Today we have a holiday special. Is the true spirit of Christmas a mushroom? Today's special edition holiday episode is all about Amanita Muscaria and it's profound interweaving with the Sami people of Lapland. We are joined by our friend Eric Puro from Finland to ruminate on how the mushroom may have influenced many of our hallmark Christmas traditions.
In Siberia people have and still use Amanita muscaria mushrooms in ceremonial settings. This iconic mushroom is even an emoji on your phone 🍄.
- Red and white like the colors of santa's outfit.
- Mushroom grows under evergreen trees like presents under a christmas tree
- To dry this mushroom they hang them on the tree (ornaments) or in stocking above a fire
- The mushroom shamans would ride a sleigh pulled by reindeer who would also eat these mushrooms (jolly person with "flying reindeer")
- Would bring the gifts of mushrooms to people in exchange for food (leaving food out)
- They would dry the caps of these amanita muscaria mushrooms out and call them cookies, they would take fishing wire and make wreaths out of them. They would even rehydrate them in milk
- A lot of time the snow was so high it would block the door so they had to come in from the chimney
- They would ride around and visit house to house around the winter solstice to bring joy in a dark period.
Who knew that Christmas had so much to do with mushrooms 🍄
Eric Puro is an outdoor log mushroom grower, lecturer, Executive Committee member of the International Mushroom Society, Founder and Managing Director of KÄÄPÄ Biotechnology, and a father of two. He lives by a lake in Karjalojha Finland, where he is currently looking over Europe's largest outdoor functional mushroom farm and building a log house. His company KÄÄPÄ Biotechnology is working with all types of fungi for many various applications. This inspires Eric to get out of bed every day, take his cordyceps and Chaga and explore the wonderful and awe inspiring world of fungi.
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podcast is Santa Claus on shrooms? Does that explain his existence is very strange behavior, his jolly laugh his outfit? Maybe, just maybe. So you guys, this is an older episode that we recorded almost two years ago, back in the day when Alex and I shared a mic. And we recorded everything on Skype and did virtually no audio cleanup. So we apologize in advance for the mediocre audio and the quality. But
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In this is our holiday episode, where we'll talk about how mushrooms correlate with the holiday season.
Being finished and knowing the culture a lot more we wanted to bring him on the podcast to talk about the tie between Amanita muscaria and Christmas. So Eric, thanks for coming back. Welcome back.
Great. Thanks for having me.
Yeah, just want you to kind of take it from here and give your backstory of finished folklore and then get into some Amanita stuff.
Yeah. Thanks so much for having me. I think this is a this is a story that maybe people are a little bit familiar with. But I think it's it's a it's a really nice story. And I've heard so many different varieties of this. But this one is mine was like all stories. I mean, this vocal tradition, this is how this gets passed out. So
I guess, for me, I think it's really important for your listeners to understand what Finland is at this time of the year. So So you probably when you close your eyes and you think of Finland, you probably think of snow and it's cold. There's saunas, and there's lots of lakes and you know, this kind of thing. But one thing people don't usually think of is how dark it is here. So we're at the same, I don't know, latitude or longitude, basically as Alaska.
