Santa, Mushrooms, and the Underworld with Tero Isokauppila

Santa Sold Shrooms author, Four Sigmatic Founder and mushroom evangelist Tero Isokauppila shares the origin story of Santa Claus involving shamans, a psychedelic mushroom and a surprising connection to the underworld, death and rebirth.
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Santa Sold Shrooms

You can find more information about the book Santa Sold Shrooms here.

Santa Sold Shrooms with Tero Isokauppila – Podcast Transcription

Kelly MacLean: It’s the When You Die podcast. I’m Kelly MacLean, your host. My guest today is Tero Isokauppila, 13th generation farmer, forager, and mushroom evangelist from Finland. He is the founder of Four Sigmatic, a nature centric wellness company known especially for their delicious healing mushroom teas that you’ve probably seen just about everywhere health food is sold.

Tero is the author of Healing Mushrooms: A Practical and Culinary Guide to Using Adaptogenic Mushrooms for Whole Body Health, and his latest slightly more controversially titled book, Santa Sold Shrooms. In his new book, Tero shares the almost lost origin story of Santa Claus, involving mystic roots, and shamanism, a visit to the underworld, and, of course, a very special mushroom. But I will let Tero fill you in on the rest. 

Well, Tero, thank you so much for doing the podcast.

Tero Isokauppila: Thanks for having me on.

Kelly MacLean: I feel lucky to get you.

Tero Isokauppila: Yes.

Kelly MacLean: When … So, you have a new book coming out.

Tero Isokauppila: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: Tell us what the book is called, and about it, first of all.

Tero Isokauppila: It’s called Santa Sold Shrooms, and it tells the origin story of the world’s … Or arguably, the world’s most famous man, or person, Santa Claus, and how it links up to this indigenous culture and …  Called the Sami, and their world, and how 5,000 years ago, well before Saint Nicholas, how this … Some of the Christmas traditions got started.

Kelly MacLean: And you are actually possibly descended from the Sami people, or from that area?

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah. I’m … As far as I know, I’m something like almost 97% Nordic, and I’m about 2.9% Neanderthal-

Kelly MacLean: Hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: Not full homo sapiens, even. 

Kelly MacLean: [laughs]

Tero Isokauppila: So … Yeah. So, I’m from that region. I mean, many, many generations, both of my parent’s side, dates back to Finland, and Sweden. And the Sami people are … They’re semi-nomadic, so they’re … You know, they travel between borders, but they’re mostly in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and parts of North Western Russia, and so, that’s … Yeah, where my ancestors are from.

Kelly MacLean: And they’re in the top region there-

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah.

Kelly MacLean: Called Lapland.

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah, above the Artic circle. They live in pretty extreme … So, the last few generations, my family has at least been a little more south, but still, within roughly the same area. A lot of snow.

Kelly MacLean: But you’ve been to Lapland?

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah, many times, and I’m going again in January, this year, so …

Kelly MacLean: Oh, wonderful.

Tero Isokauppila: Hmm.

Kelly MacLean: So, what is the connection with Santa and Lapland and shrooms? Can you give us a little teaser of what you talk about in the book?

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah. So, today, Santa Claus is this sugar water selling commercial marketing tool, but just like most other major holidays, it dates back to much older … And the story of Santa Claus was brought to the US by the Dutch. The Dutch got it from the Germans. Germans took it from the Italians. Italians stole the grave of Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas was actually from Turkey, not from Germany, like many people think. 

And back in the day, Turkey’s capitol was Constantinople, which is Istanbul now. And there was an Orthodox church, and they stole this tradition from the Slavic people, and the Slavic people took it from these indigenous people. So, it’s many thousands of years coming. But the Sami managed these reindeers. There’s no reindeers in Turkey, so … Or Italy-

Kelly MacLean: [laughs]

Tero Isokauppila: So, they are the host of these reindeers, and Santa Claus was a shaman, basically, who took care of people spiritually and medicinally. And the celebration of Christmas dates back to winter solstice, which is a big part of Sami traditions, same way as mid summer … Or the summer solstice, and that’s actually true for most indigenous cultures … They celebrate life and death. Obviously, it relates to this podcast as well-

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: And in these two main times, there’s also other periods where the cycle of the moons get celebrated, but these are two, kind of, the obvious ones … That when the day is the longest, and when the day is the shortest, and-

Kelly MacLean: Right. That would be a natural time to be thinking about death, I would think, especially in regions where it really goes dark all of the time-

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah.

