“Twas the night before Christmas,
when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there”
~ The Night Before Christmas, by
Clement Clarke Moore or Henry Livingston
Have you ever wondered about origins of the Santa Claus legend long associated with Christmas celebrations? Why do people associate a mythical red cheeked jolly bearded old man from the North Pole with Christmas? Why is he archetypically depicted as attired in a furry red and white suit and flying through the air in a gift laden sleigh drawn by happy reindeer? Why does he supposedly deliver his gifts nocturnally via chimneys?
I began wondering about these questions after experiencing a Santa suit synchronicity. And I found interesting esoteric answers. Many people might suppose that the popular Santa (or Father Christmas) image began in 1823 with publication of the “Twas the Night Before Christmas” poem. But the poem was sourced from customs and legends which long antedated the nineteenth century.
I’ll tell about that after first recounting my Santa suit synchronicity story.
Santa Suit Synchronicity
Especially since my mid-life spiritual awakening, some circumstance or artifact has often fortuitously or synchronistically appeared in my life fulfilling a wish or perceived need. In my spiritual memoirs, I call these experiences “manifestation miracles”. Such “miracles” have been much too numerous for me to totally recall and recount. But, I will be sharing some memoirs stories about them, including this story about manifesting a Santa Claus costume.
On a Friday afternoon, I experienced a blissful spinal healing session at “SoulWorks”, the office of San Francisco healer and chiropractor, Dr. Melanie Hernand. During that session I was continuously and spontaneously laughing a lot. Maybe that laughter sounded to Dr. Hernand like “Ho! Ho! Ho!”. For afterwards, she asked me if I would come as Santa Claus to the “SoulWorks” holiday Christmas party, a benefit for The Healing Hearts Project and children of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. With little hesitation I told Dr. Hernand that I would be Santa Claus at the SoulWorks party, if she helped me find a costume. She agreed.
So, joyously I exited SoulWorks that Friday afternoon knowing that I needed a Santa Claus costume. Miraculously the costume manifested that very night without any further thought or effort.
On Friday night I returned home after happily attending a program given by Visionary Activist astrologer Caroline Casey at The California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) where I was Board chairman during the 1980’s. It was my first visit to CIIS since leaving there twenty five years ago. And I very much enjoyed and appreciated Caroline’s presentation there.
I returned to my apartment building still in a blissful mood, and stopped in the lobby to get my mail. There I met my neighbor Ronelle Strand who was about to walk her dog, Cali, before retiring. Since Ronelle was one of a few people to whom I had given a SoulWorks gift certificate, I mentioned to her that I had just agreed to be Santa at the SoulWorks holiday party. Whereupon she told me that her Bay Music entertainment booking service business had some rental costumes, including a Santa suit which had been in storage and unrented for many years. She offered it, and it was perfect.
Then, awaiting the Santa suit party, I began wondering about the origins of the Santa story. Whereupon, I fortuitously happened to notice on Caroline Casey’s Facebook page, a You Tube link to this two minute BBC video entitled, “Magic mushrooms & Reindeer – Weird Nature”
I watched the video, was intrigued, and wanted to learn more. So, I consulted Dr. Google and fortuitously found interesting esoteric answers to my questions about the Santa Claus myth in a detailed article entitled “The Influence of Fly Agaric on the Iconography of Father Christmas” , also published by BBC.
Apparently, the Santa Claus legend arose from shamanic traditions of tribal peoples in pre-Christian Northern Europe, whose sacred psychedelic source was the red and white amanita muscaria mushroom, also known as “fly agaric”, a fungus found in pine and birch woods of western North America, northern Europe, and Asia.
Red-robed Chimney Climbing Santas
Supposedly, Siberian shamans have used amanita muscaria for recreational or ritualistic purposes for thousands of years. During mushroom-induced trances, they would twitch and sweat before falling into a deep coma-like sleep. During this coma, the shaman’s soul consciousness left his body and ascended to the ‘spirit world’ where it communicated with the spirits about major health problems, such as outbreaks of sickness in the village.
On awaking, with new knowledge from subtle sources, the shamans found their muscular systems had been so stimulated that they were able to perform spectacular physical feats with seemingly little effort – like making a gigantic leap to clear a small obstacle. The mushrooms similarly affected reindeer, and mushroom intoxicated reindeer traditionally guarded each shaman.
The shamans lived in yurts, tepee-like shelters made of reindeer skin, with roofs supported by birch poles and smoke-holes at the top. During midwinter festivals of renewal, the shamans gathered the mushrooms from under sacred trees. While harvesting the toadstools, they would wear special attire, consisting of red and white fur-trimmed coats and long black boots, very much like the modern day depiction of Santa Claus. They’d then enter their yurts through the smoke-holes, carrying sacks full of dried fly agaric mushrooms, descending the birch pole to the floor. Once inside, the shamans performed ceremonies and shared the toadstool’s psychotropic gifts with those gathered inside. Then they left as they entered, climbing up the pole and back through the smoke-hole.
