Siberian Shamans & the Amanita Mushroom

The word “shaman”, a word from the Tungus-speaking people of Siberia, connotes a religious specialist. The Tungusic are Russian indigenous people who live in the arctic circle (north pole) and are reindeer herders. These shamans gather and deliver magic mushrooms as part of a long spiritual tradition of the Siberian people.


The psychotropic Amanita muscaria mushrooms grow beneath coniferous/pine trees in a symbiotic, non-parasitic relationship with the roots of the tree. It was once considered the fruit of the tree.

First, the shamans pick and place the mushrooms to partially dry on nearby pine boughs which prepares them for ingestion and makes the load lighter.

Next the shaman collects his red and white gifts in a sack and proceeds to travel from house to house delivering them. During Siberian winters, the snow piles up past the doors of their yurts (huts), so the red and white clad shaman must climb down the smoke-hole (chimney) to deliver the presents in his sack.

Finally the appreciative villagers string the mushrooms up or put them in stockings hung affront the fire to dry. When they awake in the morning, their presents from under the pine tree are all dried and ready to eat.

And then there's the flying reindeer who like to eat the mushrooms and prance around.

As the use of magic mushrooms was adopted into Scandinavia, it was blended with tales of mushroom 'elf circles' whose home was the pole star in the north. This is why Santa Claus is an elf and why he and his fellow elves live at the North Pole (see comments).

Like other vegetation gods, Santa Claus is a mythological personification of the magic mushroom experience. His red and white suit and "liberty cap" make him symbolic of the mushroom itself. His flushed face and ruddy cheeks are a side effect of the Amanita muscaria. Even Santa's jolly "Ho, ho, ho!" is the euphoric laugh of one who has indulged in the magic fungus. His bag of presents and flying reindeer are simply another variation on the astrotheological chariots of the gods, powered it seems by entheogenic visions.

The shamanic pine tree is then cognate with the Hebrew Asherah pole. Its decorations and gifts are the magic mushrooms. The evergreen tree represents the World Tree or Tree of Life with its trunk symbolizing the axis of the world reaching to the pole star. At the top is the orbital star of Vena, the protector of the sacred mountain and goddess of everlasting life. Her Wisdom Tree is the path to the heavenly summit of the Rig-Veda.

So, when you see Santa puts his finger aside his nose and wink, he knows a little secret about Christmas. He knows that the winter solstice was once celebrated with magic mushrooms not only in Siberia, but around the world.