I'm not certain how the legend of Santa Claus started. One of the
more interesting explanations that I've heard for this yuletide
tradition is that Santa is a symbol for the ingestion and worship of
the hallucinogenic mushroom, Fly agaric (Amanita muscaria).
This theory is based upon the many parallels between Santa Claus and
the cultures that have used the Fly agaric as an inebrient. Let's
examine some of the evidence cited in support of this notion.
- Santa wears a red suit with white trim. The Fly agaric is an
extremely beautiful mushroom that has a brilliant red cap with
- Santa lives at the North Pole. The Fly agaric is a
circumboreal mushroom that grows in association (called
mycorrhizae) with conifers (Christmas trees!?) and deciduous trees
such as birch. This mushroom has been used as an inebrient by
inhabitants of these northerly climes, notably in the Kamchatka
peninsula region of Siberia. In fact, the Fly agaric was the
primary inebrient of these peoples until the 1500's when whalers
and soldiers introduced vodka.
- Santa has reindeer. Reindeer are common inhabitants of Siberia
and are reported to have a "taste" for Fly agaric. It is also
reported, but I question the validity of the reports, that if a
person eats the flesh of an intoxicated reindeer, they too will
- Santa has elves for helpers. Approximately 20 minutes after
ingestion of Fly agaric, most people fall into a deep,
vision-filled sleep. During this period, the intoxicated
individual may receive divine revelations from 'Mukhomor spirits',
which are described as small (elves?) people. [As an aside,
after awaking, the inebriated person reportedly feels elated and
capable of exaggerated physical feats. It has been suggested,
although it is most likely incorrect, that the Viking berserkers
were inebriated with Fly agaric when they went on their barbaric raids.
- Santa enters your house through the chimney. The Mukhomor
spirits, which provide divine guidance, enter a dwelling through
Well, is Santa really a hallucinogenic mushroom in cognito? Who
knows? But one thing is certain; this hypothesis should initiate some
lively conversation on Christmas eve.
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by SG Saupe