Kelly MacLean: I mean, some traditions like Tibetan Buddhism, you do a dark retreat to prepare for death, and these bardo retreats are connected with being in total darkness, and what that brings up in terms of preparing for death.

Tero Isokauppila: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: So, it would make sense to me that that would be on your mind.

Tero Isokauppila: For sure. Especially when you’re so far up north that in the summer, there’s no night during the summer. And then in the winter, there’s like, one to two hours of sunlight. So, you’re pretty much like, 20-something hours every day in complete darkness, or the light you will have is from the snow, and the moonlight.


So, it’s definitely … Technically, that’s the start of the new year, and for indigenous people, there was not this modern calendar. So, you would start the new year … And this is the age old dualism of life and death, light versus dark. So, it’s pretty obvious, as well, if dark is evil, or bad, but it’s also danger in many ways, versus light is safety, joy, hope … But then it’s also the birth and death cycle … Kind of aligns all with this classic dualistic principle of light and darkness. And I think that’s probably pretty universal around the world.

Kelly MacLean: Right. So, solstice … Winter solstice in that region-

Tero Isokauppila: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: Is also a celebration of the return of the light, or-

Tero Isokauppila: Yes.

Kelly MacLean: Sort of rebirth.

Tero Isokauppila: Rebirth. So, that would be death ending, and then new year starting. So, it would be like death first, and … Or handling the underworld, and death, people who have died before you, or preparing yourself mentally for one day dying, and appreciating … And then … But also, there is this glimpse of hope. So, it is a darker ceremony than obviously mid summer, which is very light and joyful, but there’s this glimpse of hope, of like, rebirth-

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: That is … Or a new beginning, may be a better word, even.

Kelly MacLean: Yeah, but there’s also this dark quality, of touching in with the reality of death, happens at that time of year-

Tero Isokauppila: Correct. Yeah.

Kelly MacLean: And this ceremony.

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah. So, the Christmas ceremony was conducted by the shaman, or the Santa, in these [inaudible 00:06:55] or [inaudible 00:6:56], like these big tipi’s … And you sometimes get snowed in, that’s why you come through the chimney … And here’s all these details, why are the reindeers there? And yada, yada, yada … But the ceremony would be conducted by the shaman, or the Santa, using this mushroom called Amanita muscaria, which is arguably the world’s most famous mushroom, even though nobody ever knows it. It’s the mushroom on your iPhone as the emoji, it’s what super Mario ate, it’s what Alice in the Wonderland, of Disney stuff,  included, it’s what Jefferson Airplane – White Rabbit song was based around-

Kelly MacLean: Hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: There’s so many touch points in culture around that mushroom. And the Sami’s shaman would take it, it’s a little bit poisonous, not lethal, but it’s a poisonous mushroom, but also psychedelic … And the shaman would go through this chanting, or it was called [inaudible 00:07:45], and would [inaudible 00:07:48], kind of chant … And there’s a drum, and the drum is kind of divided by half, there’s the underworld, and the life you live in, and he goes through the ceremony of drumming, chanting, and then-

Kelly MacLean: And that kind of drumming can release DMT in your brain-

Tero Isokauppila: Yes.

Kelly MacLean: As well, right? Which is what is released when we die.

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah. So, obviously very hard to quantify, but I think anecdotally, a lot of people have talked about coal therapy, meditation, various trance like chanting, or singing, really releasing DMT, which is also, by the way, released when you might have a child. So, I’ve had a few friends-

Kelly MacLean: Oh, really?

Tero Isokauppila: Who’ve told that they start seeing elves, and little creatures when their child was born, as they got visuals.

Kelly MacLean: Oh, that’s so interesting to know, being pregnant.

Tero Isokauppila: [laughs] Yeah.

Kelly MacLean: That’s good for me to know. [laughs]

Tero Isokauppila: [laughs] Yeah. Again, I don’t know how to quantify that, or prove that-

Kelly MacLean: Right.

