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Santa: The Shaman

Once upon a time in a world filled with the magic of nature, Shamans of the northern tribes of Siberia, Eural Asia, Norse, Germanic, and Slavic cultures consumed plants from nature that held medicinal and psychedelic properties.

There are histories from all over the world, but this one is derived from northern Europe during the days following the Winter Solstice.

In the northern hemisphere, winter solstice marks the darkest time of the year.  Solstice comes from Sun, and during this time we mark the Sun coming alive with forward momentum.  Although we know there is still a cold winter ahead, there is hope that the sun will shine brighter and longer each day.  It is also easiest to explain that in the days following the winter solstice, the sun sits still.  It doesn’t begin to move forward again until the sunset of December 24.  At this time its new found life and energy resumes and is reprogrammed with the new mission of bringing light. Light brings warmth, illumination, clarity and allows us to see with faith that there are always possibilities forming around us. 

Christ is often seen as the light of God, the holy child, the savior and king who was born without nobility.  It is also interesting that we know through scripture and stories that Jesus dabbled heavily into plant and nature medicines.  Eating mushrooms became a way to feel the sacred heart of God. Christ as an ascended master came to teach us about humility, service, and that we are all equals born with the same potential for growth and healing expansion.  Of course his teachings of love thy neighbor…. Equally even if they were a woman or slave was radical in times were birth pedigree and nobility played a huge role in spirituality.  It was believed that the nobles received the divine right from God because of their worldly money and control that allowed them to deem it so. Because they were the most powerful, they of course believed they were the most deserving to be connected to God.  Maybe it is because they could access substances and people like chattel that shaped their beliefs.  No one knows for sure. However, Jesus, his sacred heart, his willingness to weave nature into faith, and to honor those elements spread regardless of plant medicine.

It’s also interesting that at this time in history and for centuries before there are many cultures who were aware of this and understood that while the sun was still in the days following the solstice, they could generate manifestation power through prayer and offering. This pause in energy was reprieve to rest, harness and collect energy. The sun is represented often by the heart, and its radiating beams of love and electrical energy.  I like to compare this time to when someone’s heart stops and it needs to be resuscitated by electrical charge to reset the conductivity and rhythm. During near death experiences people often see the light of “God” or the radiating warmth of family, connection and peace.  They often return back to the presence with a new found hope to manifest a more dynamic life that serves their authenticity.  When the sun sits still following solstice, it is like the near death experience of the consciousness. The earth and sun take a breather from one another and “power nap” returning into motion with a new found vibration and ability to shift things with ease.  The darkness also reminds us of the stage where the seed is cold beneath the ground, waiting with hope to sprout in the most opportune time.  The dormancy of seeds and trees remind us that faith is never lost, when we trust in nature, she knows what is best.  

It’s also interesting that the 24th of December as the first light is spotting in the dark sky represents the “Christmas Star” or the north star which Mary and Joseph followed to Bethlehem. It is also the star of Venus, as it is the mother, feminine Venus herself. Mary then delivered the baby Jesus, son of Christ Consciousness, light, hope, and shifter of human capacity to believe. 

For thousands of years before Christ’s arrival, the shamans of the world were aware of this cycle and timeline and used its realm to dive deep within the spiritual world to connect to our ancestors who hold keys for us to open doors for those coming behind us. Shamanic culture believes that wellness is rooted in emotional energy.  When one is happy, at peace and living from abundance, they are well.  When they are lacking connection, hopeless, sad, and distraught, they have weakened immunity and develop disease.  In the winter months where the cold darkness plays on the emotional self, especially our duality we can use the metaphors of the seasons to nurture our states.  Shamans would prepare their communities to withstand the months to come with vigor and hope by imagining themselves also as a seed. With faith in nature that the energy of spring would be ready for the fertility bursting out of the earth and self. Seasons of self aligned with mother earth. 

In order to connect with the spirit realm during this time, shamans who depending on their culture and location had long beards, wore red and white cloaks, or layered tunics that are said to signify the colors of the Amanita Muscaria mushroom.  Also known as fly agaric mushrooms, these red and white spotted variety are the most well known and recognized "FAIRY" mushrooms in the world.  They also are said to be poisonous.  They do have a potent toxin in their fresh picked state that needs proper care and handling by drying and other attention.  These mushroom grow under evergreen trees which are also represented in these cultures as the “tree of life.” During the summer they are gathered and hung on what we would call a Christmas tree. There their color fades and the new dry state readies them for use at a later date. 

