What is the True Meaning of Christmas?
Most of us know Christmas as a celebration on December 25th after the mythical “Santa” climbs down our chimney and leaves presents under a tree we’ve brought into the house which we have decorated with put lights. But who is Santa, anyway? Why does he wear a red suit and fly with reindeer? Why is he depicted so often in old images with the Amanita muscaria, the “Fly agaric” mushroom?
If you do a Google search for old images of Santa, you will find that the earliest images of him and his elves illustrate an interesting fungi relationship.
“But why?” you might ask.
Well, the real story is quite interesting and requires an open mind.
Many old images of Santa, elves and Christmas include this distinct mushroom with bright red skin and white dots.
The mushroom is called Amanita muscaria and is distinct among all other mushrooms.
It is the only one that has this brilliant red umbrella spotted with white dots.
This mushroom has an exalted place in history and can be found written about in ancient Hindu texts.
Within these ancient writings is an elixir of Immortality called “Soma” and it is widely believed to be the mushroom Amanita muscaria.
This beautiful fungi has also played a central role in Siberian shamanism and we still see today these shamans wearing outfits of red with white dots honoring the shamanic power of this mushroom to transport the shaman into celestial realms..
I first read about this mushroom and its magical effects while I was in college. I was taking a Hindu Mysticism class my freshman year at the University of Arizona (my favorite class ever) and the professor introduced us to the ancient texts of the Rig Vegas.
The Rig Vedas are an ancient Hindu text dating back as far as 1500 – 500 BC written by the Aryans depicting a fascinating and, magical history. In this, the Brahmans (the holy men) would drink an elixir called Soma and then embark upon a magical journey where they would enter into an ecstatic state of consciousness and access messages, guidance and healing. It is interesting to note that the Vedas describe how the Chelas (students), would drink the urine of the Brahmans who had ingested the Soma and in this way, would also share in the journey.
I was eighteen when I learned of all this. When I was seventeen I had learned of the the practices of the Rainforest shamans ingesting the brew Ayahuasca and similarly taking a journey into the spirit world to gain access to wisdom and healing.I thought the similarities were fascinating.
Sping break of 1989 I had a Near Death Experience (NDE) and when I returned, not only had my life changed forever, but I could clearly see the distinct correlation between Shamans and the Brahmans whom I had both studied.
We had a paper due in my Hindu Mysticism class and I handwrote it comparing the similarities between the Siberian and Rainforest shamans and the ancient Hindu Brahmans separated by continents and thousands of miles apart. (Yes, this was before digital and even typewriter papers.) I handed in my hand-written report to my teacher never more to be seen. I wish I still had it!
I had become fascinated with shamanism when I was seventeen after I was released from being hospitalized for a severe eating disorder. While I had a 4.3 GPA and placed in the top 5 in the National Junior Olympics in track, I had been secretly killing myself with bulimia.
When my mother found out, she admitted me to one of the first eating disorder wards in the country. To my dismay, when I was released, I was worse. Having no solution, I hid this fact from my parents and pretended all was well, but inside I knew I needed help to mend my broken soul. I just had no idea where to look.
By the grace of God and the Divine, a month of two after being released from the hospital, I discovered shamanism. I read the one and only book on it from the local library (this was long before the internet) and quickly knew that I had to learn this art. In fact, this was the one and only thing that had given me the hope of possible healing my broken soul and, indeed it did, which is when I devoted myself to the healing path, the medicine path, the priestess path, but that is another story for another time…
What I learned from studying with the Foundation for Shamanic Studies at the age of eighteen and onward, was a lot about historical shamanism. They taught us about the Sami shamans of Siberia, from which the term “shaman” which means “one who sees in the dark” comes from.
The Sami shamans are known for using this red and white Fly agaric mushroom for initiatory journeys into the Spirit world. (Initiatory journeys are embarked upon often sparingly in the shamanic initiation process, but they are the most informative and transformative experiences as they allow the initiate to get in touch with their spirit family and the ultimate Divine by piercing the veil that separates the human world from the spirit world.)
(It is important to note that in modern literature these mushrooms are considered poisonous and are not advised to eat, despite the fact that there is a history of doing so. This is because they would need to be prepared in a very special and masterful way that has been forgotten. This article is not suggesting ingesting them.)
One might ask, why do we see these old cards and images of Santa, elves and gnomes delightfully prancing around with this very specific, Amanita muscaria mushroom?
Images from the early 1900’s are replete with this imagery.
With just a little research, you can easily find how Santa’s red and white suit is very similar to the Siberian Sami shaman’s suit of red and white which is paying homage to the red and white Amanita muscaria mushroom.
It is therefore argued that the ancient “shamanic” cultures influenced what we now know today as the modern Christmas.
Santa’s flight is the shaman’s flight into the spirit world Reindeer are found in Siberia and these deer love to eat this mushroom and are then seen prancing about the forest. If and when the shaman eats these mushrooms, a spirit flight occurs, as the shaman journeys into the spirit world getting gifts for those whom they serve, their tribe.