Tero Isokauppila: But that’s just anecdotally what I’ve heard, so … So, this winter solstice was a celebration of, basically, people who have died before you, and the shaman would go into this underworld, with this drum, and the drum would have these drawings of the underworld … And would dig deep, and go to the roots of the earth, and there’s this ceremony, and some of the people in that [inaudible 00:09:12] would join them in that ceremony, and together they would handle death. And this mushroom is very … It’s a dark psychedelic. It’s a GABA agonist, so, basically, it’s an agonist to the GABA receptor. It’s very sedative. Think of like, being drunk versus what psilocybin is … It’s very … More happy, joyful, laughing. This is more like, you see dark stuff, a lot of death-

Kelly MacLean: Hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: But that was the time of the year when you handled with death.

Kelly MacLean: So, it was sort of like the … Dia de los Muertos of the Sami-

Tero Isokauppila: Yes.

Kelly MacLean: This was the day, or the time, when they would relate with the ancestors, and people on the other side.

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah. So, they might have been … It’s because Christianity kind of took over, it’s like, hard to … Some of the traditions like, how were they done back then? Also, with nomadic tribes, there tends to be less documentation, and every tribe is slightly different.


So, that’s why the leading herbalist system in the world is probably in the Amazon, but nobody knows about it unless you go there, versus the Chinese, or the Indians, who documented everything-

Kelly MacLean: Hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: So, the same with the Sami. It’s like, it’s a little bit difficult to know exactly, because a lot of the stuff was burned out of witchcraft. So, a lot of the documentation was destroyed, and multiple generations were forced to not talk about it-

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: But to my current understanding, this was a time when the family who was there with the ceremony, with the shaman, would have asked for … A question from their ancestors, like, “What did my grandfather/grandmother say about this?” Or if they have a message they want to bring to the life, or just to kind of look into the past, and kind of prepare for the new year. There … Seemingly, there was a ask, or a question, which also seems pretty common around various ceremonies. That there is an intention to look into … But death seems to be like, the most common theme around that time.

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm, and can you say something about what the underworld looks like to the Sami?

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah. There’s obviously … It’s quite funny. There are still a few of the Sami drums left, the original drums-

Kelly MacLean: Hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: So, you can kind of get a little bit of an understanding of their art. Obviously, you know, it’s hard to know what the shamans say, but there is definitely these creatures, and reindeer being one of them, and a couple snakes … There was a poisonous snake-

Kelly MacLean: Hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: Around that region as well. So, there’s these monsters in this underworld. And there’s this witch, it actually translates as witch, [inaudible 00:11:50], who is basically conducting the ceremony-

Kelly MacLean: Oh.

Tero Isokauppila: And kind of telling these visions. But one of the fascinating things is, if you think of Christmas, you think of the Christmas tree, it’s a Spruce tree usually, a Norwegian Spruce, or one of those varieties, and it’s in the [inaudible 00:12:11] family, where underneath the tree, this mushroom actually grows from the roots of the pine trees, this Amanita muscaria, but it’s also kind of considered … The pine trees are considered sacred to the Sami. So, think of like, the Avatar movie, with the Na’vi people thinking like-

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: The tree of life. Again, a theme that seems to be common across multiple indigenous cultures, a tree of life, and how the roots of the tree go into the underground, and through the roots you could connect with that-

Kelly MacLean: Hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: So, seems like there was also a connection with the roots of the trees, and the witches, some of these animal like creatures with … Some with horns, some would not … A hell like scenario, almost-

Kelly MacLean: Hmm. So, a dark place for the shaman to visit.

Tero Isokauppila: Yes, but there was wisdom. So, dark doesn’t mean negative, because there was also a celebration of hope … That there was an important message that needed to be translated.

Kelly MacLean: Right. It seems like, from the little bit that I understand, that the Sami were not really afraid of death, or afraid of the people on the other side, the way that we might be in 2018 America.

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah. It’s also … I think it comes down to unity, and understanding that we’re all one-

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: Where your life is less meaningful to the bigger picture, because you believe that, like the Sami believe, that all living and nonliving beings have a soul. So, rocks, and trees, and reindeers, and whatever, everybody is a living being, and there’s a soul. So, if you die, your death means less for the collective, and if you believe in the collective, your death means … Is less dramatic, because it’s just something that happens. And I feel like in modern society, we are in the center point, even … Let’s assume … Okay, we just had fires in LA, right?

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Tero Isokauppila: A lot of people are heartbroken over it, and for good reason-

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Tero Isokauppila: But in Southern California, three, or four, people died, right? So, that was the loss, but everybody’s talking … Everybody’s donating. I mean, our company donated, because it hit home, right?

