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By Mushly.

Published on 11 December 2020

It's no secret that our Christmas traditions are steeped in folklore and religious and spiritual rituals. BUT is there something more ‘magical’ that may in fact be responsible for our countless Christmas traditions and favourite festive season past-times that go beyond the spiritual and religious beliefs traditionally associated with the widely celebrated Christmas holiday?

When we think about Christmas we invariably think of Santa Claus – right?! A white bearded man dressed in a big red suit with white furry trim, carrying a big bag of goodies and gifts in a sleigh pulled through the sky by a team of eight flying reindeer. These Christmas practises and past times have become so deeply ingrained in us from a young age, that many of us don’t even take a second to stop, wonder, and think about how it all started? Where did the idea of Santa’s signature red and white suite and flying reindeer originally come from? Instead of us challenging and questioning the societal Christmas holiday norm, we simply surrender and accept it as fact.

Well, it’s about time that we question it ALL, don’t you think?

Over the decades, there has been a broad spectrum of folklore, speculations, and theories surrounding the basis of the widely celebrated Christmas holiday and its many festive-season traditions and practises. One very interesting theory, and one of our personal favourites if we might add (for obvious reasons of course), claims the answer revolves around the famous Amanita Muscaria magic mushroom

The hallucinogenic Amanita Muscaria is a large red and white spotted ‘toadstool’ mushroom. It is considered one of the most recognizable mushrooms on earth. Throughout history and across many cultures, people valued the mysterious Amanita Muscaria mushroom for its powerful hallucinogenic and spiritual healing properties.

At first thought the Amanita Muscaria and the beloved Christmas holiday may seem like an absurd pairing and highly unlikely duo, however when you dive a little deeper, adjust your perspective and look past what you’ve been conditioned to believe and associate with Christmas from a young age, is it really that far-fetched that the story of our modern-day Santa Claus and his flying reindeer is linked to a hallucinogenic mushroom-eating shaman from the Arctic?

We think not! In fact, when you trace the origin of several Christmas traditions you’ll find that many of them can be linked to the rituals surrounding the psychedelic mushroom Amanita Muscaria - Thus giving rise to the magic mushroom Christmas theory!

History behind the magic mushroom Christmas theory

What is the history behind the magic mushroom Christmas theory and how did it originate? The origin of the magic mushroom Christmas theory traces all the way back to the indigenous people of the Artic who collected the mushroom Amanita Muscaria for over a millennium. These people were called shamans. The word shaman is derived from the Tungus speaking people of Siberia and implies a religious specialist.

Several research and historical studies indicate that the shamans who lived in these Arctic and Siberian regions were incredibly familiar with the distinct red and white-spotted Amanita Muscaria mushrooms and its remarkable hallucinogenic and spiritual healing properties.

According to writer and mycologist Lawrence Millman, these shamans would utilise Amanita Muscaria’s powerful hallucinogenic properties and extraordinary psychoactive effects to perform various spiritual and healing rituals. By using Amanita Muscaria as an entheogen (an entheogen is a drug used to bring about a profound spiritual experience), gave shamans the power to act as intermediaries between the human world and the spirit world. Enabling them to bestow gifts of spiritual healing, deeper spiritual connection, and problem-solving, to mention just a few.

But what exactly is the link between these shamans, the magic mushroom Christmas theory, and the various modern-day Christmas traditions and past times? Let’s dive right into that!

Sierra College anthropologist John Rush lays out the basis for the magic mushroom Christmas theory, explaining that the legend of Santa Claus evolved from a historical shaman figure that existed many centuries ago (as mentioned above). Rush goes on to state that "Santa is a modern counterpart of a shaman, who consumed mind-altering plants and fungi to commune with the spirit world."

According to Rush these practicing shamans would collect Amanita Muscaria (also referred to as the Holy Mushrooms) every year, dry them, load them into a big sack, and then on the 21st of December, during the winter solstice, the shaman would go from one house to the other delivering these ‘gifts’ to the people – sound familiar? These shamans wore the symbolic red and white colour scheme (exactly like our modern-day Santa Claus) to honour the Amanita Muscaria mushroom’s distinct red and white colour arrangement.

To make things even more interesting, as the entryway to most people’s homes were buried under several feet of snow during the winter solstice period, it was far easier for the shaman to drop the Amanita Muscaria mushroom gifts down the smoke hole (AKA chimney). Legend has it that that’s where the idea of Santa Claus climbing down the chimney to deliver his Christmas presents originated from.

In addition, there are several accounts that point to and describe the remarkable and fascinating similarities that exist when comparing the way in which these shamans performed their rituals to the narrative of our modern Santa Claus. An all-knowing man who defies space and time? Flying reindeer and reindeer-drawn sleds? The giving of gifts? The tales of the Sami shamans have it all!
Another enthralling revelation and contributory piece of information to back-up the magic mushroom Christmas theory was presented by Carl Ruck, a classics professor at Boston University.

He pointed out the pivotal ‘North Pole’ connection between the shamans and Santa Claus. He stated that the fact that these shamans lived so far north explains why the Santa Claus we've come to know from childhood right through to adulthood makes his home in the North Pole region. He went on to say that "Is there any other reason Santa lives at the North Pole? It is a tradition that can be traced back to Siberia". This pays further homage to the magic mushroom Christmas theory.

There is also no denying the fact that Amanita Muscaria's distinct red and white colour arrangement bares a stark resemblance to Santa Claus’s signature red and white suite. In fact, legend has it that’s where Santa's unique Christmas holiday colour scheme comes from. Not to mention the fact that the three colours typically associated with Christmas and the festive season are red, white, and green – these colours symbolize the red and white Amanita Muscaria under an evergreen tree.

Amanita Muscaria is found throughout the Northern hemisphere under conifers and birch trees, exactly like red and white presents under a green Christmas tree. In addition, in order to reduce the potential toxicity of Amanita Muscaria, shamans would hang these mushrooms on the tree branches in order for them to dry, just like the colourful ornaments we now hang on our Christmas trees.

The origin of all our favourite Christmas traditions and past-times may in fact be more ‘magical’ than we originally thought – and we love it!