Reindeer, known as caribou in North America, are deer found in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of Europe and North America. They feed on grass and lichens, but also crave the fly agaric toadstool, Amanita muscaria, because of its intoxicating and euphoric effects.
The Sami have a custom of feeding fly agaric to their deer and collecting the urine to drink. The reindeer’s digestive system metabolizes the allegedly poisonous components of the toadstool, leaving urine with the hallucinogenic and psychotropic elements of the fungus intact. Drinking the urine gives a ‘high’ similar to taking LSD. Under the hallucinatory effects of the drink, the Sami thought their reindeer were flying through space, looking down on the world. The reindeers’ so crave the toadstool hallucinogens that they have been known to eat snow on which intoxicated humans have urinated, creating a reciprocating cycle.
Apparently, when the first Christian missionaries reached Lapland and heard stories of such reindeer flight, they integrated those tales into Western folklore concerning Saint Nicholas. So, the association of reindeer with Christmas was well established for centuries before the 1843 publication of the The Night Before Christmas poem, and the 1949 hit song, ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ popularized it with masses of people.
And to All a Good Night
Thus it seems probable that the traditional image of Santa Claus originated in shamanistic rituals involving the red and white amanita muscaria mushroom gathered by shamans wearing red and white fur-trimmed coats. From climbing into chimneys and gift giving, to dressing in red and white and flying through the air with reindeer, travelers and storytellers have fused these ancient customs with other pagan traditions and imagery. And these pagan customs have pragmatically been adapted and integrated by Christianity into its Christmas traditions.
Ho! Ho! Ho! And to All a Good Night.
“Everywhere I look, I see the face of God.”
~ Walt Whitman/Ron Rattner
“In a single atom, buddhas as many as atoms
Sit in the midst of enlightening beings;
So it is of all things in the cosmos —
I realize all are filled with buddhas.”
~ Avatamsaka Flower Ornament Sutra
“Every particle of the world is a mirror.
In each atom lies the blazing light of a thousand suns.”
~ Mahmud Shabestari, Sufi Mystic, 15th century.
Who are YOU? said the Caterpillar.
Alice replied, rather shyly, I–I hardly know, sir, just at present– at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then. —-
The Caterpillar was the first to speak.
What size do you want to be? it asked. —–
Well, I should like to be a LITTLE larger, sir, if you wouldn’t mind, said Alice: three inches is such a wretched height to be. ———
One side will make you grow taller, and the other side will make you grow shorter.
One side of WHAT? The other side of WHAT? thought Alice to herself.
Of the mushroom, said the Caterpillar
~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland, Chapter 5
After my mid-life awakening my life’s focus gradually evolved from litigation to meditation and I became less and less ‘up-tight’ about some of my prior worldly ways. But I remained reluctant to use psychedelic substances, even though my pivotal OOB experience had been triggered by inadvertent ingestion of marijuana.
As a lawyer, I didn’t want to do anything illegal that might prejudice my professional reputation or law license. Also, as CIIS Board Chairman in the early 1980’s I didn’t want to participate in any activity that could adversely reflect on our institution’s obtaining crucial accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
As a spiritual practitioner, I had learned that many prominent Eastern teachers and paths strongly discouraged the use of any psychoactive drugs. Nonetheless many spiritual people I greatly appreciated – like Ram Dass – had been awakened, but not “enlightened”, by LSD and other psychoactive substances. In all events, because of many experiences without psychedelics, I became convinced that for me they were not necessary and might be detrimental to my spiritual evolution.
Once, soon after my divorce, I was with a date who sociably offered me a marijuana “joint” to share with her. Curiously and so as not to offend her, I took a few puffs on the marijuana cigarette. But, just as with nicotine cigarettes, it seemed insane for me to intentionally pollute my body’s precious lungs with smoke instead of breathing fresh air. And I never did that again.
Nor did I ever again intentionally ingest any other psychoactive substance, until an unplanned incident in a beautiful nature place on a legendary mountain sparked an unforgettable “peek experience”, forever raising my spiritual awareness.
Here’s what happened.
After my spiritual opening, I began having extraordinary energy experiences involving other people, creatures and places. One of the places where I experienced extraordinary spiritual energy was Mt. Shasta, a spiritually legendary majestic volcanic mountain in Northern California near the Oregon border.
I ‘discovered’ Mt. Shasta in the early 1980’s while occasionally visiting a nearby ashram established for Guruji by his disciples in Yreka. There I was told that Guruji regarded Mt. Shasta as one of the world’s holy mountains, like those in the Himalayas. And I learned that Mt. Shasta is considered worldwide as one the most sacred and mystically powerful places on our precious planet; that there are legends about it as a focus for angels, spirit-guides, spaceships, and ascended masters, and as home of Lemurians, subterranean survivors of an ancient lost continent which sank into the sea.
Apart from these legends, Mt. Shasta’s extraordinary beauty and almost palpable spiritual energy attracted and fascinated me and I wished to spend time there rather than just passing by on trips to the ashram. So, I arranged to visit Shasta with two spiritual friends who had been initiated by Guruji – Tara and Ramdassi – both of whom were later amongst those on the 1982 pilgrimage to India, my ‘trip of a lifetime’.