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Tero Isokauppila: But at the same time, if we start … If we take ourselves from the equation out, and we start looking at … Is that … Is these four people equal … The same amount of news cycle that we received from these four deaths, equal to like, 400 death in Europe-

Kelly MacLean: Right.

Tero Isokauppila: Or 4,000 deaths in Africa, or India? Like, we just don’t care. Like-

Kelly MacLean: Yes.

Tero Isokauppila: We put ourselves in the center, then our friends and family, then our community, then our state, then our country, then our region, or whatever, and then we even rank these animals. “Oh … ” It’s like, “Oh dogs? You can’t eat dogs, because like, dogs are friendly-“


Kelly MacLean: I know. I find this very strange.

Tero Isokauppila: So, the death of someone in California is more impactful than somebody in Canada-

Kelly MacLean: Right.

Tero Isokauppila: And the death of a dog hurts more than the death of a cow … And we just like, rank these people. And for the Sami, there was not really that kind of ranking. It was-

Kelly MacLean: Interesting.

Tero Isokauppila: Like a soul of a life … So, that also means that your life is not … Like, you have to be grateful, and appreciative, but at the end of the day, that’s what you need to do.

Kelly MacLean: It’s not … You’re not walking around feeling that it’s more valuable.

Tero Isokauppila: Yes, because you’re all one.

Kelly MacLean: Right.

Tero Isokauppila: So, if all is one, then all is one.

Kelly MacLean: Right. Then we’re just one part of the whole.

Tero Isokauppila: And I feel like a lot of people say that today, like, semi-spiritually … That, “Oh, we’re all one,” but then in reality, they don’t think like that. [laughs]

Kelly MacLean: Right, but then they cut you off in traffic the first chance they get-

Tero Isokauppila: [laughs] Yeah. So, it’s kind of like, is … Freedom of speech is good, until the freedom of speech annoys you, or something like that.

Kelly MacLean: Right.

Tero Isokauppila: It’s like, “Oh, I’m supportive of freedom of speech,” but then when it’s inconvenient for you, the freedom of speech, then it’s not okay anymore.

Kelly MacLean: Yes.

Tero Isokauppila: So, if, again, I … What I’ve understood from the Sami traditions is that they truly felt that like, we’re all one, and we’re all part of the same, it doesn’t … Like, your death is just one in the line, and then your soul will still live.

Kelly MacLean: So, they also had real reverence of like, say, a plants life-

Tero Isokauppila: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: Or even like, a rock, or-

Tero Isokauppila: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: Everything had kind of a spirit-

Tero Isokauppila: Yes.

Kelly MacLean: To be respected. And I’m saying had, but this is still a culture that continues-

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah. It’s still happening, and they have an official language, they’re part of the government. So, you know, obviously, there was a point when Christianity came, Finland was … Finland and Sweden, I guess, were both quite pagan places. I still think today they’re the least … And I hate this term, but least religious-

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: In the world. Like in Iceland, I can’t remember what’s the percentage, but it’s something like, half the population believes in elves, and stuff … But like, in what was considered pagan … So, the same in Finland, and then the Christians came, and they kind of tried to get away from it, but luckily that culture is still alive, and they’re protected by the government quite well. So, I think there’s still … Even though damage was done at one point, but I think there’s still a lot to be, you know, saved.

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm, and they believe that the afterlife is … They don’t have so much of … Like, they don’t have the heaven and hell split. It’s like, it’s a rich world with positive, and negative things, right?

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah. So, that’s, again, the dualistic principle is that like, darkness is bad, light is good … Like, evil versus good, and if you truly believe all is one, then darkness is needed for light, and light is needed for darkness. Good exists in everything, bad exists in everything. So, then, there’s no divide. So, even the afterlife is a positive. And they definitely believe that those people can still … After dying, you can impact the community and family. So, you’re not gone. That’s why the shaman goes in the underworld, and talks to the dead to send messages back to the living.

Kelly MacLean: He’s the-

Tero Isokauppila: Messenger.

Kelly MacLean: The conduit … Messenger, medium, go-between guy, and the Amanita and drumming help him get there.

Tero Isokauppila: Yes.

Kelly MacLean: And it was a him, typically?

