It’s that time of the year when parents have to explain a number of mysteries to their children, not the least of which is how eight tiny reindeer get to the top of the porch and the top of the wall, then dash away, dash away, dash away all. Depending on how old the kids are, you may want to share with them the story of the night the reindeer got high on magic mushrooms.
It’s believed that reindeer herders in Northern Europe learned about the psychedelic powers of the magic mushroom, also known as the fly agaric or Amanita muscaria, from watching reindeer eat them in the wintertime when other mushrooms aren’t available. Once they have a few ‘shrooms, the reindeer dance, prance and dash around aimlessly as if they’re blitzed. Sound familiar?
Reindeer herders saw how much fun their frolicking flocks were having and tried the mushrooms themselves, with predictable results. They also noticed the reindeer drinking each other’s muscimol-loaded urine (muscimol is the psychoactive compound in fly agaric) and discovered that there’s one benefit to eating yellow snow.
That’s not the only connection the fly agaric has to Santa Claus. These red-and-white toadstools grow under pine trees and can look like wrapped presents. Santa’s suit is red-and-white too. Wait a minute! Santa’s jolly mood and his “ho ho ho” laugh could be signs that he’s been hanging out with the reindeer under the tree. Not only that, one of the signs of a mushroom high is a flushed red face that looks to be glowing.
It gets better. Siberian reindeer herders tell of shamans who prepared mushrooms for special religious services, bringing them like presents in sacks and arriving in their domed homes (called yurts) through the smoke hole in the roof.
When Christianity came to Russia, the sack-slinging shamans were replaced by the man who became the country’s patron saint - St. Nicholas – and this gift-giving jolly old St. Nick became the inspiration for … Santa Claus!
It’s an interesting connection of dots to start with reindeer getting high on magic mushrooms and end with Santa Claus and his ho-ho-ho. I wonder if the reindeer know what’s in his pipe?