Did Santa Claus Trip on Magic Mushrooms?

Just about every yr, ‘round the Holiday seasons, I am reminded how the Net is destroying our skill to consider beyond what Google tells us to believe. The information is repeated meme immediately after meme, post immediately after short article, website immediately after blog – all recycling the very same faulty declare: namely, that the contemporary character of Santa Claus echoes psychedelic mushroom lore stemming from Siberian shamanism.

Due to the fact some (in truth, relatively several) Siberian medication-staff take in the amanita muscaria fungus – the typical crimson fairytale mushroom speckled with white dots – it is imagined that Santa Claus in some way signifies a modern-day incarnation of this mystical character from the colds of Mother Russia. The try to interpret the Santa saga as deriving from a mushroom-making use of Siberian shaman rests on the following four assumptions:

  • The purple and white hues of Santa’s outfit match the red and white shades of the amanita muscaria.
  • Santa’s eight flying reindeer are primarily based on Siberian reindeer that consume the amanita muscaria and get “high.”
  • We spot provides less than an evergreen Xmas tree due to the mycorrhizal connection (described beneath) concerning evergreen trees and the amanita muscaria. The provides secretly signify the mushroom.
  • We place mushrooms in stockings and cling them by the chimney with treatment simply because that’s how shamans dried their mushrooms.

It would make for a enjoyment tale. But all of this is incorrect.


When it is tempting to correlate the purple and white colours of Santa’s costume with the mushroom, these types of associations are purely coincidental. During the 1800s, when Santa Claus was largely invented out of the before St. Nick, his costume went via a wide variety of improvements. People in america didn’t assume about Santa as acquiring a standardized outfit. And as it turns out, crimson and white weren’t the only shades worn by Santa in America’s 19th century creativity. Nonetheless, we do know the place the pink and white arrived from, and it has very little to do with mushrooms. They arrived from the crimson, white, and blue of the American flag as demonstrated on the protect of Harper’s Weekly in 1863, which depicts Santa clothed in patriotic garb.

This graphic appeared during the Civil War Thomas Nast, the illustrator, was a staunch abolitionist and he drew St. Nick decked out in stars and stripes, offering provisions to Union soldiers. After the Civil War finished, St. Nick’s outfit again went by means of a wide range of modifications until eventually 1931 when Coca-Cola adopted him (now rechristened “Santa Claus”) as their spokes-elf. Coca-Cola ads were currently using purple and white, and those people shades ended up picked for old St. Nick out of sheer ease, not out of any affinity for the amanita muscaria.

If Santa’s costume colours actually stemmed from the mushroom, then that “fact” would be obvious right from the starting. Rather, we see a normal, undirected cultural evolution that inevitably lands on crimson and white for nothing more than advertisement applications.


As for Santa’s flying reindeer, we experience a identical issue — a steady evolution of character progress. Like Santa’s wardrobe, his reindeer also have a cultural record that tends to make the supposed associations with Siberian reindeer very not likely. When Siberian reindeer do consume the amanita muscaria, which has intoxicating effects, it is not the precursor for Santa’s traveling reindeer. We know this because Santa’s vehicular flight predates any mention of reindeer.

The initially U.S. point out we have of St. Nick with a flying car is discovered in Washington Irving’s Knickerbocker Heritage of New York (1809). In this e-book, St. Nick flies all around not in a sleigh pulled by reindeer but in a wagon pulled by no animal at all. Later on on, even immediately after reindeer initially enter the story, St. Nick is also reported to have ridden a mule and a white horse — neither of which take in the amanita muscaria.

If the flying reindeer ended up genuine echoes of Siberian mushroom consumption (by human or animal), then that would be evident correct out the gate. The flying reindeer would have to predate the traveling wagon, but that’s not the case. And why are there other modes of travel, like horse or mule, if it is really a tale primarily based on mushroom-feeding on reindeer?

Although it is tempting to correlate the pink and white shades of Santa’s costume with the mushroom, this kind of associations are purely coincidental.