Tero Isokauppila: Well, yes, which is, though, funny … Is that a lot of the plant medicine and mushrooms were … It was a feminine knowledge. So, the elderly, and the priests tend to be men, but the knowledge of plants and mushrooms tended to be within women, so-

Kelly MacLean: Hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: That’s actually also a fascinating one. I think that’s why, one of the explanations why witch craft happened, was that they had knowledge of these psychedelics, and psychedelics could increase consciousness that would prevent people from following the church, and stuff like that, but, again, hard to know for sure. These are just theories of what happened a long time ago, because-

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Tero Isokauppila: When we talk about even 1,000 years ago, it’s hard to know what happened, but when we talk about 3, 4, 5,000 years ago, it’s really hard to know what happened.

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm, but that fear … The fear of knowledge, it certainly makes sense.

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah, and men, who were more hunters, and women were more gatherers, so it makes sense that women gathered mushrooms and berries.

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: Granted, the reindeer is one of the oldest domesticated mammals, so, I guess there was some sort of … Not farming, but like, taking care of these somewhat domesticated animals. And they would use the whole part of the animal, so even the drum that I mentioned for the chanting was made out of reindeer, and the bones that were used in the drumming … Or the bones were used in the drumming-

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: To hit the drum, so there was a lot of touch points of using the full animal.


Kelly MacLean: Were the mushrooms ingested by other … By the lay people?  Non-shamans? Or was it really specific for the shamans?

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah, to my understanding, they could join the ceremony-

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: But this is where the story takes a big left turn. This mushroom, like I said, it’s legal in every state in the US, except Louisiana, but it’s-

Kelly MacLean: Hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: Part poisonous. Not lethal, but poisonous. It has these water soluble compounds, and they get reduced in cooking, but also through eating them, and then urinating, and the psychoactive compounds get stronger in the urine. So, the story is that apparently then, the shaman would pee in a wooden cup called [inaudible 00:20:46], and others would drink the urine, and get high as well.

Kelly MacLean: Wow. That’s quite a celebration. [laughs]

Tero Isokauppila: It’s a radical one. It’s not … Sometimes our traditions are not what we wanted them to be, but they were what we needed them to be, so-

Kelly MacLean: Uh-huh. 

Tero Isokauppila: So …

Kelly MacLean: And this mushroom death connection-

Tero Isokauppila: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: Here is not … So, this mushroom is kind of a portal to the underworld, or …

Tero Isokauppila: Or higher consciousness, since it’s-

Kelly MacLean: Higher … Right.

Tero Isokauppila: It grows on the pine tree, and the pineal glands was said to have our soul and consciousness, and it’s named after the pine cone, or … I think Descartes said that there’s a man inside of our … In our forehead, making … Pulling levers, and making decisions for us, and that ended up being the pineal-

Kelly MacLean: Hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: Pineal gland. And this mushroom has a connection with the pine story … So, the other theory is that it just impacts our consciousness, because it’s … It purifies the pineal gland-

Kelly MacLean: Hmm. Mm-hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: But … who knows.

Kelly MacLean: But there is a mushroom death connection there, and that’s something reflected in other areas, right?

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah. It relaxes you. Amanita is, like I said, a GABA agonist, which means it kind of relaxes muscles, it can even knock you out, it can sedate you, so it’s kind of … You are not alive, you’re kind of death, or about to die. It’s almost like feeling like you are dying-

Kelly MacLean: Hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: As you consume the mushroom. And then the more famous psychedelic mushroom, psilocybin, is the opposite. It’s full of life, and energy, and joy, usually.

Kelly MacLean: Now, interestingly, psilocybin is … And in our … The film we have coming out, we interview Dr. Anthony Bossis-

Tero Isokauppila: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: Who has done a lot of research on psilocybin for end of life-

Tero Isokauppila: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: And there is all of this research now showing that psilocybin at the end of life can actually really change a terminally ill person’s perspective. Just taking it one time-

Tero Isokauppila: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: Can change [crosstalk 00:22:53]-

Tero Isokauppila: I feel like half of the people who … In that study, were already feeling that it was an impactful decision in their life, and usually, that’s around the “we’re all one” theory, kind of, mindset-

Kelly MacLean: Right.

Tero Isokauppila: Is that they feel unity, that like, it’s not the end of the world when they die, there’s a continuum of energy, and usually that’s where, seems to be, that the peacefulness comes from.

