Did Santa Claus & His Reindeers Begin with a Mushroom Trip?: Discover the Psychedelic, Shamanistic Side of Christmas

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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Relat­ed Con­tent:

When Michel Fou­cault Tripped on Acid in Death Val­ley and Called It “The Great­est Expe­ri­ence of My Life” (1975)

Artist Draws Nine Por­traits on LSD Dur­ing 1950s Research Exper­i­ment

Aldous Hux­ley, Dying of Can­cer, Left This World Trip­ping on LSD (1963)

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