Warehouse G

Amanita Muscaria

Santa Clause Is A Psychedelic Mushroom

By James Donahue

Have you ever wondered how a Christian celebration of the alleged birth of Jesus at or near the date of the winter solstice got so entangled with a wild character like Santa Claus who rides a sleigh filled with gifts pulled by reindeer?

Like so many myths, the Santa Clause story has an origin. Some say there was a real person named Nicholas of Myra, a bishop in Lycia, now part of Turkey, who put coins in the shoes of those who left them at their doorstep. He was declared a saint by the church, thus becoming the original Saint Nicholas.

But where did the flowing white beard and bright red and white suit come from? And where did we get the story of the flying reindeer and the brightly wrapped gifts left under pine trees erected in houses?

There is yet another ancient tradition handed down by the tribal people of pre-Christian Northern Europe who harvested at this time of the year a sacred mushroom, the red and white amanita muscaria. The mushroom was used by shamans and prized for their potent hallucinogenic compounds. It is said the wise men of the tribe received insight and transcendental experiences after consuming this mushroom.

The Lapps of what is now Finland and the Koyak tribes of the central Russian steppes believed in the existence of a World Tree. This was, to them, a cosmic axis from which the planes of the universe were fixed. The roots of the tree extended deep into the underworld, its truck was the “middle earth” of everyday existence, and the branches reached upward into the heavens.

The people believed the amanita muscaria mushrooms were the fruit of the World Tree. When they appeared they were found only under evergreen trees, thus the relationship with the “Christmas tree.”

There is more. The North Star was considered a sacred pole star, linked with the World Tree. The top of the World Tree said believed to touch the North Star. During ceremonies the spirit of the Shaman would climb this metaphorical tree, thereby reaching the realm of the gods. This is the origin of the star that is placed at the top of the tree and the reason that the super-shaman, or Santa, lives at the North Pole.

It was traditional for the shamans to dress in red and white fur-trimmed coats and long black boots when it was time to go out and harvest the magical mushrooms. They would return with their sacks filled with the mushrooms, then, instead of entering through the doors, they climbed through a smokeholes in the center of the roof of the dwellings, and then share their mushroom gifts with those inside.

The reindeer, which were an important part of the lives of the people in that part of the world, also liked to consume the amanita mushrooms, so the concept of these animals “flying high” was probably somewhat true. They say the effects of this mushroom are a distortion of size and the sense of flying. There were legends of winged reindeer that carried shamans up to the highest branches of the World Tree.

A side effect of eating amanita mushrooms is a ruddy glow that forms on the skin. Notice that Santa is always shown with glowing red cheeks and nose. Santa’s laugh, “Ho, ho ho!” is the euphonic laugh of a person who has consumed the magic fungus.

In its raw state, the amanita mushroom is highly toxic. Before they can be used, the mushrooms are cut into small pieces and strung up around the hearth fire to try. This drying process reduces the toxicity while increasing the hallucinogenic potency. The modern stringing of lights, popcorn and even holiday cards stems from this ancient tradition.

There is one part of the old world tradition that has not been passed down to the contemporary celebration of Christmas, and it is just as well. Because the body quickly rejects the toxins the cause the euphoric effect of the mushroom, they are passed off in the urine. But the natives discovered they could get a super charge and fly back off into their desired hallucinogenic state by drinking each other’s urine.

The urine was so treasured the people even carried it around in special pouches. They even went so far as to drink the urine of the reindeer when they could get it.

Perhaps we have substituted this tradition with the creation of eggnog?