Kelly MacLean: Right. Somehow it takes away some fatalistic part of it-

Tero Isokauppila: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: Even though it is talking about fatality itself, there’s like … People report a feeling of universal love, as well.

Tero Isokauppila: Yes. Yeah.

Kelly MacLean: And like, an understanding of something that’s greater than. You know, in my case, Kelly, in this shell, that’s going to last this amount of time-

Tero Isokauppila: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: It’s actually much bigger than that.

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah, and now, there’s a second layer, you carrying a new life inside of you.

Kelly MacLean: Yeah. Absolutely.

Tero Isokauppila: So … And then that living being will carry life, and then it’s like, it just goes on. It’s like a continuum.

Kelly MacLean: Yeah. I’m certainly reflecting on … The greater than my own life span-

Tero Isokauppila: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: Right now, right?

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah.

Kelly MacLean: Like, this kid … And that kid’s kid, and …

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah.

Kelly MacLean: Our whole world being carried forth in this way.

Tero Isokauppila: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: Can you say more about … I mean, what do you think it is about the connection between mushrooms and death? Have you seen it come up other times?

Tero Isokauppila: Well, there’s definitely a theory about, again, to the consciousness point, there’s a stone [inaudible 00:24:29] theory on how mushrooms were used to increase our consciousness as pre-humans too, to allow for us to level up. And there’s also-

Kelly MacLean: And is that … That’s not just psychedelic mushrooms, right?

Tero Isokauppila: That would be, actually, psychedelics.

Kelly MacLean: Oh … That’s specifically … Okay.

Tero Isokauppila: And then there’s another one that says that mushrooms come from another universe, or another galaxy, which is kind of true anyway, because everything comes from another star system, we’re all made out of elements that were … Because a star was broken-

Kelly MacLean: Right. Well-

Tero Isokauppila: But-

Kelly MacLean: You get-


Tero Isokauppila: There’s definitely people … Because mushrooms are found in every level of the atmosphere. Mushroom spores can travel seemingly into space, because they have this strong … The spore is like the seed, or the sperm, of the mushroom, and it can travel before unlocking. It has like, this strong shell, and before it unlocks itself in the right conditions, it can travel in very extreme conditions. It’s an extremophile, it can live in extreme conditions. And so, there’s definitely a theory that they came from another planet, or another galaxy, or another universe. I don’t know. 

But then from a more practical point of view, mushrooms, their role in nature is to break down organic and inorganic matter. That’s what they do. So, mushrooms cannot produce their own food, same as animals can’t produce their own food. So, reindeer or human has to eat something, same way as Amanita or Portobello mushroom needs to eat something. Plants can create food by photosynthesis, just with sun, and certain nutrients. But mushrooms need to eat something, and they eat organic and inorganic things, and then they almost like compost it into other substances that then nature can use. And one of the substances that mushrooms could, for example, eat, is us … Humans, once we’re dead, and mushrooms can then help compost us.

Kelly MacLean: Right. We usually think about us eating mushrooms, but actually they can eat us back.

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah. It’s a beautiful circle of life.

Kelly MacLean: [laughs] And mushrooms are the only thing that can purify the toxins in the human body. So, if you were to … Because we’re big on green burial, with our site, and we talk about recomposing, and there are all of these amazing ways that you can take your body, and make it into soil, or there’s aquamation-

Tero Isokauppila: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: Which is like a water … Green water answer to cremation, but with those things, you’re still getting the toxins-

Tero Isokauppila: Yes.

Kelly MacLean: That you’ve accumulated in your body. We don’t want to think about it, but there’s a lot-

Tero Isokauppila: Well-

Kelly MacLean: That we accumulate-

Tero Isokauppila: We accumulate a lot in our lifetime.

Kelly MacLean: Especially those of us who live in LA.

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah. Well, just the amount of pesticides, I believe we accumulate something like six pounds a year.

Kelly MacLean: Ugh.

Tero Isokauppila: The amount of pharmaceuticals that we consume, even if you don’t take pharmaceuticals, even if you don’t take pharmaceuticals yourself, if you have any exposure to tap water, municipal water, there’s all kinds of pharmaceutical residue. Then obviously through our skin, pollution … And this was not the case, you know, 500 years ago-

Kelly MacLean: Right. Also make up … So much that we touch.

Tero Isokauppila: 100%.

