There would be no shame in drinking the urine of the reindeer; for it is from this that I will begin my journey. Being from the Khanty tribe we know the power of the great hoofed creature. An animal swift and vigilant and an animal capable of flight. I do not know when my ancestors first saw the dances the animals usually enjoyed after eating the mushroom we call the “flying fungus” but it has become a usual part of our lives to see these dalliances. When those velvet soft snouts first catch the smell of the mushroom, they become excited and snort the ground and their hooves stomp gently round the heavenly fruit.
And so on my first journey into the world of the reindeer, it was best for me to drink the urine of an animal who has already consumed the fungus, for the potent toxins would be eliminated and I would be safe from harm.
I held the reindeer skin container to my lips and tilted back, the amber fluid was still warm as it trickled down my throat. It was not as some people in the towns and cities would think, an unpleasant taste for it tasted of the tundra. There were hints of marjoram, sage and wild strawberries, but the woody taste of the fungus prevailed. It did not take long for the affects to course through my veins. There was a feeling that my body was rising from the ground, not very high, not on this first journey, but I felt like I was suspended, like on the day as a child when I played with my friends in the woods and we hung from the boughs of trees. But the strangest thing was the feeling that I had grown in size, larger and muscular, whilst retaining the same sense of weightlessness. My head felt like the roots of trees were pushing through my skull. Yet I knew I was stronger and I wanted to race upwards towards the highest trees in the nearby woods.
Today I ate the dried flying fungus. The shaman beat the drums made from reindeer hide. He beat the drum to call the spirits of the reindeers ancestors. “Driving the reindeer” it is called. And this time I could feel the strength of the fungi. I levitated high above the ground, level with the trees and when I looked down I could see my shaman catching the soul of a reindeer. I saw him call the spirits of the eight great wolves and they led the spirit of the reindeer to him. But still I did not fly. Still I did not become one of those vigilant and swift creatures.
Today I flew, really flew, the power of the reindeers surged through me. I donned the mask with the antlers and the coat of velvet grey. I moved fast, so fast above the earth, I am sure I flew as far as Finland. For when I looked down all was white and a reindeer herd as large as I had ever seen was moving across the landscape. I wanted to stay there suspended above that glorious sight but the drums of my tribal shaman beat loud and I was called back to earth.
And now tonight, is the culmination of my yearnings. Tonight I will meet the king of the flying fungus. Tonight I will lead a sleigh that will fly across the northern hemisphere. The lord will be dressed like the “flying agarics” in red and white. I will have the strength to fly high above the houses of the cities in the northern hemisphere and “Shaman Santa” will then take his gifts to all those who still believe in the old ways and climbing down the smoke holes of the new brick houses, will share his gifts of “flying fungus” to the believers.
I know this is what my destiny is. The lone Northern star will guide me and I will guide the other reindeer for Santa. The glow from my breathe through my nostrils will glimmer red and I will act like a beacon in the night. But I know this will be my journeys end for I cannot go back, I will remain with all the other spirits, for the gift of flight is only for those going to the next world. Once you have flown with Shaman Santa then all earthly things become a place once visited never to return.
My memory of earthly things will be like snowflakes landing on a reindeers back, quickly gone as the heat of the animal’s bodies absorbs the tiny particles of snow.