a non comerical xmas message (a bit of fun)


There is also a rival theory of the origins of Santa’s paraphernalia – hid red and white colour scheme, those flying reindeer, and so on – which is more fun, less commercial, more scientific and somehow more appealing ( possibly because it is politically incorrect). Patrick Harding of Sheffield University argues that the traditional image of Santa and his flying reindeer owes a great deal to what is probably the most important mushroom in history: fly agaric (Amanita muscania). Before vodka was imported from the east, this was the preferred recreational and ritualistic mind-altering drug in parts of northern Europe.

Each December, this mycologist, or fungi expert, dresses up as Santa and drags a sledge behind him to deliver seasonal lectures on the fly agaric. The costume helps Harding drive home his point, for he believes Santa’s robes honour the mushroom’s red cap and white dots. Commonly found in northern Europe, North America and New Zealand, fly agaric is fairly poisonous, being a relative of other more lethal mushrooms, the death cap (Amanita phalloides) and destroying angel (Amanita virosa). The hallucinogenic properties of fly agaric are derived from the chemicals iobotenic acid and muscimol, according to the International Mycological Institute at Egham Surrey. Ibotenic acid is present only in fresh mushrooms. When the mushroom is dried it turns into muscimol, which is ten times more potent. In traditional Lapp societies, the village holy man, or shaman, took his mushrooms dried – with good reason.

The shaman knew how to prepare the mushroom, removing the more potent toxins so that it was safe to eat. During a mushroom-induced trance, he would start to twitch and sweat. He believed that his soul left his body, taking the form of an animal, and flew to the other world to communicate with the spirits, who would, he hoped, help him to deal with pressing problems, such as an outbreak of sickness in the village. With luck, after his hallucinatory flight across the skies, the shaman would return bearing gifts of knowledge from the gods. ‘Hence the connotation of the gift of healing, rather than something from the shops, as it is today’, Patrick Harding says.

Santa’s jolly ‘Ho-ho-ho’ may be the euphoric laugh of someone who has indulged in the mushroom. Harding adds that the idea of dropping down chimneys is an echo of the manner in which the shaman would drop into a yurt, an ancient tent- like dwelling mad of birch and reindeer hide: ‘The “door” and the chimney of the yurt were the same, and the most significant person coming down the chimney would have been a shaman coming to heal the sick.’ So how does Harding explain the importance of reindeer in the myth? For one thing, the animals were uncommonly fond of drinking the human urine that contained muscimol: ‘Reindeer enjoyed getting high on it,’ he says. ‘Whether they roll on their backs and kick their legs in the air, I am not sure.’

The villagers were also partial to the mind-expanding yellow snow because the muscimol was not greatly diluted – and was probably safe- once it passed through the shaman. In fact, ‘There is evidence,’ says Harding, ‘of the drug passing through five or six people and still being effective. This is almost certainly the derivation of the British phrase “to get pissed”, which has nothing to do with alcohol. It predates inebriation by alcohol be several thousand years.’ Such was the intensity of the drug-induced experience that it is hardly surprising that the Christmas legend includes flying reindeer….

from: Can Reindeer Fly? The Science Of Christmas, by Roger Highfield

merry christmas to all

Advertisements
Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Comments

  • hi  On April 16, 2010 at 8:57 am

    hi, let me eat that thumbnail

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: