do anything even close to this to a Shaman in the jungle, the likes of whom I had never had the pleasure of meeting prior. 

Let's say I were to jump out from behind some bushes, even in a downtown setting. Chances are, that the poor soul or souls whom I might surprise would commence to locating the life within me and squeezing it out post haste. But here, in this amazing story about these two lost brothers who come across a Shaman deep in the jungle, they start straight away with attempting to establish lines of communication. Now what I'm not saying is that this is impossible. What I am saying is that the likelihood is so rare that you'd be filthy rich if you put your money on that horse and it "came in" as they say at the track. 

So as you can see, my knowledge of and association with Shaman's is, at very least, something one might describe as limited. Which is why I was a bit taken aback when, very recently, this word Shaman came up in casual conversation at The Bow Tie Club. As I'm sure you know, The Bow Tie Club is wonderful place where one can go and have a sip of his or her favorite poison while sampling some of the finest pipe tobaccos from each and every tobacco blender worth their salt. Oh but it doesn't end there. The club is a cozy respite with low lighting, dark and rich green walls and a black trim that upon very close inspection, looks like it may actually be the darkest of browns ever made. As it's name suggests, bow ties are another facet of the establishment. One can buy the finest of hand cut bow ties right there on the premises. If you like bow ties, you become a member of the club and soon you have begun a pipe collection (yes they sell pipes as well,) you find your favorite poison, and you find some good friends. Should you like pipes and tobaccos, you join the club and soon you have a bow tie collection, you find your favorite poison, and you find some good friends. There are so many ways that folks have found themselves within the establishment. Once there, extracting yourself from those delights is a chore not easily accomplished even by the most brave among us. 

There I was during a rather normal evening at The Bow Tie Club when, in the midst of casual conversation pops up the word Shaman. I was conversing with Stan Morgan who I might normally describe as a chaste fellow. He was speaking to the many and varied complexities of married life. The one complexity he was honing in on happened to be children. You see, Stan and his wife already had two young boys who, as far as I could tell, were right fine gentlemen. I had the pleasure of meeting them a few times and never did they show anything more than the normal exuberance for life and mischief befitting young lads. Stan seemed a bit worried that his Missus might be once again with child. He went on to say that while he would certainly love another child in the house, the budget for a third child was hardly there. He said he didn't understand how she might be pregnant since the dance went so well. "Dance? What dance", I asked. "We had a Shaman do the dance of infertility once we decided to stop having kids." 

I am a calm, even collected man, however, I don't believe there is a thing in this world or any other that could have kept the scotch in my mouth at that moment. I suppressed the grin, offered up a few "Sorry about that"s and dabbed up the scotch from the surrounding area. I followed up with, "Come again?" Stan explained, "Shaman's are just people who know the old ways, ways people like you and I have forgotten all about. They can do many amazing things. The idea though seems so absurd at first, that people just don't give them a chance and this stuff works. I just hope this dance worked." I had to know, so I asked, "Stan, if you don't mind my asking, where did you find a Shaman?" "Oh, in the paper." he said. I felt like continuing the conversation about finding Shaman's in the paper, but his answer was so matter of fact and flat and not at all embarrassed that it stopped my wishes cold. I only could muster the retort of "Alright." Stan finished his drink, which I believe was a Rum and Coke, and said, "Say Karl, I'm off to see the Shaman to talk with him about all this and could use the company, not to mention support. Care to join?" I've been asked to be the announcer at raffles. I've been asked to be the judge at pedigree rabbit and hare competitions. I've even been asked to choose the appropriate gift for the wife of statesman, but I have never been asked to come along as support to a meeting with a local Shaman. So of course, I had to say yes. "Absolutely." I said. I finished my scotch, and off we went. 

