Just when you thought you had Christmas all figured out, Matthew Salton comes along with this new animated short, "Santa Is a Psychedelic Mushroom." It makes the case that maybe, just maybe, "the story of our modern Santa Claus, the omnipotent man who travels the globe in one night, bearing gifts, and who’s camped out in shopping malls across the United States, is linked to a hallucinogenic mushroom-eating shaman from the Arctic." Specifically a historic Shaman from Lapland, in northern Finland, who tripped out on Amanita muscaria, the toxic, red-and-white toadstool mushroom you've seen in fairy tales so many times before. Elaborating, Salton talks with Carl Ruck, a Boston University professor who studies mythology, religion and the sacred role of psychoactive plants. And also Lawrence Millman. Writing at The New York Times, Salton adds:
According to the writer and mycologist Lawrence Millman, the shaman would make use of Amanita muscaria’s psychoactive effects in order to perform healing rituals. The use of Amanita muscaria as an entheogen (that is, a drug used to bring about a spiritual experience) would enable the shamans to act as intermediaries between the spirit and human world, bringing gifts of healing and problem-solving. (Although these mushrooms are poisonous, the Sami reduced their toxicity by drying them..) Various accounts describe the shaman and the rituals performed in ways that are fascinatingly similar to the narrative of Santa. An all-knowing man who defies space and time? Flying reindeer? Reindeer-drawn sleds? Climbing down the chimney? The giving of gifts? The tales of the Sami shamans have it all.
To learn more about the psychedelic origins of Santa, you can read this 2010 article published at NPR, "Did 'Shrooms Send Santa And His Reindeer Flying?"
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