Far out, man! In this nifty little article about Amanita muscari, the fly agaric, a spectacular mushroom, they suggest a story that TPP had never heard before. Now any botanist who knows their humanistic botany knows that this mushroom is a well known hallucinogen and toxic enough to scare the pants off this botanist. Yikes, don't try this mushroom at home folks, it could be your last trip. Siberian shamen were known to favor living in groves of birch trees, trees of life in some cultures, and the fly agaric forms symbiotic relationships with the trees' roots. Naturally the mushrooms appear there too, and supposedly shamen gave them out as seasonal gifts, perhaps the winter solstice. First, you have the Santa Claus colors, red caps flecked with white. Then up there in raindeer country, you have "flying" raindeer, perhaps a not uncommon hallucination for people who rely on them for life. And then you have gifts of magic mushrooms. Could these be the very ancient origins of Santa Claus? The Phactors do have a fly agaric tree ornament, and many early Christian churches and manuscripts have drawings of "trees" that look pretty much like this mushroom. Hey, it's a good story! Sorry, thought there was a nice image in my files, but couldn't find one. Nice image at the link above, and here's a blog where TPP linked to other images of this mushroom just a couple of months ago. Ho, ho, ho!