Have you ever ever puzzled why in fashionable Christmas custom we do the issues we do? What’s the origin of the Christmas tree, with the star on high, decorations about, and all of the brightly wrapped presents beneath? Or the thought behind Santa Claus who jets across the globe in a magic sleigh with flying reindeer – defying each time and area – to ship the world’s kids a bounty of Christmas presents? And since when did Santa and the beginning of Jesus have something to do with one another? The place do these tales come from – and higher but: what are we really celebrating on Christmas morning?
There are solutions to those questions. And the historical past will not be so farfetched and even that hidden. You simply should know the place to look. And the primary place we glance is the North Pole; critically – in historic Siberia, close to the highest of the world. The story of Santa and his doubtless origins begins the place he supposedly lives: the frigid North.
On this wintry-wonderland, if you happen to go trying to find Santa, you might not discover him or his Elvin manufacturing unit – however you’ll find teams of indigenous folks native to what we all know as Siberia. Amongst these cultures are the northern Tungusic folks, often called the Evenki. The Evenki have been predominantly hunter-gatherers in addition to reindeer herders. Their survival depended largely upon the well being and vitality of their domesticated reindeer. The reindeer offered the Evenki and different northern tribes with all the pieces from clothes, housing materials, wares and instruments from the bones and antlers, transportation (sure, they journey reindeer!), milk, in addition to cultural and non secular inspiration.
The Evenki have been additionally a shamanic tradition. The phrase “shaman” really has its roots within the Tungus phrase saman which implies “one who is aware of or is aware of the spirits.” Most of the basic shamanic traits that may later be mirrored in cultures all around the world have been initially documented by Russian and European explorers whereas observing the Tungus and associated folks’s spiritual life. This contains the three-world system, the shamanic journey or soul flight, the usage of altered states of consciousness, animistic perception in spirit, and so forth.
A major facet of the shamanism practiced on this a part of the world throughout that point was linked to Amanita muscaria, often known as the Fly Agaric mushroom. This mushroom is extra extensively accepted within the fashionable world because the Alice in Wonderland mushroom. It was held very sacred by these historic folks, and was utilized by the shaman and others for ceremonial and non secular functions. Amanitas – as you may inform by the images – vary from brightly crimson and white to golden orange and yellow. They solely develop beneath sure kinds of evergreen timber. They type a symbiotic relationship with the roots of the tree, the trade of which permits them to develop. One of many reported historic beliefs was that the mushroom was really the fruit of the tree. As a result of lack of seed, additionally it is generally held that Fly Agaric was divine – a sort of virginally birthed sacred plant.
Though intensely psychoactive, Amanita muscaria are additionally poisonous. One method to scale back the toxicity and enhance the psychoactive efficiency was to easily dry them. When out accumulating the mushrooms, folks would decide a bunch of them beneath the evergreen timber and lay them out alongside the branches whereas persevering with to choose the mushrooms beneath different timber. The end result was one thing that seemed very harking back to a contemporary Christmas tree: evergreen timber whose branches are dotted with brilliant crimson, roundish “decorations” – on this case the sacred mushrooms. On the finish of the session, the shaman or harvester would go round to every of their mushroom stashes and put them multi function giant sack… a big sack?!! Remind you of something?! Not solely this, because the story of the custom goes, the shaman would then, carrying this huge sack, go to the houses of his or her folks and ship the mushrooms to them. They might then proceed the drying course of by hanging them in a sock, close to the fireplace!
