Amanitas are curious mushrooms. They grow in a wide variety of locals, some in humid southern swamps under the shadows of giant ferns. Others flourish up north, rising from cold white snow like iced roses on a wedding cake. They emerge from the soil like white eggs. As they grow, they break their veil of white, revealing red or yellow skin beneath. All that remains of the veil are small white pointy warts which dot the mushroom cap like poison stars that smell of dark places beneath the earth.
In Siberia, shaman eat amanitas to see visions. Though shamans are men of power, they are still only men. Their bodies are not made to consume magic. After eating the mushrooms they shiver and shake, often growing ill, though seldom dying. Through their body the magic runs. It drained from their system, toxins removed, visions intact. The amanita’s magic remains potent even after six passes through the body. People steal the visions of the shamans by drinking their waste.
After feasting on Amanita, the skin takes on a flushed and ruddy glow. When the time is ripe for amanita, shaman, dressed in red and white fur-trimmed coats and long black boots go to gather them. Filling their sacks they return home to their yurts of birch and reindeer hide. So as not to let in the cold, for it is very, very cold in that northern country, they climb down a chimney-entrance in the top of the yurt, to share mushroom gifts with those within. That is why on one special cold winter night, red suited men in black boots slide down the chimneys leaving sacks of presents.
The shamans string the mushrooms together in long fungus necklaces that smell of dark places under the earth and hang them round the fire to dry. That is why today we string popcorn and berries on our hearths at Christmas time.
Reindeer too are fond of amanita; they seek them out and after dining, dance under the moonlight. That is why, for one magic night, reindeer fly, bringing gifts to all.
The amanitas grow beneath the World Tree the roots of which reach down into the underworld. The tree passes through our world, and its branches reach up into heaven.
The top of the tree is so tall it touches the North Star. This is why Christmas trees boast stars on their uppermost bough.
Amanitas spring from the earth. They are born of morning dew which is the semen of Gods. That is why today we drape our Christmas trees in tinsel which sparkles like condensation.