This Psychedelic Theory Claims Magic Mushrooms Are Responsible For All Our Christmas Traditions
It's no secret our that our Christmas traditions are steeped in folklore and religious and spiritual ritual. But is something else - something far more fun and interesting - responsible for the Christmas customs we enjoy? There is a theory about psychedelics and Christmas, specifically that magic mushrooms are behind Christmas and the traditions established long ago. Scholars and academics were the first ones to note the similarities between magic mushrooms and Christmas traditions, illustrating a link that is perhaps not coincidental at all, but proof that some of our most beloved holiday conventions are directly tied to psychedelics. To some, this idea might be scarier than Krampus, but to others, it may just bring a little Christmas joy.
Below is a sampling of the many ways our modern Christmases look eerily like the world of magic 'shrooms. Are we living in a festive bliss imagined centuries ago during a magic mushroom trip?
Santa Claus Is Essentially A ShamanPhoto: Catfisheye / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
The jolly old Santa embraced by our culture is inspired largely by the poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas" (AKA "'Twas the night before Christmas"), written in 1823 by Clement Clark Moore. This popular image of Santa Claus may well have been inspired by shamans, particularly Siberian shamans who wore outfits eerily like Santa's red and white, fur-trimmed suit.
According to anthropologist John Rush: "Up until a few hundred years ago, these practicing shamans would collect Amanita muscaria (the Holy Mushroom), dry them, and then give them as gifts on the winter solstice." This might also explain why Santa slides his ample tuchus down chimneys instead of coming in through the front door. Siberian winters were brutal, and snow removal often impossible; a chimney entrance may have been much more feasible during the time of these Santa Shamans.
Mushrooms Pop Up In Lots Of Christmas ArtPhoto: ungenannt / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
If you look at older Christmas art, art created prior to the mid-20th century, you will find a common theme among artist renderings of Christmas scenes and figures: the magic mushroom. In some images, the mushrooms are just small little details; in others, the mushrooms are the focal point, featuring cherubic-cheeked kids or elves, excited for Christmas, sitting atop a giant 'shroom.
The Amanita muscaria, or fly agaric, is the mushroom we commonly know as the magic mushroom. But in Victorian times, this particular type of fungus was a symbol for - wait for it - chimney sweeps! Mushrooms, chimneys, Santa Claus... it's all making some sense now.
Reindeer Are Able To Fly Because They've Eaten MushroomsPhoto: Project Rastko / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
This theory suggests that reindeer are able to fly because they've ingested psychedelic mushrooms. In Siberia, there is evidence that shamans and reindeer would both eat 'shrooms, which, of course, leads to the logical conclusion that there was a lot of tripping going on way up in the frozen north. Biology professor Donald Pfister told NPR: "This idea [is] that reindeer go berserk because they're eating Amanita muscaria. Reindeers flying - are they flying, or are your senses telling you they're flying because you're hallucinating?"
There is also proof that magic mushrooms can stimulate the nervous system to the extent that one feels a temporary, Herculean strength, and this would apply to animals too. Maybe reindeer, having ingested mushrooms, weren't flying at all, but jumping and bounding and prancing with their surge of super-reindeer power.
The Colors Of Christmas Match The Colors Of 'ShroomsPhoto: Souvenir Post Card Company, New York / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
The colors of the fly agaric mushroom are predominantly red and white - just like the suit worn by our favorite Christmas folk hero. The similarities don't stop there, though. Santa is usually depicted as carrying a large white sack full of toys.
Mushrooms grow from white sacs, and when they are gathered, they are usually put into white sacks.
Mushrooms Appear Beneath Pine Trees, Just Like Christmas PresentsPhoto: IndianCaverns / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0
Mushrooms are a fungus, and fungi flourish in moist, dark places. The environment under the generous shade of a pine tree provides optimal conditions for mushrooms to grow. So, perhaps it is no coincidence that the first place we run to on Christmas morning is the pine tree in the living room.
These days, instead of mushrooms under the tree, we have presents. With the "gift" of the 'shroom long enjoyed by Siberian shaman (and their reindeer), this suggests that our modern gift-giving is a reference to the magic mushroom and one of its favorite growing spots.
Reindeer Are Shamanic Spirit AnimalsPhoto: Fae / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Siberian shamans had a deeply mystical connection to reindeer. So much so, in fact, that reindeer could be considered the spirit animals of these medicine-men. "Amongst the Siberian shamans, you have an animal spirit you can journey with in your vision quest," said Boston University Professor Carl Ruck. "And reindeer are common and familiar to people in eastern Siberia."
It stands to reason, then, that these animals accompanied many a shaman on their spiritual journeys of which magic mushrooms were often a part. And in the Western world, the animals we most associate with Christmas are reindeer.