Perhaps you’ve had this disagreement with your spouse: “I don’t want to lie to our child. I’m not going to tell him there’s a Santa Claus when he’s asks me, because I know there isn’t one!” I knew it wasn’t worth arguing with her, the colossal presence of Santa in our culture makes it impossible to deny HIS presence. Our son will turn three a few days after Christmas, with little help from me he now swoons at the thought of Santa. My wife has surrendered to the inevitable.
This is not the end of the discussion in our household, in fact our journey with Santa is just starting to pick up steam. “Of course Santa is real, he is a Compassionate Helping Spirit. He lives in the upper world, in a place very similar to the North Pole. He’s a very special spirit, once a year he can walk the Earth.”
Shamanism teaches us that any being in our awareness can appear to us as a helping spirit when we journey to the upper or lower worlds of Non-Ordinary Reality (NOR). I’ve found that figures like Santa are especially helpful to journey to. They are stolid elders of the spirit world, reminders of our shared shamanic past. They are also especially potent allies in our exploration of NOR because they are both intimately familiar and powerfully otherworldly. They help those of us not raised with shamanism tread familiar ground into a magical new world.
My wife smiled with approval when I made the connection between Santa and Shamanism. It is a way to make the mythical tangible and the tangible spiritual. “Poppa will journey to Santa soon and ask him what special gifts he wants to give us,” I explained to my son when he asked about Santa. “Because Santa lives in the spirit world I will journey to him to visit before Christmas as part of our preparation for this wonderful holiday.”
I took the first journey to Santa today while he napped, traveling up our Christmas tree into the upper world. Santa was of course as jolly as ever and delighted to see me.
“What can I do for you my boy,” he asked after showing me around the place.
“I’ve come to ask you for advice on what gifts I should give my son and wife, and for any other wisdom you can give me at this time of year.”
He guided me to a workbench where he began to work at gifts for us all. “Don’t forget yourself, or Bella.” He fasioned some special gloves for me, and treats for our family dog.
I studied his actions carefully, making sure I would remember each detail about the gifts I was to prepare in his name.
“And there is more. I want you to dance. Start now, every day. My Reindeer will show up to help you learn how to dance correctly. You’ll need some bells. When you’re ready, you can share this dance with your family and you can all do it together on Christmas.”
There are so many stories in our culture that are instantly ignited with practical magic when you are initiated into the shamanic journey. Alice in Wonderland is a journey to the lower world to receive power at adolescence. A Christmas Carol is a journey of healing through the power of the helping spirits. Santa travels to the middle world through the smoke in your chimney. The Tooth Faery transforms suffering into joy.
Instead of deciding Santa is not real, my son will learn that Santa belongs to a realm that we can all access, one that can radically impact our daily lives. Someday my son will learn to make his own journeys to Santa, to ask what gifts he might help Santa bring to this world.
In the meantime I will learn Santa’s dance and share it with my family. Thats the best gift of all! I’ll keep you posted.
Image: Spinning Christmas Tree by Jason & Melissa Parrish from Flickr, used under
a Creative Commons license