Christmas is the most iconic holiday in the world and it's full of strange traditions. Activities like hanging stockings and singing songs about flying reindeer have become so deeply ingrained in Christmas that we don't even wonder where they came from. When we trace the origin of Christmas traditions we find that many of them can be linked to the rituals surrounding the psychedelic mushroom Amanita muscaria.
The large red white spotted Amanita Muscaria is the most recognizable mushroom on earth. Throughout history and across many cultures, people valued this mysterious mushroom for its powerful hallucinogenic properties. For over a millennia the indigenous people of the Arctic collected Amanita Muscaria. These people were called shaman. The word shaman is derived from the Tungus speaking people of Siberia and connotes a religious specialist.
Each year, the shaman would pick the Amanita, dry them, load them into a big sack, and then on December 21st during the winter solstice, the shaman would go from house to house delivering their gifts. These shaman were older, bearded men, who wore the symbolic colors of red and white to honor the mushroom. During the winter solstice, the entryways to people's homes were buried under several feet of snow, so it was easier for the shaman to drop the mushrooms down the smoke hole. This is where the idea of presents down the chimney comes from. The colors of Christmas are red white and green. These colors symbolize the red and white Amanita Muscaria under an evergreen tree. Amanita Muscaria is found throughout the Northern Hemisphere under conifers and birch trees just like red and white presents under the Christmas tree.
Although deaths are extremely rare, Amanita muscaria is poisonous. In order to reduce the toxicity, shaman would hang the mushrooms on tree branches for them to dry, just like the colorful ornaments on a Christmas tree.
Santa's flying reindeer have a similar connection to the Amanita Muscaria mushroom. Reindeer are common across Europe and Siberia. And just like the human inhabitants of these areas, they too consumed mushrooms. Siberians who ate the mushrooms may have hallucinated that the grazing reindeer were actually flying.
Siberians would also drink the urine of the reindeer because the urine contained the hallucinogenic compounds without the harmful toxins. To add to things, Rudolph led the other flying reindeer with his glowing red nose; which might have been a representation of the Amanita muscaria leading the psychedelic journey. And it's possible that the idea of helper elves assisting Santa might go
In fact, the entire image of Santa Claus himself closely resembles that of a mushroom. While there are many theories about the true origin of Christmas traditions, this excerpt from James Arthur's book Mushrooms and Mankind probably best summarizes the Santa magic mushroom theory.
Why do people bring pine trees into their houses at the winter solstice placing brightly colored red and white packages under their boughs as gifts to show their love for each other and as representations of the love of God and the gift of his son's life?
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