The Siberian Sami Shamans hold a great tradition to be preserved. (Hopefully, there are indigenous youngsters who are willing to learn their elder’s traditions.)
The Holy men – the Brahman class – of ancient India also hold an ancient and timeless wisdom to be preserved as thousands of years of mystic and healing history are alive within this rich lineage.
The South American Rainforest shaman tradition of the Shipibo, Conibo, Jivaro, Asaninka have a great wisdom to be encountered, remembered, preserved.
Old Saint Nicholas
There was an ol’ Saint Nick in Myra in Turkey in the third century AD who gave away all his wealth to travel the countryside and take care of the sick and the poor. This is likely the origin of Saint Nicholas, or Santa.
It is said that Coca Cola is responsible for creating the most modern image of Santa that we know in his red and white outfit and entourage of tiny reindeer.
This image of a jolly old man dressed in a warm red velvet suit giving gifts to children was made popular by the brand and has been emblazoned int eh mind of countless children worldwide.
In the Old Ways, thousands of years ago and thousands of years before Christ was born, this time December 21st ish n the Norther Hemisphere has been celebrated the birth of the Sun, the return of the light with the lighting of a trees, the singing of cheerful carols and the giving of gifts.
Winter Solstice occurs in the Northern Hemisphere approximately December 21st each year. This marks the day when this half of the globe has tilted furthest away from the sun and results in the longest night and shortest day.
After this time, at the zenith of the darkest hour, the light begins to grow and the days become longer, while the nights become shorter. Therefore, this time has been celebrated for thousands of years as the Return of the Sun.
Traditionally, this time of Soul (Sun) Stice (Stopping) was thought that the Sun stopped for 12 days. During these days, the people made merry and gave gifts. Candles wound be lit in the house or window sills to ward of the dark spirits and to also anchor in and establish the predominance of the light.
People would gather together to sing, dance and celebrate the return of the sun. Fires would be lit, gifts would be given, Yule logs would burn.
JESUS / YESHUA / CHRIST / CHRISTMAS
The Return of the Sun is the birth of the Sun or Son in Christianity. Yeshua / Jesus / Christ was born in 0 CE and yet, there was thousands of years of history before then.
Jesus did not create a mythology around himself as this was done by later generations. Yeshua /Jesus taught about God, the Father and having a relationship with “Him”. I had been a church goer a bit as a child but did not have a personal understanding of God, The Divine, until my NDE brought me to it and I was returned to my body in the Christ Light. After that, my entire understanding of Christ as the connecting link to the Divine Light / “the Lord” were now personal and experiential.
Those later generations who created Holidays around Jesus began with the Romans who took the traditional yearly ceremonies of those that came before and and overlaid Christian ceremonies upon them. Thus, the celebration of the fertility Goddess of Spring, Ostara became Easter, and the resurrection of Christ.and the celebration of the Winter Solstice and the rebirth of the Sun became the birth of the Son.
As an academic, a historian, and a mystic, I can honor all these traditions as one.
What I focus on at this time of year is the transcendental, mystic spirit of the season, I remember the Divine, Great Spirit , God as the Creator of All; the Holy of Holies and keep in mind that this season is all about honoring the Divine and celebrating life.
Ultimately, we are celebrating Divinity and the constant rebirth of the eternal light. We are taking the darkest night of the year, the darkest time of the year and celebrating with family and friends. Those that believe in the birth of the Christ in flesh, Jesus, Yeshua are celebrating the birth of the Savior. As I was reborn through the Christ Light in my NDE, I see the Christ in a very personal light as well as the celestial celebrations of this time and am down for all of it.
Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate.
Celebrate life on earth. Family. Children, gifts and eternal life that continues on in the sacred dimensions. Celebrate yourself.
Enjoy your time while you are here.
Know that life can change in an instant.
You are an eternal soul, the Divine is conspiring on your behalf and that it is all going to me ok.
A Winter Solstice, New Year Ceremony:
Lighting the Yule Log on the Winter Solstice is a long-standing tradition. It is said that how the Yule log burns will give you an indication of the personality of the coming year. This ceremony can be done anytime, and yet, it is traditional to do it on or around the Winter Solstice, New Year.
Pine Cone or log
Burlap string (if using a log)
Time: 30 mins to an hour
Set your ceremonial space. Light your candle.
Call in and pray to the Divine as you wish.
Reflect on the past year. What is it that you would like to let go of? Write down on little pieces of paper that which you wish to release from this past year or at all. Scroll up these pieces of paper and place them in your pine cone or attach them to your log with burnable string such as burlap.
Then, make a fire in your fireplace and burn the pine cone or the log.
Watch how it ignites. Is it easy or difficult? Does the material burn quickly or slowly? Gentle or with vigor? All this can be reflected upon and information received for the coming year.
Once it has burned and released, now reflect upon what you wish to experience or create.
Write this down on a piece of paper and put it under your altar and forget about it. Set the intention that these dreams will grow with the ever growing light of the times.
Give gratitude and complete ceremony.
What are your thoughts about Christmas?
I’d love to hear them in the comments.
Many blessings to you and your family!