It took us about half a bowl of G.L. Pease's Blackpoint (some of the finest tobacco in current production) in an Ardor Chubby Billiard (one of my very favorite stout renditions of a classic shape) before we were there, that is to say, about twenty minutes. The Shaman's shack was more like a penthouse sans furniture. It seemed odd being "buzzed in" to climb stairs to the Shaman's place, but there we were. While I expected a grass skirt and some sort of headdress when he opened the door, the Shaman was instead, wearing the following: dark mustard yellow pants with cuffs made of linen, leather sandals, a white linen button up and collared shirt and a nose bone. His hair was mostly dark with some gray throughout. He wore his hair longish, but not quite to the shoulders. His skin was a dark olive. I found myself trying to look at the bone through his nose more often than would be polite, so I tried to limit this as much as possible. He welcomed us with a hearty, "Welcome my friends, it is my pleasure to see you today." He was grinning widely. I don't believe he stopped grinning once for the duration of our visit. 

Stan, the Shaman and I sat down on a round rug on the floor. Stan introduced me to the Shaman and explained that I was only accompanying as a friend for support. I then learned the Shaman's name. Kevin. If someone would have asked me to make a list of all the possible Shaman names that I could come up with, I'm quite sure that Kevin would not have been even at the back of the pack. I sat there quietly as Stan laid out his concerns to Kevin the Shaman. Kevin looked concerned and understanding. Once Stan finished, Kevin spoke. "The dance was a good dance and holds our intentions well. So long as your intentions and your wife's intentions have not changed, the power of the dance holds. I believe you have nothing to worry about. Put it then out of your mind. Have some ginger in your meal tonight. Rest and relax. Everything is fine." With that, Stan said, "Thank you very much." Then I took note from Stan's lead and we stood up, he offered another thank you with a small bow to Kevin, I followed suit as best I could and we left the happy Shaman's abode. I don't believe we were in his home any more than ten minutes. 

After that day, my good friend Stan and I didn't discuss this topic again for quite some time. When we did, he had this to say. "Karl, the Shaman was right. We had nothing to worry about." Honestly I was shocked. My mind had wondered into a future where Stan's wife was pregnant again, Kevin couldn't be trusted, and Stan would have to stop coming to The Bow Tie Club due to the high cost of diapers. Thankfully this was not the case. I said to Stan, "I'm so glad it worked out the way you and your wife initially wanted." Stan and I immediately moved onto other topic including cuts of tobacco and more specifically, cube cutting and our likes or dislikes of the matter. Personally I've never been a fan of the cube cut and I say that un apologetically. 

Not much longer, Stan had to leave and I was there sitting with my thoughts, a lit pipe, a scotch and a decision to make. I had been eyeing a few pipes in the case at The Bow Tie Club for some time. One of the pipes was a figural antique meerschaum with an amber bit. The scene was a hunting theme and the entire piece was elaborate and intricate. The other was an unassuming sandblasted black Canadian by Kirk Bosi. It's simple straightforward elegance was one that I found captivating. I asked the good fellow behind the counter if I might borrow them just for a half hour or so with the understanding that I would bring them straight back without a scratch and unsmoked. He agreed, and so, after finishing my drink, I set out with pipe in mouth and two others in pocket. 

I arrived at the Shaman's house where he buzzed me in. I apologized to Kevin for showing up without notice or warning, and explained that I thought he might be able to help me. I could be wrong, however, I believe his smile was larger than normal. Kevin beckoned me in and asked me to sit down on the familiar round rug. He asked me what brought me back to him. I explained, "Sir, I am in need of your help. I understand that you know many things and I have a dilemma. I am at odds about a purchase I wish to make on a pipe. They are both very beautiful, but I can not seem to choose." Kevin the Shaman stared into my eyes and then said, "I would go with the Bosi. His work in classic shapes is really nice. It would be a shame to pass on an opportunity like that." I don't mind telling you that a smile found it's way across my face while my eyes teared. I could only find the words, "Thank you." in my currently vocabulary which I uttered immediately before leaving the holy apartment. Upon arrival back at The bow Tie Club, my mission was clear and soon the Bosi Canadian was burning full of Blackpoint and I was in a strange and wonderful place in the Universe. 

—Olie Sylvester 
Baron, International Oom Paul Society of Non-Typicals

AuthorOlie Sylvester