Santa Claus on sleigh with magic mushrooms
\_Amanita muscaria\_'s red cap with white spots certainly looks festive. In fact, legend has it that's where Santa Claus got his colors from.

The story of Santa flying around Earth on Christmas Eve with his reindeer and sleigh is a Christmas staple popular enough to rival that of Jesus' birth. But where did the idea of flying reindeer and a stealthy gift-giver squeezing down chimneys come from? One interesting theory claims the answer revolves around amanita muscaria: magic mushrooms.

Santa next to a magic mushroom
See the resemblance?

Mushroom Caps on an Ice Cap?

Sierra College anthropologist John Rush lays out the basis for this theory, explaining that the legend of Santa Claus evolved from a historical shaman figure that existed centuries ago. Rush insists that "Santa is a modern counterpart of a shaman, who consumed mind-altering plants and fungi to commune with the spirit world."

Shamans who lived in Siberian and Arctic regions were reportedly quite familiar with these distinct red and white-spotted mushrooms and the hallucinogenic properties they hold. And the fact that these shamans lived so far north explains why the Santa Claus we've come to know makes his home in a polar region. Carl Ruck, a classics professor at Boston University, supports this idea. "Is there any other reason Santa lives at the North Pole? It is a tradition that can be traced back to Siberia," he says.

Amanita muscaria's red cap with white spots also looks quite festive. In fact, legend has it that's where Santa's unique and unmistakable color scheme comes from.

One Wild Holiday Trip

Shamans didn't hoard all the magic mushrooms for themselves; animals would also consume them - including (you guessed it) reindeer. Presumably, a shaman on amanita muscaria watching a group of reindeers hallucinating could mistake prancing for flying.

Reindeer eating a magic mushroom
Easy there, Prancer! Those things are potent!

Another piece of evidence we have is a tradition in which shamans would leave the mushrooms as presents for the locals. According to Rush, shamans had a habit of "collecting amanita muscaria (the Holy Mushroom), drying them and then giving them as gifts on the winter solstice...Because snow is usually blocking doors, there was an opening in the roof through which people entered and exited, thus the chimney story." Sounds pretty convincing, right? Well, supporters of the theory have even more evidence on their side.

Holiday cards with mushrooms
Historically, many holiday cards included mushroom imagery.

Having a Magical Christmas

The iconography of red and white mushrooms is a common Christmastime theme. Countless baubles, ornaments, paintings, and other Christmas decorations can easily be found with at least a nod toward the magic mushroom. In fact, Harvard's Farlow Reference Library and Herbarium has a display case dedicated to Christmas decorations undoubtedly in the shape of amanita muscaria. Were these popular Christmas decorations because of the relationship between Santa Claus and hallucinogenic mushrooms? Or are they popular merely because they happen to fit in with the popular holiday color scheme?

There may never be consensus on the connection between amanita muscaria and the story of Santa Claus, but it could certainly explain some of the more fantastical elements of Santa's lore. Whether or not you believe the theory, you might want to hang a mushroom ornament on your tree this Christmas as a subtle nod to the jolly man and his long Christmas Eve trip.


  1. Rev. Larry Mager's Avatar Rev. Larry Mager

    As a child of the 60s and 70s, I LOVE this article!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  1. Minister Post's Avatar Minister Post

    1963, I love this story to. Brings back A lot of fond memories.

  1. William Waugh's Avatar William Waugh

    And the world was hollow, and I touched the sky! .......Star Trek. TOS season 3. also, Is not truth, truth for all?

    1. G Dobson's Avatar G Dobson

      That was a great episode!

  1. tom's Avatar tom

    I've never seen Santa Claus but I have seen creature, entities, cities, castles and a whole lot else when I've used magic mushrooms.

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    It's very possible that magic mushrooms explains the story in the bible. I mean, who would believe such rediculous stories? Oh wait.... millions did.

