Xander sighed. ”Well, that wasn’t too bad,” he said.
“It wasn’t?” was the short reply Andrew gave.
Andrew looked exhausted. He was pale, half asleep, swaying slightly on his feet.
They had just finished their last session with the Shaman. A few minutes earlier they had been told that they now had all the knowledge they needed, the rest was just pure instinct.
Xander had been pleasantly surprised when the Shaman had first arrived.
Due to his previous experiences with Shamans, he had been expecting a leather-clad, hygienically challenged man sprouting cryptic remarks. But the Shaman had been almost the complete opposite. He arrived wearing an Armani-suit, sporting a haircut that would fit in quite well at any board-meeting at any high-end business-company.
The only outward sign was necklace with a few strange items attached. He also had a businesslike attitude in the way he taught.
He started with a lecture he called ‘Shamanism 101’ for all the watchers and Slayers that wanted to attend.
He began with the common factors that all types of Shamans share.
“The lower level spirits can play important roles in human lives,” he stated. “The shaman can control and/or cooperate with these spirits for the community's benefit. These spirits can be either good or bad, just as Shamans can be.
The shamans can treat almost any illnesses or sickness, as they are healers, psychics, gurus and magicians.
Shamans get into a trance or altered state by various means, like singing, dancing, taking different drugs, meditating or drumming. The shaman's spirit leaves the body and enters into the supernatural world, the spirit plane, or other planes of consciousness during certain rituals. Here they gather information, find strength and talk to spirits of various kinds.
Animals play an important role, acting as omens and message-bearers, as well as representations of animal spirit guides.”
He continued with more information on how to use these beliefs in the modern world…
The course had been enlightening. And surprisingly, very interesting. Later Xander found out that the first introductory lesson had lasted a full five hours.
“Why couldn’t’t high-school have been more like this?” he lamented as he collected his notes.
“Because this course is the equivalent to courses taught at university levels,” was Willow’s reply.
“University?” Xander sounded shocked, “but this was so simple, so easy to understand. Then why did I have so much trouble on Hellmouth-high?”
“Probably because most of the teachers there were not interested in teaching in the first place,” Willow said, shrugging her shoulders. “and the good ones usually died early in the semester.”
“I know, but if I had known that I wasn’t as stupid as I thought, I probably would have tried harder, and continued on to College.”
“You still can, you know” Willow said, trying to cheer her ‘bestest buddy’ up. “When you have completed your Shaman-training, we could try a spell I read about in one of Giles books. I’ll ask him about it. See what he thinks. What would you like to study? Math? Chemistry? Religion? Languages?”
The different subjects rattled over Willow’s tongue like a machine gun shooting bullets.
“I really don’t know, “Xander said. “Perhaps languages, mythology and basic psychology, since I have some familiarity with those subjects?”
“Sounds reasonable to me,” Willow said. “All those apocalypse-research nights may come in handy once more.” She smiled and excused herself, leaving Xander with his thoughts.
**** End flashback
A few weeks later, Xander and Andrew had gotten the basics of the shamanism down pat.
The Shaman had said that the rest is just ‘window-dressing’, as most of the outer trappings were used to create the right atmosphere for the real shamanic work. Just like what you expected at a Doctor’s office or a professor’s study. The different objects were mostly used as a focus for the mind, they rarely had any powers of their own, unless the Shaman had infused it with some of his own. And that, he said was more of a Witchcraft and Voodoo thing to do.
“Better get ready for tonight,” Andrew said as he collected his papers. “I don’t want to disappoint Giles and the others tonight. If we manage to complete the tests the Shaman set before us, no more classes. Well, for me at least…. You, on the other hand, my friend, will have to take Wicca101 with Willow, and if I know her right, probably Wicca102, 103 and so on, and on, and on…”
Xander groaned. “Perhaps I better fail the tests then,” he said, contemplating it.
“Don’t you dare,” Andrew said. “The best way to get it over and done with is to face it head on.” He looked at Xander. “Besides, a lot of the solutions you suggested, the ones that the Shaman rejected, were almost Wiccan in their approach, just lacking some of the incantations and pleas to one or several deities.”
“Really?” Xander asked smiling. “Most of those answers just popped into my mind. It felt like as if I focused my mind on a specific task, and sort of pushed, it would turn out the way I wanted it to.”
“Do you mean like the ‘Will and the Word’ in the Belgarion-books?” Andrew asked, trying to understand what Xander was saying, while showing of his inner Geek, something he rarely did anymore.
“Sort of, but without the ‘Word’” Xander replied. “Perhaps this is like one of Willow’s spells?”
“It sounds like it. Ask her tomorrow, -after- you have passed tonight’s tests. Andrew advised Xander.
“Oh, I’ll pass them with flying colors. After all, how hard can it be to do a few tests, especially is they are the sort of tests that we passed in class?”
“Let’s hope so,“ Andrew replied. “Better get going, Xander, or we’ll be late for lunch, or rather, we’ll be on time, and the slayers will have gotten to the food before us.”
“Perish the thought. We can’t have any of that, old Chap, Lead on!” Xander replied in a passable English accent. They both laughed, and ran for the dining room.
Later that evening.
Xander was happy. He had passed his tests. The Shaman that he was very pleased.
Usually Shamanic training took years. But both Andrew and Xander had been naturals, as if they were born to it.
The Shaman continued telling Xander that he was by far stronger than Andrew in raw power, But that Andrew was by himself in the top ten percent of the known shamans.
He continued telling Xander about certain aspects of the astral planes that they had visited during their lessons.
One of those had apparently been a place of meeting. It had looked like a normal American diner, sort of, if you ignored some of the patrons as being a bit see-through or fuzzy around the edges.
There, the shamans congregated to seek help from each other, or just to exchange news or talk shop. Other creatures also met there, but he couldn’t tell what kind they were, as they were quite diffuse and shapeless. They resembled wolves, men and some kind of bird all at once.
Tomorrow he would Xander and Andrew there to present them to the others. After the meeting they would have earned the rights to call themselves Shamans.