On the eve of December 24 when the first star appears in the sky shamans would eat these dry prepared mushrooms to enter a trance state to connect with the elements of nature and to gain clarity of what is needed for the community’s well being and family connection in the coming season. The people of these regions used reindeer as their food, service animals, transportation, and more. Interestingly, the reindeer can eat the fresh mushrooms and not be affected by the toxins.  The shamans would feed the reindeer in large doses, waiting to collect their urine which passes the contents of the medicine through it. The shamans would drink the pee to continue enriching their “high” as well as eating the dried mushrooms.  This would result in visions, and often hallucinations of the reindeer flying through the Aurora borealis.  

The nomadic tribes of the time where Santa evolved from would be living in proper “nomadic tent cabins” in the arctic, and often the snow was so high and drifted around that door or window that the inhabitants would need to crawl onto the roof and come down the chimney to gain access into the home.  Perhaps that’s a clue as to why Santa comes down the chimney.

Traditionally, all of the harvested mushrooms that were collected in the year were dried and made available for use as needed. The caps of the mushrooms were removed and placed with spores up causing them to dry into a flat or slightly cupped shaped disk like a cookie. History has it that families would leave out a plate of “cookies” for Santa’s visit to offer him more energy and connection as he prays and brings blessings for the community. The cookies would need rehydrating often in milk before eating. Often Santa would leave gifts of food behind during his December 24 visit and sometimes medicine to those who needed it.

The amanita shamans who often wore red and white, may have had other colors and presentations depending on where and when they are referenced.  Many believe that Santa got his red colors from cocoa cola, but maybe Coca Cola, was taking it from the mushroom without even realizing... The idea of Father Christmas as a wise man with much wisdom and truth also was a theme throughout much of Europe.  A man of the forest, connected with the elements, and able to endure the habitat that others may not be able to. There is no proof that the red and white came from the mushroom but the evidence through stories, photos, and art definitely lead us that direction.

St. Nicholas is often referred to as Santa, and he is derived from Turkish culture.  During the expansion and conquering of Europe, the Turks had great influence on a large span of cultures. Their influence trickled down in many nations. In my family tree, my great, great grandmother Helena Kazema was of Turkish/Siberian/Nomadic Tatar descent who came from the shamanic lineage of healers living along the Volga river and its tributary called the Kama. The name Tatar first appeared around the 5th century CE from tribes living in north eastern Mongolia and around Lake Baikal. These tribes didn’t speak Mongol, rather Turkic language and are related to the Cuman or Kipchak tribes. Eventually these people became part of the army of Genghis Kahn in the 13th century and began to invade Russia and other lands under development and parts of the groups began to stay and evolve as their own cultures. My family is an example of the Crimean Tatars who set their new ancestral lands in Ukraine. The mystic magic of these people absorbed and shifted to include the beliefs of many gathered tribes and eventually many Tatars became led into the lineage of Sunni Muslim faith. Many remained in Europe and in the case of my family, they evolved from nature based shamanic people to believers of Christ within the Russian/Ukrainian Orthodox church. However, their earth magic remained and has been successfully passed down to me and my daughter. In the movie the Christmas Chronicles II, Santa is St. Nicholas and he walks to Turkey to ask his Elfin friends to remake a container to hold the loving light of the north star that was broken. From that we know that there is also hope and love for the greater consciousness in that action. This era in time, is around the time that Father Christmas appeared.  St. Nicholas was a bishop hailing from Myra, a city in present day Turkey. Born of a wealthy, noble family with many stories about his generosity and helping others.  His secret gift giving and continual support to those in need while in places of darkness or destitution grew.  He was even known to provide an anonymous dowry for three sisters so that they were able to find a life of stability and avoid depravity. The church began to honor feast days of December 6  and people began to share gifts and mention that they were of course from St. Nicholas.  Everyone agreed and believed, as the magic of giving came from someone safe and approved within the nobility.  He became the protector and guardian of children, sailors, merchants, the poor, reformed thieves, and pawnbrokers. Depicted as being in red and white robes and giving away all his own material possessions to share and help the poor and those in need, he became a personality that was looked up to and admired for sharing all of his nobility and inheritance with people that he didn’t even know. 

