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Alternate Perceptions Magazine, December 2015

Santa and the Magic Mushrooms

by: Jeanne Gripp

We all know about Santa Claus and his flying reindeer. But where did the story really start?

One theory places the origins in the hallucinogenic, or "magic", mushrooms which grow in the Siberian and Arctic regions of the World. This Mushroom is Amanita Muscaria, or more commonly called Fly Agaric. It can be found in the Northern regions of the Northern Hemisphere growing under pine trees in the boreal forests. This mushroom can be toxic and is most definitely psychoactive. The shamans of the Evenki Tribe considered the Amanita Muscaria a sacred substance and used it as a way to commune with the Spirits. The Evenki belong to the Tungusic People who can be found in the Northern Regions of Siberia.

​The Evenki peoples’ lives, like so many Northern tribes, revolve around reindeer. The reindeer provided them with food, shelter, clothing, and transportation. And it may well have been the reindeer who introduced the Fly Agaric Mushroom to the shamans. The word Shaman probably originated from the Tungus word ‘saman’ which means "one who knows the spirits." The Shamans of the Evenki people would use the Amanita Muscaria both ceremonially and spiritually. It was the psychoactive properties of this mushroom that helped the shaman commune with the spirits and divine ancient wisdom.

The shaman would dress in a red and white ceremonial parka with dark boots when gathering the magic mushrooms. He would go into the forest to locate the mushrooms, picking them and leaving them to dry on the boughs of the pine tree under which they could be found. This process would give the trees a look very reminiscent of our modern day decorated Christmas Trees. This drying process increased the psychoactive properties and lowered the toxicity of the mushroom. At the end of the season, the shaman would gather the dried mushrooms into a large sack and then visit the homes of the rest of the tribe and deliver mushrooms to the people. Often, the doors of the yurts in which the people lived could not be opened because of high snow drifts, so the shaman would go down the central smoke hole. Sound familiar? But where does the reindeer come in to the story? The reindeer eat the mushrooms as well! So, by watching the reindeer, the shamans were introduced to the properties of the “magic” mushroom. The shaman learned from the reindeer that by drinking the urine of a person (or reindeer) who has consumed the Amanita Muscaria, the psychoactive components were undamaged but the toxic elements had been filtered out. Thus began a centuries old relationship between the reindeer and the shaman.

The Amanita Muscaria has the ability to distort time, space and scale; leading the consumer to profound visions, enlightened wisdom and the belief that they are flying. These mushrooms stimulate the muscles in such a way that those who eat them may appear to have super powers. The reindeer would prance around quite merrily and leap into the air as if they were taking off for a flight. Over time, these practices were mixed with Germanic and Nordic traditions through inter-marriage and migrations. The eight legged horse of Odin merged with the ‘flying’ reindeer, producing the eight flying reindeer who pulled Santa’s sleigh. The red coat and dark boots were soon worn by St. Nick and the sack of magic mushrooms evolved into a sack of toys. Eventually these traditions were brought to Great Britain and later traveled to the Americas. An interesting side note – the traditional symbol for chimney sweeps in Great Britain was a Fly Agaric mushroom. Perhaps harkening back to the day when the shaman would climb down the smoke hole to bestow his present of magic mushrooms.

While images of Santa Claus and red topped mushrooms have been around through the ages, many historians doubt this theory. Perhaps they need a bit of “Holiday Cheer”!


Jeanne Gripp is a freelance writer, dowser and subtle energy worker who lives in the shadow of Pikes Peak. A Colorado native, Jeanne explores the connection between unknown lights, strange creatures, ancient legends, and earth energy lines. Jeanne has spent a lifetime of searching for answers, only to find more questions. Her articles and a book are an attempt to compile and explain the relationship between many of the anomalies that she has experienced over time.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023