Ah, folklore. The ancient art of storytelling in order to explain as-yet mysterious natural phenomena (i.e. basically every Greek myth). We know that Santa Claus was derived from the Old Dutch Sinterklaas, a folktale which in turn was based on the Greek Christian bishop Saint Nicholas of Myra in the 4th Century. In French, hes de Kerstman ("the Christmas man"), in French, Père Noël ("Father Christmas"), and in Dutch, Zwarte Piet ("Black Peter," which you just cringed at if you're anything like me).
All copasetic so far. And then, somewhere around 1820s, Santa magically acquired those flying reindeer, which begs the question: Where the fuck did those reindeer come from? Did the Old Timey corporate world invent them to capture the children's' imagination/sell more shit? Or is there another explanation? I'm glad you asked! Because a pervasive legend has been floating around that there's a good chance that the reindeer part was invented by people who were tripping on magic mushrooms.
John Rush, an anthropologist and instructor at Sierra College in California, has a theory that the modern legend of Santa is a result of the drug-addled hallucinations of Siberian and Arctic locals who were tripping on Amanita muscaria ("Holy mushrooms"), gifted to them by local shamans to celebrate the winter solstice. They had no Burning Man to go to, so they just sat in their teepees on drugs. Snow often blocked the entranceway to these teepees, so they would fashion a hole in the ceiling through which people came in and out. Which, Rush guesses, is how the chimney legend got started.
Another theorist of the same school points out that Amanita muscaria was often found under pine trees, and that their colors are similar to what we associate with modern Christmas iconography, adding (rather hilariously) that there'd be no good explanation for the reindeer legend without magic mushrooms being involved:
"Amongst the Siberian shamans, you have an animal spirit you can journey with in your vision quest. And reindeer are common and familiar to people in eastern Siberia... At first glance, one thinks it's ridiculous, but it's not. Whoever heard of reindeer flying? I think it's becoming general knowledge that Santa is taking a 'trip' with his reindeer."
Furthermore, he points out, Rudolph's nose resembles the Holy Mushroom itself. Large, red, dazzling, and it'll change the way you look at the world, man.
While other historians have spent years attempting to debunk this theory, its believers hold steadfast. "People who know about shamanism accept this story. Is there any other reason that Santa lives in the North Pole? It is a tradition that can be traced back to Siberia."
There's only one way to settle this: do mushrooms. OK, fine, maybe there are a few ways to settle this, but that's the way I'm gonna go about it.
'Santa's 'flying' reindeer story traced back to magic mushrooms' [Mother Nature Network]
Image via Danilo Sanino/Shutterstock