At this time of the year, you know, we're seeing Sun maybe only two hours in the day. So it's mostly dark. We're waking up in the dark. We're going to work in the dark. We're going home and the dark. Kids are at their daycare, you know, playing in the forest in the dark, and it can get kind of depressing. Obviously everyone here is taking Vitamin D supplements. But it's still getting, it's still getting kind of depressing. So it's a season that you're in Finland traditionally, was a season to kind of honor the dead. nature, nature stops living, goes into hibernation. And in a way, I mean, mushroom is such a perfect symbol for this because mushrooms are really what's like, kind of feasting on the dead dead material in the forest. So it's always been kind of this connection, it's kind of a mushroomy time here in Finland. And, you know, here in Finland, we even have, we don't have Father Christmas or St. Nicholas, we have the Christmas goat, or you will goat as they call it. And this is actually pretty terrifying. If you if you google you will go out and Finland, you'll see a pretty terrifying image of, you know, a man with horns and goat eyes, who steals children and and basically, is one who judges you for your life. So it's easy this creature to come up with during this time of death and hibernation, and silence. And I mean, you know, Finland's tradition is is mainly a pagan, forest based nature based religion. The Sami people who were here before the Finn are gay people moved here. Were incredibly pagan. And the Finns who then came here, were also incredibly pagan. It's actually one of the last countries in Europe to start moving toward living in cities. So and religion was one of the last it was one of the last European countries were religion came to kind of like Iceland. So their connection with forests is just incredibly strong here. So if you got it, so now the stage is maybe set up. So we enter like Amanita muscaria. So everyone can close their eyes and see this really magical mushroom that, you know, Mario had and Super Mario World, and it's just it's amazing red and white dotted mushroom, but it has elements of psilocybin in it, and can create these hallucinogenic experiences. So in, you know, current Finnish poetry, it's kind of feared and revered. This mushroom is put on kind of this pedestal. But basically, the story goes with this mushroom. And there's, like I said, a couple different versions of this. But that essentially, in like, you know, we spoke in the last podcast about how bear in a way we're able to teach Native Americans on, on what kind of herbs to be taking. Here in Finland, basically, the reindeer were that symbol for the Sami people. So if you drive, you know, 10 hours, 12 hours north of Helsinki, way up in Lapland, I mean, you'll be driving on the road, and there'll be a just a whole village of just pass the street and you can't do anything, you just sit there and wait till they're done. And so these, you know, so many people would go around watching these reindeer and following him and seeing what they were doing. And we know they actually eat this Amanita muscaria mushroom. You know, sort of goes different ways. But eventually they learned that drinking the urine of this reindeer was a way to get the psychedelic properties so this mushroom and not die from the from the poisoning aspects. So basically, outsource the digestive capabilities of this Amanita muscaria to these deer Ranger that somehow had an ability to process it a bit better. So this must have done something quite good for people if they were drinking reindeer PIs. And this this part of the story we know is true. They were drinking this reindeer urine for this reason? And I mean it must. I mean,
you know random urine is incredibly potent. It's really smelly stuff. To drink that down. You would have to be incredibly motivated. Have some
I'm curious how they would eat it. Would they just find the yellow snow? And that's kind of where the whole don't eat the yellow snow would come from? I mean, Picturehouse they would be like harvesting this almost they're catching a reindeer in the midst of we've joked
Yeah, exactly. I mean, we've joked about this exact issue, because we so we go to this, we go to one of these, let's say research congresses, and we were at one of these research congresses up in Lapland. And we were talking about obviously, how to grow Chaga in these forests up there. And there was a poster that was being presented right next to us, which was how to extract semen from reindeer. So we had a very long discussion of course with the researcher who was who was knowing about this semen extraction from reindeer. And I guess the Sami people have such a I mean, they almost co evolved with these reindeer I mean their their existence depended on these reindeer moving them around on different areas in You know, Lapland, parts of northern Sweden, Northern Norway, northern Russia and Finland. So I think they just got close enough to them that they would let them catch their urine. I mean, especially seeing these creatures up close, they're kind of terrifying animals a huge horns, and there can be a bit aggressive. So then basically, the next part of the story is now that now you got the urine situation under control. Basically, the, the shaman of the village would basically deliver this rendered urine to the villagers. And to me, this is one of the most special parts so so he would go around, and he would give this gift. And this is kind of where they think the idea the Santa Claus idea came from. So there would be a shaman who would start to, you know, coming in so much with this mushroom, that he would start to wear the clothes, the colors about mushrooms, so he would read red and white. And a lot of times they had these big beards, and they were older, and they were wiser. And they were, you know, in a sense, somehow kind of enlightened. And they would go out and give this gift to, to, to villagers. And it was a sacrilege during this time of the year. And in a time of the year where your, you know, death is all around you, and the rituals are all about communion with death. And this is an actual substance that will have you meet your God. I mean, you will, it's incredibly life changing experience. So, to me, I mean, it's like a piece of cultural development for the Sami people and these ancient Finnish people. I mean, I mean, current research being done on psilocybin, for instance, right now, we know how anti depressive it is, or how, you know, how basically posits this default mode network in your brain kind of hits this reset button, in a way. And I think this is such an incredible story, because it's, it's possibly one of the first first stories about this that I've seen in being a seasonal part of the actual culture, the mother culture, you know, seasonal part of this mother culture, the Finns said, Hey, in the most depressing time of this year, everyone's going into the deaf, everyone's the nature is paused, it's dark all the time, it's just really a tough time. Maybe now's the time to hit annual reset button for mental health and more clarity. So for that, I just think it's such a, it's such a beautiful story, and one that we can all remember, but this time of the year is just, you know, time to go inside of ourselves, not a time for, you know, new developments. And it's a time to act like the mushrooms basically.
