Indigenous Christmas Origins

celtic tree of lifeEuropean Pagan Origins of Xmas

The pagan festival of the invisible sun at the winter solstice is a European tribal tradition celebrated for the last ten thousand years at the shortest day and longest night of the year. European native peoples since ancient times have held ceremonies for the recovery of the sun god at this time, a time which later became known as Christmas.

Indigenous traditions from many native peoples have been borrowed for modern Christmas celebrations, such as mistletoe from Celtic fertility rites and holly (originally to ward off evil) from the Druidic tradition. Originally Santa Claus was not red and white, but was first depicted like this due to a seasonal link to native spiritual traditions involving hallucinogenic red and white mushrooms known as fly agaric. Later the Coca Cola company would patent these colours and popularise the now universally accepted colours of Santas costume.

Sami Ceremony and Entheogenic Mushrooms

The red and white fly agaric mushrooms also played a part in the aboriginal origins of the flying reindeer image that is now popularly associated with Christmas. These mushrooms, or plant teachers, have always been used in rituals involving the sacred reindeer by the shamans of the Sami tribal peoples, who are still practicing traditional lifestyles as nomadic reindeer herders in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia today. The Koryak shamans of Siberian tribes gained notoriety in the grand western narrative of discovery when their winter solstice rituals involving the fly agaric were observed and recorded by anthropologists/adventurers, giving rise to several modern Christmas myths.

At this ceremonial time, the Koryak tribespeople would work ritually with the mushrooms in their family tents. Their shamans would also work with the mushrooms to reach a non-ordinary state of reality that allowed them to do spirit-walking. (Note the western interpretation of this is that it was an hallucination, but written here from an Indigenous viewpoint it is framed differently. For Aboriginal peoples, supernatural abilities like spirit-walking are as much a part of concrete reality as Christmas trees and the presents under them. So in this article, the spirit walking is fact rather than belief.)

Spirit Walkers Bringing Gifts

Koryak spirit walkers would visit the tents of their fellow tribesmen on their flying reindeer, the reindeer being a sacred totemic being for Sami tribal peoples. Once there, they would enter the tent through the smoke hole in the roof and distribute more mushrooms as gifts. Then they would exit through the chimney hole and fly away on their reindeer beings once again. It has been suggested that the egg-nog Christmas tradition was even grounded in these rituals, based on the practice of tribesmen drinking the agaric-spiked urine of the shamans who had ingested the mushrooms, perhaps mixed with egg and spices to disguise the taste. (Makes you think twice about mulled wine, for that matter!)

On a more sober note, traditional Sami reindeer herders wear red suits and long felt hats, which is where the modern Christmas myth of Santas elf helpers comes from.

Clearly, the origins of many western Christmas traditions such as Santas elves, Santa coming down the chimney, gift-giving, Santas colours, Santas home base in the Arctic North, and mistletoe can all be linked to time-honoured indigenous tribal ceremonies and customary practices.

Aboriginal Christmas Reflections

Christmas is as good a time as any to acknowledge the contributions of indigenous peoples around the planet to the formation of global knowledge, culture and innovations since the age of discovery. So much of the technology, food, textiles, traditions and even mathematics that formed the basis for modern western civilisation was borrowed, or synthesised, or developed in conjunction with native peoples. And that is one hell of a Christmas gift.

So spare a thought for the planets fourth-world (indigenous) peoples at Christmas time, most of whom are excluded from the bounty of first-world colonies built on stolen native lands, resources and knowledge. So many Aboriginal people are even excluded from basic rights like education. Bear in mind that in America every year people spend more money on Christmas presents for their pets than it would cost to educate every third-world and fourth-world person on earth who is currently denied schooling.

Ho, ho, ho.

Read about the modern Sami struggle for Aboriginal rights.