The amanita muscaria exists in a mycorrhizal romantic relationship with certain conifer trees this suggests that the mushroom grows out of the mycelia that sort underground and colonize the roots of the tree. For this motive, it is mentioned, we position presents below the Christmas tree — as an unwitting nod to the mushrooms that expand there. However, such an assumption is untenable for significantly the identical cause all the other meant connections slide small: particularly, there is a traceable historical past that displays how we arrived to put offers beneath Xmas trees and, the moment again, it has nothing to do with mushrooms.

When modern-day Christmas traditions had been to start with forming in the 19th century, trees weren’t connected with provides at all. At the time, Christmas stockings (and sneakers) were being the favored gift-shipping and delivery process.1 Later on, from the 1840s by the 1880s, Germanic individuals immigrated to the United States, bringing with them the Xmas tree. When Xmas trees first arrived all through this period, they were hung from the ceiling.2

In the 1800s, properties were being designed with a single assistance beam working as a result of the middle of the composition (you can even now see this in outdated, colonial-fashion homes now). This strong plank authorized for celebrants to dangle trees from the ceiling. And so for a although adorned trees could be witnessed hanging overhead. As the architecture in fashionable houses altered, and plaster ceilings changed individuals supported by the long-beam, Christmas trees identified a new property on tables. But they however experienced no affiliation with provides — there was no expectation of discovering a reward still left by Santa upcoming to a Christmas conifer.

In the most well-known poem at any time composed about Christmas, “A Stop by from St. Nick” (1823), Clement Clarke Moore writes, “the stockings were being hung by the chimney with treatment, in hopes that St. Nicholas shortly would be there.” Odd as it could seem, a Xmas tree is not stated the moment in this most culturally major poem about Xmas. It was not right until the mid-1800s that people began to affiliate Christmas trees with Xmas presents. Nevertheless, they nevertheless didn’t position presents less than the tree. In all those times, gifts have been typically small figurines and candies that hung on the branches of the tree together with other decorations.

St. Nick or “Kris Kringle” hanging presents on branches.

Again “A Check out from St. Nick,” provides us insight. In the poem, though the young children slept, they do not aspiration of bicycles and dollhouses, but relatively easy merchandise like “sugar plums,” visions of which “dance in their heads.” With the rise of corporate capitalism in the late 1800s, the presents grew in sizing. What was as soon as a modest array of sweets and nuts and compact knick-knacks experienced now become hobbyhorses, dollhouses, and new music packing containers. Being too massive and weighty, they could no longer discover serious estate on the branches of the tree — and so they were placed beneath it.

Yet again, we come across a common challenge. If placing provides underneath the Christmas tree had just about anything to do with the amanita muscaria fruiting mutualistically under evergreen trees, then placing presents underneath the tree ought to have been the initially, not the last to capture on as a Christmas custom. In its place we see the purely natural unfolding amalgam of a cultural pattern, spurred on by Germans (not Siberians), starting with the Xmas stocking and trees hung from the ceiling to small trees positioned on tables without the need of presents then to hanging compact presents on the Christmas tree branches and ending with the modern-day custom of positioning items beneath the tree. Where precisely does the mushroom suit into any of this? 


The final claim about psychedelic Santa retains that we at first utilised stockings as the reward carrier due to the fact that is how Siberian shamans dried their mushrooms — by hanging them (like we cling socks stuffed with gifts). This is an straightforward a single to debunk.

Compared with the other aspects of the present day Santa myth which unfolded around time, we can trace the origin of placing provides in stockings to one medieval tale about St. Nick. It was said that Nicklaus had read of a widower who could not pay for dowries for his a few daughters. Nick, a person who legend holds was born into wealth, threw gold coins by means of the man’s window as dowry for his to start with daughter. Another night time, Nicklaus threw far more coins by means of the window as dowry for the next daughter. When Nicklaus returned for the very last time to throw coins as a result of the window for the 3rd daughter, a couple coins obtained caught in a stocking that she was drying beside the chimney. That, not mushrooms, is where by the tradition originates. 