Siberian amanita shamans were not the only ones to use and consume this medicine and ceremonial aspect of healing.  Norse, Slavic, and Germanic cultures also have a spin on Santa and the mushroom story. We know of the Dutch Sinterklaas, and German Nikolaus or Christkindl. There are lots of gaps in history between the time of pre Christians rule and its previous indigenous nature based presence.  However, we do know that those within the higher levels of the church consumed magic mushrooms to connect with God and find direction for the leadership for their people.  We cannot say if it led to a more peaceful land for the people but we do know that much of what was followed in previous pre christian times was outlawed for the peasant realm. Some believe it is because the nobility and clergy wanted to have the medicines, and earth magic for themselves to gain higher levels of consciousness and therefore wealth as at that time gaining riches was the purpose of most people. With the loss of much earth medicine and elemental energy, the amanita mushroom began a story of being poisonous instead of holy so that the peasant clans wouldn't engage in collecting them any longer. However, as in many cultures who experienced colonization, secrets were kept and healers maintained sharing wisdom in more protected ways.  Mushrooms are a main food for Slavic people to forage and collect during the summer months. My grandmother Kazema gave birth to a son named Nicholas.  He was quickly, and desperately smuggled out of Ukraine during the death of Leo Trotsky in Mexico as Stalin was beginning a mass genocide of Ukrainian Tatar people who had deep pagan healer and magic lineage.  This genocide was called Holodomor. The nobility starved out its people and created violent actions against those especially with mystic, more noble, Turkish history. The Tatars became very successful during their time in the Turkish, and Mongolian quests and their ability to spread it through their territories threatened Russian leaders. Let’s just say that there wasn’t much of a Christmas during the 1920-1930’s of these people. It was a way to eradicate magic of the normal and try to control and harness it for themselves. 

Personally, my experience with Amanita muscaria is that she is female.  She is a woman who is graceful, silent, forced into a life of sharing.  She appeared to me in a vision quest without consuming her form during a moon dance in Tulum, Mexico.  She was floating above the earth with hanging sheer white silk ribbons with red threads on the train of her dress.  The bodice had sections of red in the heart area.  But the flowing sleeves, and skirt were completely white and a perfect canvas for the visions that were flashing on the fabric.  She showed me the birth and life of my daughter flashing in visions on the “screen” of her dress.  She told me telepathically that she is that ancestry that is often hidden and kept secret.  She shared that when we are  without fear and have patience in the right timing, blessing will bring truth and abundance.  She also told me that children are the ones who we need to look to for our tomorrows.  She said don’t underestimate the healing work they are doing for us by just being.  Preserve them, be patient, and trust in the right timing, she said.  She also told me it was time for my daughter to begin learning her medicine and that when she was ready she would reach out asking me.  She wore a large hat that of course was the mushroom cap with deep ridges in the connection of the neck.  Her face was white, with red lips and green eyes.  She reminded me of a deer woman that I have identified with before. She is someone timid, but fast and able to rely on her agility.  She is used to being seen as something different than she really is, and feels humor in how the whole world sees mushrooms as her variety, but so many will never know her truth.  Her words reminded me of the presence of Mary Magdalene, also a sacred being who was cast out and shamed as poisonous. Her faith and patience for the truth to appear is unwavering for infinity and her heart never becomes troubled as she knows that the light of the sun, and it's divine masculine will arrive at the right time, hand in hand with hers. Maybe we can also see the winter solstice as a parallel of what happened following Jesus’ crucifixion. The world seemed to sit still and the light gone as was hope. Then three days later, he rose, and the understanding of our own infinite energy began.

In closing, these are my personal connections to this energy, and willingness to be of service and true community.  Helping others in service as a shamanic being is about letting go of one’s ego and need to have deep material ties to possessions and materials. It is about bringing abundance to others by sharing what makes you happy and able to feel wellness in your heart.  When we give, we feel joy.  We also are grateful because we had what to give and we receive the mirror from those we give to.  That mirror is often received with hope and potential. That seeds the spiral of continual growth and conscious expansion. If you take anything from this blog, may it be this.  Things are not always as they seem.  How we got to where we are isn’t generally pleasant, or respectful of other cultures or respecting nature.  We used to live in a more balanced world of healed duality and a tribal connection to nature. As we evolved the need for more masculine power, control and property shifted us away from abundance and into scarcity.  We focused on taking so we could have nicer experiences instead of giving to receive the love which makes the happy experience. This Christmas, perhaps make room for the magic by opening the door to the past of culture and history instead of just our own realm of gifts and receiving what we feel we deserve. When we give our time to honoring the truth of the past winter seasons, we receive the gifts of potential and abundance at the Spring equinox. 

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