    1. Stephanie Willey's Avatar Stephanie Willey

      Loinheart, After reading Revelations for about the tenth time I became convinced it was written as the story and result of what could only have been a truly astounding hallucinogenic acid trip.

      1. Alexander F Kovach's Avatar Alexander F Kovach

        I completely agree with you and have always felt the same way about Revelations.

    2. ordained mh's Avatar ordained mh

      I wonder if what they call psycotropic episodes havnt been around for many many years , i have experienced beautiful visions , well cant disclose what i was taking , lol but it was beautiful and like the indian culture in sweat lodges taking medicinal herbs to seek knowledge and spiritual ????

    3. ServantOfJudgement's Avatar ServantOfJudgement

      Possible but not likely. There is a mention in the book of revelation where John eats a little book which was sweet in the mouth yet bitter in the stomach. Many hopefuls want that little book to be a psilocybin mushroom or its kin. By reading and digesting the entire Bible before reading revelation, the metaphor of the little book john ate is revealed. Definitely not a little brown mushroom. As far as the rest of the document goes, there were too many authors over too much time that maintained a level of continuity that could not be produced or replicated via any known enthogenic plant.

  1. Janice A Ellery's Avatar Janice A Ellery

    I am tired of some people using every story for bible bashing. Even if you believe isn't divinely inspired, it is still deserves respect as an important historical and cultural literature. It is also still one of the most widely read books in the world. If you feel the bible is just fiction, then why are you so offended and threatened by it? Why can't we all enjoy the stories of Santa Claus and Jesus without being grinches to each other?

    1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      The Bible is in fact the least read best seller. I’m not seeing why it should be given any respect at all for the horror that it contains, and suggestions for stoning those of unbelief, or for those who do not comply with the wishes of that jealous god.

      Yes there are snippets of nice statements in the New Testament but isn’t the Jesus guy supposed to be the son of god? Is he trying to make up for the errors made by the God of the Old Testament, but wait a minute, isn’t Jesus also the God of the Old Testament? Is it any wonder that people poke fun of the story? I mean, come on - a talking snake, a talking ass, a woman made from the rib of a man? Anyone with any intelligence knows this is poorly written fiction, and we are supposed to treat this book with reverence? For the trouble it’s caused this precious world of ours, not me. I refuse to be inspired, by such rubbish that has caused so much death, sorrow, and destruction, on so many of the earths inhabitants.

    2. Linda Happenny's Avatar Linda Happenny

      The Bible is just that a book. Nothing is real and I for one is not afraid of it. This is about Santa and Magic Mushrooms which I find very funny. This will make a great conversation with my Shaman friend.

  1. Gary Hynous's Avatar Gary Hynous

    Yep, Flying reindeer, a guy in a red suit, Christmas trees with flashing lights and colorful ornaments all the result of someone on a good trip. I came to California in the late 60's, a Midwesterner, and were my eyes ever opened wide. I sold my Old's 442, shed my polyesters, grew a long beard and I and my new friends "turned on, tuned in and dropped out. Well, not completely as I came here to finish my undergrad work which I did. I will never forget how wide my eyes were opened with my first LSD trip. Pot, Pslocybin, mescaline, etc. Forget CBD.s for pain. They don't work with chronic pain. I was prescribed Oxy. which sent me to rehab to say nothing of the Fentanyl patches my doc. also prescribed. They could have killed me.The FDA is in the pocket of big pharma. No doubt about that. Read some Carlos Castenada to find out more on your way to Ixtlan.

  1. Alexander F Kovach's Avatar Alexander F Kovach

    Magical mystery tour solved! Brilliant! Great article, loved it!

  1. ServantOfJudgement's Avatar ServantOfJudgement

    It wouldn't surprise me. Once a fella goes down the amenita muscaria hole for a while he usually comes up for air wearing robes and a gold medallion with a wild twinkle in his eyes. There's a claim Santa is modeled after a real human but I've never had time to research the tale. For now, I'll buy either option.

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