On a lovely sunny Saturday morning in late summer 1981, we three began a day hike on the mountain, carrying our lunches and extra clothes in light backpacks. At mid-day we arrived at Panther Meadow, the most beautiful alpine meadow I have ever seen. I beheld it then as lushly verdant with abundant delicate plant-life, bifurcated by a tiny creek meandering into a pristine pond at the bottom of the meadow. Above the lush green meadow appeared a stand of beautiful evergreen trees, and above the tree line the snow-capped mountain peak framed by an azure blue sky glistened in the sun. Later, I learned that this extraordinarily beautiful nature place was ceremonially revered as a sacred site by indigenous peoples and spiritual pilgrims.
This breathlessly beautiful meadow appeared a perfect place for our picnic lunch. So, we found a place near the creek to quietly eat while reverently enjoying the immense beauty surrounding us. Before we sat down, I walked to the pristine pond into which the creek was flowing and tested the water temperature with my left hand. It was ice cold, from the melting mountain ice and snow – and I immediately withdrew my immersed hand.
Sitting near the creek, we silently and contemplatively ate our lunches. After perhaps an hour, when we had finished eating, Ramdassi withdrew from her backpack a small packet of tiny dried mushrooms, which she silently offered to Tara and me.
Although I had never before seen or eaten psilocybin mushrooms, I intuitively realized that these were such mushrooms and politely declined Ramdassi’s offer. Then Tara, who was a registered nurse at a large hospital, also declined the mushrooms. Whereupon, Ramdassi, who was a talented artist and shaman, importuned each of us to reconsider and to join her in ritually partaking of the mushrooms. She explained that she could not eat the mushrooms alone, but only with others, as part of a sacred ritual.
But Tara still refused them. Though I felt no desire to use the mushrooms, and was somewhat inhibited, I empathized with Ramdassi, sensed her frustration and was motived to help if possible. So I asked her how many of the tiny mushrooms were needed for a psychoactive experience. She replied, “at least three or four”. Whereupon, I said: “OK, I’ll take only one, if that will permit you to proceed.” So she handed me one tiny mushroom which I ate as she proceeded with her mushroom ceremony.
Soon thereafter I fell into an exceptionally deep meditative state, which I later realized was a ‘psychoactive samadhi’. I was immersed in timeless state with my body sprawled prone, eyes closed and head facing downward and resting on the verdant meadow carpet. After Tara and Ramdassi had waited for at least an hour for my return to waking consciousness, the mushroom’s effects finally began to wane, my body stirred and eyes blinked open onto the green plant cushion.
Whereupon, I beheld an extraordinary and unforgettable sight. With “X-ray and microscopic vision” I saw beyond the green surfaces of the meadow grass, plants and leaves into each and every cell and atom thereof. And in each plant atom I wondrously beheld an image of a Divine being, angel or saint. These images were similar to those I had infrequently and fleetingly seen during deep meditations at home. They seemed to appear holographically and fractally in some regular repetitive fashion.
After gazing at this wondrous sight, my body finally stirred as I awakened from the samadhi state. Then, though as an ‘uptight’ city dweller I had never before gone skinny dipping alone or in the presence of others, I spontaneously threw off my clothes and jumped naked into the waste-high ice cold pond waters. And for the first time in this life my body spontaneously went into a crucifixion posture with arms extended parallel to the pristine pond’s surface. There, half baptized in the sacred water, my body so remained motionless for some timeless/thoughtless moments, without any awareness of bodily chill.
Ultimately, I came out of the pond, dressed, and continued silently hiking with Tara and Ramdassi. But in some ineffable and awesome way I felt transformed – as if I had just experienced a deep secret of Mother Nature.
Prior to this amazing experience, I had intuitively but not experientially realized that manifest “reality” is a holographic mental projection of consciousness. (See Discovering How Consciousness Projects ‘Reality’ – Holographically/Fractally/Kaleidoscopically ~ Ron’s Memoirs) But this synchronistic experience seemed to confirm the accuracy of that intuition – the holographic nature of our perceived reality.
Also, after initiation by Guruji I had learned that Hinduism, Buddhism and other spiritual traditions refer to an esoteric ‘third eye’ supposedly located around the middle of the forehead slightly above the eyebrows, and anatomically connected with the pineal gland; that in the Kundalini yoga tradition this ‘third eye’ is associated with the sixth or ajna chakra, which when fully opened supposedly permits universal vision into every place and time without limitation. This experience of x-ray/microscopic vision helped confirm what I had heard and read about the existence of such a ‘third eye’ with potential universal vision.
As to the significance of my unprecedented and spontaneous assumption of a crucifixion posture in the pristine pond, I can only speculate. Perhaps this act symbolized soul recognition of incremental rebirth and resurrection from a lower to higher state of spiritual awareness. Or perhaps it was the manifestation of a devotional tendency from another lifetime.
What do you think?