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The psychedelic secrets of Santa Claus
FLY AGARIC ~ Amanita muscaria

Modern Christmas traditions are based on ancient mushroom-using shamans.
Although most people see Christmas as a Christian holiday, most of the symbols and icons we associate with Christmas celebrations are actually derived from the shamanistic traditions of the tribal peoples of pre-Christian Northern Europe.

The sacred mushroom of these people was the red and white amanita muscaria mushroom, also known as “fly agaric.” These mushrooms are now commonly seen in books of fairy tales, and are usually associated with magic and fairies. This is because they contain potent hallucinogenic compounds, and were used by ancient peoples for insight and transcendental experiences.

Most of the major elements of the modern Christmas celebration, such as Santa Claus, Christmas trees, magical reindeer and the giving of gifts, are originally based upon the traditions surrounding the harvest and consumption of these most sacred mushrooms.

The world tree
These ancient peoples, including the Lapps of modern-day Finland, and the Koyak tribes of the central Russian steppes, believed in the idea of a World Tree. The World Tree was seen as a kind of cosmic axis, onto which the planes of the universe are fixed. The roots of the World Tree stretch down into the underworld, its trunk is the “middle earth” of everyday existence, and its branches reach upwards into the heavenly realm.
The amanita muscaria mushrooms grow only under certain types of trees, mostly firs and evergreens. The mushroom caps are the fruit of the larger mycelium beneath the soil which exists in a symbiotic relationship with the roots of the tree. To ancient people, these mushrooms were literally “the fruit of the tree.”

The North Star was also considered sacred, since all other stars in the sky revolved around its fixed point. They associated this “Pole Star” with the World Tree and the central axis of the universe. The top of the World Tree touched the North Star, and the spirit of the shaman would climb the metaphorical tree, thereby passing into the realm of the gods. This is the true meaning of the star on top of the modern Christmas tree, and also the reason that the super-shaman Santa makes his home at the North Pole.
Ancient peoples were amazed at how these magical mushrooms sprang from the earth without any visible seed. They considered this “virgin birth” to have been the result of the morning dew, which was seen as the semen of the deity. The silver tinsel we drape onto our modern Christmas tree represents this divine fluid.

Santa Claus, super shaman
Although the modern image of Santa Claus was created at least in part by the advertising department of Coca-Cola, in truth his appearance, clothing, mannerisms and companions all mark him as the reincarnation of these ancient mushroom-gathering shamans.

One of the side effects of eating amanita mushrooms is that the skin and facial features take on a flushed, ruddy glow. This is why Santa is always shown with glowing red cheeks and nose. Even Santa’s jolly “Ho, ho, ho!” is the euphoric laugh of one who has indulged in the magic fungus.

Santa also dresses like a mushroom gatherer. When it was time to go out and harvest the magical mushrooms, the ancient shamans would dress much like Santa, wearing red and white fur-trimmed coats and long black boots.

These peoples lived in dwellings made of birch and reindeer hide, called “yurts.” Somewhat similar to a teepee, the yurt’s central smokehole is often also used as an entrance. After gathering the mushrooms from under the sacred trees where they appeared, the shamans would fill their sacks and return home. Climbing down the chimney-entrances, they would share out the mushroom’s gifts with those within.

The amanita mushroom needs to be dried before being consumed; the drying process reduces the mushroom’s toxicity while increasing its potency. The shaman would guide the group in stringing the mushrooms and hanging them around the hearth-fire to dry. This tradition is echoed in the modern stringing of popcorn and other items.

The psychedelic journeys taken under the influence of the amanita were also symbolized by a stick reaching up through the smokehole in the top of the yurt. The smokehole was the portal where the spirit of the shaman exited the physical plane.

Santa’s famous magical journey, where his sleigh takes him around the whole planet in a single night, is developed from the “heavenly chariot,” used by the gods from whom Santa and other shamanic figures are descended. The chariot of Odin, Thor and even the Egyptian god Osiris is now known as the Big Dipper, which circles around the North Star in a 24-hour period.

In different versions of the ancient story, the chariot was pulled by reindeer or horses. As the animals grow exhausted, their mingled spit and blood falls to the ground, forming the amanita mushrooms.

St Nicholas and Old Nick
Saint Nicholas is a legendary figure who supposedly lived during the fourth Century. His cult spread quickly and Nicholas became the patron saint of many varied groups, including judges, pawnbrokers, criminals, merchants, sailors, bakers, travelers, the poor, and children.

Most religious historians agree that St Nicholas did not actually exist as a real person, and was instead a Christianized version of earlier Pagan gods. Nicholas’ legends were mainly created out of stories about the Teutonic god called Hold Nickar, known as Poseidon to the Greeks. This powerful sea god was known to gallop through the sky during the winter solstice, granting boons to his worshippers below.

When the Catholic Church created the character of St Nicholas, they took his name from “Nickar” and gave him Poseidon’s title of “the Sailor.” There are thousands of churches named in St Nicholas’ honor, most of which were converted from temples to Poseidon and Hold Nickar. (As the ancient pagan deities were demonized by the Christian church, Hold Nickar’s name also became associated with Satan, known as “Old Nick!”)

Local traditions were incorporated into the new Christian holidays to make them more acceptable to the new converts. To these early Christians, Saint Nicholas became a sort of “super-shaman” who was overlaid upon their own shamanic cultural practices. Many images of Saint Nicholas from these early times show him wearing red and white, or standing in front of a red background with white spots, the design of the amanita mushroom.

Picture taken at Feern Ridge, Oregon, USA. Camera Lumix DMC L-10
Picture taken by Charles Harkins
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Picture taken by Charles Harkins

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Comments

  • Larry Trupp
    Larry Truppabout 3 years ago

    Wonderful capture…awesome colors

  • Thanks Larry

    – Charles & Patricia Harkins ~ Picture Oregon

  • Bob Culshaw
    Bob Culshawabout 3 years ago

    Wonderful work Charles.

  • Thanks Bob

    – Charles & Patricia Harkins ~ Picture Oregon

  • Den McKervey
    Den McKerveyabout 3 years ago

    Excellent capture and great info, this shroom would be perfect to run through Redfields’ Fractalius :)

  • Thanks Den

    – Charles & Patricia Harkins ~ Picture Oregon

  • Irina Chuckowree
    Irina Chuckowreeabout 3 years ago

    fantastic image!
    and thank you so much for the most informative description!

  • Thanks Irina

    – Charles & Patricia Harkins ~ Picture Oregon

  • Robert  Welsh
    Robert Welshabout 3 years ago

    Very interesting and you have done a great job of capturing some of the magical appeal of the fungi.

  • Thanks Robert

    – Charles & Patricia Harkins ~ Picture Oregon

  • Kim Slater
    Kim Slaterabout 3 years ago

  • Thanks Kim

    – Charles & Patricia Harkins ~ Picture Oregon

  • Zane Paxton
    Zane Paxtonabout 3 years ago

    A vary interesting narrative.

  • Thanks Zane

    – Charles & Patricia Harkins ~ Picture Oregon

  • relayer51
    relayer51about 3 years ago

    Fantastic! taking mushroom images to another level . Instant fav , totally jealous !

  • Thanks Relayer

    – Charles & Patricia Harkins ~ Picture Oregon

  • Julesrules
    Julesrulesabout 3 years ago

    great picture , fascinating story!!

  • Thanks Jules

    – Charles & Patricia Harkins ~ Picture Oregon

  • olbetsy
    olbetsyalmost 2 years ago

    beautifully composed, love every part of it!

  • Thanks Olbetsy

    – Charles & Patricia Harkins ~ Picture Oregon

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