Santa and Magic Mushrooms: Was The Christmas Icon Derived From Trippy Fungi?

Santa Claus was said to be derived from magic mushroom toting shamans. Bob Strong/REUTERS

Turns out Santa Claus is into more than just spiked eggnog.

According to one theory, jolly old St. Nick might have been so jolly because he was derived from shamans who went from hut to hut handing out hallucinatory mushrooms in Siberia and the Arctic during the Winter Solstice, right around the same time as Christmas.

"As the story goes, up until a few hundred years ago these practicing shamans or priests connected to the older traditions would collect Amanita muscaria (the Holy Mushroom), dry them, and then give them as gifts on the winter solstice," anthropologist John Rush told LiveScience.

Skeptics say that Santa was actually created by "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" poet Clement Clarke Moore in 1823, but psychedelic believers argue that he probably got the idea from the north's deep shamanic traditions, according to NBC.

The festive deep red and white mushrooms were eaten by the humans and reindeer who roamed the region, sending both of them on well…a tinsel-turvy trip.

"This idea [is] that reindeer go berserk because they're eating Amanita muscaria. Reindeers flying — are they flying, or are your senses telling you they're flying because you're hallucinating?" Harvard biology professor Donald Pfister told NPR.

Reindeer were also considered "spirit animals" and the Siberian shamans wore red deer pelts as tributes, according to scholars.

Even more, shamans dressed up like the mushrooms, which explains Santa's cozy red and white suit.

Another scholar told NBC that the idea of Rudolph's flashy red nose likely originated from the color of the mushrooms, noting how remarkable it was that the tripping beast was put in charge of directions.

"It's amazing that a reindeer with a red-mushroom nose is at the head, leading the others," Boston College classics professor Carl Ruck mused.

It would seem as if scholars were able to explain mostly every Christmas tradition with the shamans and magic mushrooms, but were careful to point out that there is no known direct link between the two and they may have been purely coincidental.

Why does Santa choose to slide down the chimney when he has a door right in front of him? Snow was usually blocking the entryways at the time of the year so he went through an opening in the roof that people in the north used to get in and out of their homes, Rush told LiveScience.

How come people put presents underneath a tree? Some say this was to pay homage to the way the"Most Sacred" substance would be found in the forests, according to James Arthur, the author of Mushrooms and Mankind.

How about those weird fungi-shaped decorations found in Scandinavia and northern Europe? Those might have something to do with the mushrooms too.

But one nonbeliever historian, Ronald Hutton, quickly discredited the link, saying that his research has found that shamans didn't actually travel by sleigh or associate with reindeer spirits, NPR reported.

Of course, Rush and Ruck claimed this is simply not true and aptly explained that the theory shouldn't be taken so literally. It wasn't that shamans used sleighs for transportation, it was that the trip is the transportation in itself, according to NBC.

"People who know about shamanism accept this story," Ruck told NBC. "Is there any other reason that Santa lives in the North Pole? It is a tradition that can be traced back to Siberia."