Coca-Cola, Tim Allen, shopping malls. These are the some of the supposedly wholesome images that probably come to your mind when you hear the name “Santa Claus.” Of course, none of them are really that wholesome. Shopping malls killed the American small business (before it was killed off by online retail), Tim Allen was busted for trafficking cocaine in the 70’s, and no one has to explain to you why Coca-Cola is evil.
But don’t worry. We can still save Christmas. A biologist at Harvard and a professor in California both think the origins of Santa Claus come not from these bastions of capitalist excess, but from the psychedelic mushroom known as Amanita Muscaria.
Donald Pfister gives an annual lecture at Harvard, outlining his theory that the Santa myth is the result of hallucinations, as reported by Merry Jane. “Reindeers flying—are they flying, or are your senses telling you they’re flying because you’re hallucinating?” Pfister asks. The ivy league scientist says that consumption of Amanita Muscaria occurs in both human and reindeer populations.
John Rush, professor of anthropology at Sierra College in Rocklin, California, and author of Mushrooms in Christian Art, has a slightly different hypothesis. He says that humans didn’t just imagine a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer. Rush thinks that the figure of Santa Claus is actually a descendent of the magic mushroom-toting shamans of the long-ago Arctic and Siberian lands. To put it in crude terms, these guys were like ancient mushroom dealers.
“Santa is a modern counterpart of a shaman, who consumed mind-altering plants and fungi to commune with the spirit world,” he says. “Because snow [in Siberia] is usually blocking doors, there was an opening in the roof through which people entered and exited, thus the chimney story.”
These guys also wore red and white suits (meant to look like the Amanita Muscaria), gave out dried fungi as a gift every winter solstice, and had reindeers for spirit animals, according to Boston University classics professor Carl Ruck.
This isn’t exactly an airtight case, but it will still make for a good stoned conversation at this year’s New Year’s Eve party.