One other method to scale back the toxicity of the sacred mushrooms is thru human filtration. As soon as handed by way of the physique, the poisonous parts are apparently filtered by the liver and the resultant urine that comes out incorporates the nonetheless intact psychoactive parts. So that they drank the filtered urine. However that is solely half the story. Someplace within the mythic origins of this observe is the reindeer. As a result of the reindeer additionally love these mushrooms. They dig by way of the snow to eat them, they usually additionally drink their very own urine afterwards. So maybe, way back, one of many first shamans witnessed the reindeer’s love affair with this peculiar mushroom – in addition to its propensity for consuming its personal freshly yellowed-snow – and noticed how peculiarly it behaved because the romance heated up. The curiosity (certainly a trademark attribute of a shaman) could not be contained, and the shaman did what he needed to do: he first ate a number of the yellow snow himself… and indubitably realized the profound knowledge and magic not solely within the mushroom, however within the reindeer. And so this romance, too, started…
Nonetheless it might have occurred in antiquity, the connection between the reindeer, the mushroom and the shamanism is obvious. A quite common imaginative and prescient that one has whereas beneath the affect of Fly Agaric is exactly that: flying. Large distortions of time and area happen, affecting scale in dramatic methods. Not solely do you observe your self flying, but in addition different issues… like reindeer. It’s not that tough to attach the dots right here. Shamanic persons are deeply invested of their surroundings. They be taught the magical and mystical properties of the pure world, and infrequently assign a substantial amount of significance and sacredness to the bearers of that magic. For a few of these historic Siberian folks, this energy was charioted by the reindeer and the sacred mushroom. That the reindeer ought to have the power to fly is clear not solely within the imaginative and prescient, or their clearly altered state as soon as intoxicated, but in addition within the knowledge they provided to the shamans by consuming the mushroom within the first place, and for guiding them to take action simply the identical.
It wasn’t solely the reindeer who might fly, however the shamans additionally took flight. As talked about, the shamanic journey or soul flight is a keystone in shamanic observe and particularly so in historic Siberian tradition. In an effort to work together with the spirits, the shaman had to have the ability to depart this world and enter theirs. This was completed by projecting his or her spirit from the bodily and into the immaterial. They both wanted the ability to do that on their very own, or use a spirit helper to take them. It is extremely widespread for shamans to develop relationships with birds, naturally, as they’ve the ability to fly. However right here, within the North Pole, what higher animal to make use of than the magical, flying reindeer?
There’s one different element to the shaman’s flight that corresponds to our Christmas exploration, and this has to do with how they obtained to the opposite worlds. The shamanic cosmology usually consists of three worlds: the Decrease, Center and Higher Worlds. Connecting the three worlds is a cosmic axis, which can also be generally often called the World Tree. The World Tree served as a bridge or portal that allowed a shaman and spirits to maneuver between the three worlds. It was the gateway in addition to the freeway. In historic Siberia, the identical tree that additionally bore fruit to the amanitas was additionally a logo for the world tree. The Evenki and different indigenous teams lived in roundish, teepee like constructions referred to as yurts. Typically they might place a pine tree of their yurts for ceremonial functions. This symbolized the World Tree, and they’d harness its symbolic energy to propel their spirit up and out of the yurt – by way of the smoke gap, i.e. the chimney. As soon as the journey was full, they might return by way of the smoke-hole/chimney with the presents from the spirit world. In addition they believed that the North Star was the very high of the Higher World, and since the World Tree was an axis that related all the cosmology, the North Star sat upon the very high of the World Tree – which is the place the custom of inserting a star on the high of the tree comes from.
One of many last parts of the Christmas custom that we all know at the moment is the entire idea of gifting. What are we celebrating? If you start to unravel the expertise of the shaman’s flight and dance with Amanita, you enter a world that’s deeply sacred. These shamanic cultures have been intimately interwoven with their environments by way of the reindeer and the mushroom in a manner that honored and celebrated the mysteries and magic that life and expertise delivered to the folks. The shaman’s journey and return was ultra-important to the survival of the entire group. What they introduced again with them was usually a matter of life and demise. And again and again the shaman and the folks, by way of these experiences that they deemed not solely sacred however divine, would be taught data and knowledge straight from the sacred vegetation, their journeys, and from the spirits they interacted with. This was a sort of life blood for his or her manner of being. This was the reward. The celebration was really a sort of celebration of life, continued survival and renewal; an honoring of the spirits, animals, vegetation and pure world that gave them the reward of life and data of life.