Historic IRONY

It is noteworthy – and ironic – that the Siberian shaman variation of Santa Claus is wholly absent from common Russian lore about their mythic Midwinter determine, Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost), who is accompanied by Snegurochka (the Snow Maiden). Incidentally, Ded Moroz and Snegurochka journey in a sled pulled not by flying reindeer, but instead by terrestrial horses. The meant association in between Siberian reindeer and Santa’s reindeer is particularly an American creation — modern day Russians have mainly by no means even listened to of it any more than Us citizens have heard of Ded Moroz and Snegurochka.


There are other ironies as perfectly. The Siberian shaman entered preferred Western culture in the late 1700s. Lots of books, paintings, and mycology guides — all showcasing the amanita muscaria mushroom — were being created throughout the 1800s, when our fashionable concepts about Santa Claus very first formulated.3 The two cultural figures (the Siberian shaman and Santa Claus) equally entered Western well-known tradition close to the exact time, and however they by no means overlapped!

All over the 1800s, no one particular who wrote about St. Nick (as he was reworking into Santa Claus) associated him with shamanism or the mushroom. Similarly, no a person who wrote about the amanita muscaria and a variety of Siberian cultures at any time stated something about Santa Claus or St. Nick. You simply are not able to discover this in the literature – even at a time when “drugs” did not have the social taboo they have today.4

SO HOW DID IT Get started?

So, when and how did the story of the “shaman Santa” originate? It does not appear from the deep abysses of historical past but can be traced very correctly to the 20th century. The 1st man or woman to ruminate on this supposed link was Robert Graves in his (correctly titled) Tricky Queries, Easy Solutions (1972). But he offered no proof for his assert.

The Siberian shaman version of Santa Claus is wholly absent from common Russian folklore.

The plan passed around mostly unnoticed from Graves to ethnobotanist Jonathan Ott in the late 1970s. The 1st full length guide, nevertheless, to go over the achievable relationship involving Santa Claus and the shaman was Tony van Renterghem’s When Santa was a Shaman (1995). Interestingly, van Renterghem does not cite any reliable resources to back again up his declare. Seemingly (based on his bibliography) he was not even mindful or observed no use for either Graves or Ott’s ideas. And he will make no relationship amongst Santa Claus and the amanita muscaria.

In fact, Renterghem says almost nothing about mushrooms at all — in any context. In truth, it virtually seems like he purposefully skips in excess of them when addressing “shamanic” methods: “sound, audio, dancing, mimicry, masks, make-up, costumes, and art, as perfectly as hearth, sex, and violence …”5 But no mushrooms. For Renterghem, the “shamanic” association with reindeer will come from an historical “symbolic fertility ritual … to magically improve the development of the herd.”

Psychedelic mushrooms have been not portion of the ceremony.6

The initial significant crafting to tie Santa to the mushroom arrived in 2007, with Patrick Harding’s The Xmas Reserve (2007). Unfortunately, like van Renterghem before him, Harding delivers zero actual evidence to back up his statements. He leaves us questioning where he obtained these concepts. The reply is pretty very simple: he built them all up.


This critique is much less about the bogus relationship between Siberian mushroom-ingesting shaman and Santa Claus and much more about the flippant way information is shared in the present day age. Nearly each appropriate report, YouTube online video, and world wide web weblog on this subject will trumpet the psychedelic Xmas fable as if they weren’t just plagiarizing every other. Apart from the lack of originality, this copy-cat phenomenon underscores how we are slipping steadily into a post-truth environment in which celebs, “influencers,” pseudo-journalists, and clickbait cravers can bandy uninformed statements about the nature of the globe and historic realities to a gullible audience. In the approach, we are losing our ability to believe critically about something.

We are slipping steadily into a post-truth environment where by clickbait cravers bandy about uninformed promises to a gullible viewers.

We have changed honest inquiry with information and facts-fishing in the oceans of our have echo chambers. We obtain into fables about Santa Claus and magic mushrooms for the same purpose a conspiracy principle will get traction. It lets us to come to feel like we have some variety of privileged information about the planet and reinforces what we are already inclined to believe that.

Thomas Hatsis is the writer of several guides, such as The Witches’ Ointment and LSD The Marvel Baby: The Golden Age of Psychedelic Investigate in the 1950s. Copyright, Job CBD. May not be reprinted without permission.