Yeah, and this, this is a time during the winter solstice, as well. So around December 21, or 22nd. And Christmas, with Santa Claus, the story that a lot of people practice is December 25. And there's a theory that, you know, it took a while for the shaman which is a word that originated with the Sami people. It took a while for the shaman or shamans, to go around in their slay, being carried by reindeer to go around to every one of these houses and have a ceremony. So by the time, you know, they started at the winter solstice, it would take about a week. And it was you know, the theory goes that, you know, when the creation of Christmas Day was and the whole Santa Claus story happen it it kind of CO coalesce with with that week of winter solstice and, and quote unquote Santa Claus coming around and, and bringing those gifts
but what a what an amazing job you'd have in your community, you know, what an amazing role that you'd play to give that gift in this time of the year and really, really special special culture
and these Amanita is grow during the winter time right and the reindeer were responsible for kind of digging them up. Sure another time for them at least that's that's what I've heard. I don't know if you have any more evidence or anecdotal evidence at least to back that but yeah, I mean
Yeah, absolutely. When I see them growing here, you know, just just yesterday, we were walking around the farm. We even found chemtrails under the snow yeah, there's some insulation. You know, I was incredibly impressed. But it's also really interesting why these radio ticket you know, there's a lot of a lot of other mammals that are also exploring these, these mushrooms that for no other purpose we can find just have these psilocybin effects.
And there's also ties to order Right, so you would dry these mushrooms and just hang them from a tree. And that's reminiscent of us putting all these knickknacks on the tree and yeah, I've heard correlations between that as well.
Or stockings above a fireplace. So stuffing a socking with these Amanita muscaria to dry them out and preserve them because on you know, in traveling and going around to give these gifts you know, to dry them out would be really great. And there is something it's really funny. If you chop off the cap of Amanita muscaria and you take a fishing wire and pierce the center of all the Amanita muscaria caps, you can create like a reef and that's a great way also to dry them out. And when the the caps of the Amanita muscaria are dried, they create these wafer like circle shapes and they're called cookies. And a great way to rehydrate them is in milk. And that's another way to kill flies. That's kind of like a theory that goes around is soaking Amanita muscaria in milk to attract flies and there's toxins, which end up killing the flies and it's a powerful insecticide. There's also there's actually a compound isolated from the fungus called one three dialing, which actually attracts insects. So that is one theory of the name fly Garrick or fly Amanita mushroom. But another theory is based off the medieval belief that flies can enter a person's head causing mental illness and this is thought to be named fly in relation to the delirium that people will feel after consumption of this mushroom. So the last theory, which goes a little bit in tandem with what I just said with the delirium piece, was these reindeer are eating these delirium causing mushrooms. And you can think if a shaman is being carried around these reindeer who are eating the psychedelic mushrooms that are causing them to be delirious, you can almost think of a story of flying reindeer. So this is if they're eating fly Garrick and they are reindeers. You have a sleigh full of flying reindeer carrying this big jolly guy who is also high out of his mind on psychedelic mushrooms. So think again, and the next time you think of Santa Claus and what what this person actually is, and, you know, the big, you know, we usually think of Santa Claus is, you know, this heavier set person and that's because originally, to conduct these ceremonies, these the shamans didn't charge any monetary value, it was actually a trade of food and beverage. So that's kind of the the whole leave out some cookies and milk for Santa Claus and, and maybe some carrots for the reindeer. There isn't any money involved. And you can think if someone is going around by hut and is being, you know,
is they're taking care of the shaman and giving the shaman lots of food and being very hospitable that, you know, they might be a little heavier set and it's also very cold. So I would I would put on some extra weight as well. There are two main compounds in Amanita muscaria, one being Musco and the other ibotenic acid. And so I've been tannic acid serves as a pro drug to muscum oil and it's a neurotoxin. So 10 to 20% of ibotenic acid When ingested, is converted to mukamal. The average dose in adults is approximately between six milligrams mukamal or 30 to 60 milligrams ibotenic acid, which is about the same amount as in one cap of Amanita muscaria the drying out of the mushroom converts the ibotenic acid into muscum Ah so this is like The cookies, or making the Reese or, you know drying the mushrooms on the Christmas trees as ornaments or in a stocking above the fire to dry them out to make that chemical conversion from ibotenic acid into muscum. Ah, so this is why, you know, either the shaman or the reindeer would eat the Amanita muscaria. Or that red and white speckly mushroom that is just like the most iconic mushroom out there. If you have an iPhone, it's the mushroom icon. You'll see it on holiday cards, you'll see it everywhere. It's the Mario Mushroom, it's like the iconic mushroom. That's what we're referring to when we say Amanita muscaria, the Latin name. So these toxins are, you know, they're toxic, but also psychedelic. And it's, it's great to filter them first. So either the reindeer or the shaman would eat the mushrooms first. And the psychoactive properties would would pass through the urine, where the rain gear or the shaman would deal with kind of the nauseating effects of some of the toxins in the mushroom. And it wouldn't pass through the urine. So the urine, I mean, it's kind of gross. I mean, some people use urine and urine therapy and supposedly it's great to recycle nutrients. I'm, I'm not a fan of that camp. But for those who are I mean, do you It's your life. But that was kind of the thing. And And apparently, it can be recycled indefinitely. So you can just keep drinking your urine and having the psychoactive effects. So pretty, pretty nuts. And another another thing is, you know, well, why, why does the story go that Santa Claus comes in through the chimney. And, you know, one theory goes that, you know, in the Arctic Circle, there's so much snow especially around, you know, the winter solstice time that a lot of the front doors will be blocked with snow and ice. And the chimney or more more so like a smoke exit for fire indoors is the only passage where where the Shaman can enter. So entering in through the chimney to deliver these gifts. And, you know, we're just talking about where where does Amanita grow and it grows underneath these these pine trees, or these these conifer trees, and, and that's kind of like the presence underneath the tree, you know, and you have to uncover the snow or unwrap the presence and, and know you go that's your, that's your president. And, and to dry them, you know, you pick them and then you put them on on the tree or in a stocking ornaments are gifts. In in your stocking. And then you have this, you know, celebratory experience. And
you know, there's two different theories that I've heard of, of Santa Claus, you know, going up the chimney, you know, one would be that yeah, he goes right back up the chimney or another one is more esoteric is that during the experience of ingesting this, Amanita muscaria this shaman is really traversing these, these different worlds these different dimensions during the, you know, entheogenic journey. And so he's going up the chimney or as a metaphor going into the astral realms of these these different dimensions to converse with the spirit world. So that's another theory that that people have. But the parallels are so spot on. You know, it's it's like every single parallel with the the Santa story is just like so spot on. It's really funny.
Yeah, it's really a shame. I mean, what a what a magical tradition we used to have now, it feels it pales in comparison somehow.
Do you want to start back up again?
I don't know exactly what we're doing in five days. But
I mean, we got to visit you in Finland. So maybe we can lock ourselves up in a little cabin somewhere and wait, wait for you to come in through the chimney
cookies and milk it for you and
everything. That's perfect. That would be amazing.
Yeah, I guess like two key points here. Christmas is a pre Christian holiday. And it definitely has Mr. Groots in shamanism. A lot of this is, you know, fun and could be totally not true, but it's worth mentioning. It's definitely entertaining. And to the mushroom played a role in this tale, regardless of how much of it is true about like, the stockings in the chimney. But Amanita muscaria certainly does have influence on the Christmas story. So that's a fun fact for you today.
Yeah, we'll see you in Philadelphia. Nice Christmas.
Yeah, for sure. Okay, great. Well, to everyone out there, I hope you have a Merry Christmas and that you're listening to this episode at the appropriate time, so you can share it with all your friends and family and your mushroom story.
Now you know how to actually celebrate Christmas. Yeah.
Yes, exactly. And just don't tell anybody that the cookies this year a little bit different.
Maybe grandma, maybe maybe everybody else.
And keep an eye out for the yellow snow if you're up in Ireland.
Oh, but I heard on mushroom revival podcast.
Cool, everyone. So that wraps up another episode of mushroom revival podcast. Hope you have an amazing holiday season. This you know, whatever you celebrate whatever you practice, we just wanted to give some insight on Santa Claus and the story of how mushrooms integrate with that story. So it's it's amazing how fun stories are and how they evolve over time and how fungi just seemed to work themselves into many of the stories that we know and love. So, yeah, definitely have an amazing rest of your year. I think we'll have one more podcast before the year ends. And we're looking forward to that one to ring in 2019 and get ready for 2020. So much love everyone. It's been a crazy year. It's been super, super awesome. Lots of big changes. A lot of growth. Lots of love, lots of learning. So keep it up and stay shrooms and yeah, I'd be holidays y'all. As always much love and may the sports be with you