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Tero Isokauppila: And I feel like every year the amount of exposure is growing. So, maybe a little bit is not as bad, but then what’s the blend of all of these things? And accumulation over from the age of 10, when you start to take all of this stuff in, to until you die? 

And what mushrooms can do is they can break down … They can live in a nuclear reactor of Chernobyl, and break down radiation. They can break down the worst chemical warfare weapons in the world, like VX and Soman, that are actually incredibly harmful, super non-compostable at all, when they get into nature, they’re going to stay there, unless a mushroom comes. Because mushrooms love also breaking down inorganic stuff, and breaking them into organic stuff. So, mushrooms definitely love to remove toxicity. It’s almost their role in nature, and they love to munch on that stuff, so … If we’re full of toxicity, then mushrooms can come to the aid, maybe.

Kelly MacLean: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah.

Kelly MacLean: [laughs]

Tero Isokauppila: Mushrooms can even eat plastic-

Kelly MacLean: Really?

Tero Isokauppila: And help clean oil spills. Yeah.

Kelly MacLean: Oh, that’s fascinating.

Tero Isokauppila: A few years ago, they discovered a mushroom in the Amazon that loves to eat plastic. And plastic has been around, whatever, 130 years, and so far we haven’t figured out if it composts or not. Maybe it composts in 200 years, or 2,000 years? We don’t know-

Kelly MacLean: Wow.

Tero Isokauppila: But this mushroom loves to eat it.

Kelly MacLean: And then there are specific mushrooms that are flesh eating mushrooms-

Tero Isokauppila: Yes.

Kelly MacLean: That you can train to consume human material, and there is a whole mushroom burial suit.

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah. I feel like it was in a somewhat popular TED Talk-

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: Of this mushroom burial suit, so maybe [crosstalk 00:29:05]-

Kelly MacLean: Yeah. We have that up on our site, actually, right now-

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah.

Kelly MacLean: So-

Tero Isokauppila: So, maybe that TED Talk is worth a watch.

Kelly MacLean: It is. They’re like ninja pajamas.

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah. I’m not really big on the design. There’s something-

Kelly MacLean: I think the design could be better. I’m with you.

Tero Isokauppila: I think it could be more eco-

Kelly MacLean: Yes.

Tero Isokauppila: But it looks very futuristic. 

Kelly MacLean: Yeah. It does … And one wonders if the mushrooms that you sell, and mushrooms that we can eat in life, if they’re also doing this while we’re alive.

Tero Isokauppila: Well-

Kelly MacLean: If they’re also absorbing the toxicity, and-

Tero Isokauppila: There’s another whole tangent here … Just to keep it short, is that mushrooms and bacteria have a very synergistic relationship, so anything from scoby in a kombucha, that is made out of yeast-

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: And bacteria, to even our digestive tract, our gut biome, is often formed of various fungi and bacteria, and they love to work together. So, I mean, it makes sense that those would be the living organisms that would break us down.


Kelly MacLean: Yeah. It really strikes me that mushrooms have this very significant place in the circle of life-

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah.

Kelly MacLean: Circle of life and death.

Tero Isokauppila: Well, I think so, but I’m pretty biased.

Kelly MacLean: [laughs]

Tero Isokauppila: But I’m a believer.

Kelly MacLean: You’re Mr. Mushroom, so-

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah, yeah. Don’t take my word for it. But I feel like there’s something there to research.

Kelly MacLean: Yeah. Can you say a little bit more, before we wrap up, about the connection of … Maybe the secret role that death has to play in solstice, in Christmas time? Because I remember when you first told me about this book, you mentioned … You said, “It’s really a story about death.” And I was so struck by that-

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah.

Kelly MacLean: Because I did not imagine in a million years that this Santa story actually was about death. 

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah. It’s … At least, if it’s not everything about this story, because there’s also an attitude of gratitude, and new beginnings, and hope, and light, and the start of the new year … Definitely the end of something, which often translates into death, is a key theme. You’re kind of approaching it, you set up lights, and you prepare for it, and it kind of ends up … And then later the story of the Sami … About 3,000 years after the Sami had been, you know, exploring this tradition, enters a man, commonly known as Jesus-

Kelly MacLean: [laughs]

Tero Isokauppila: And that’s also a funny thing … Is like, the birth of Jesus is also aligned with that … And then I just think that it’s fascinating how something ends, and something begins. But to expand on the Sami tradition, is you’re ending the year, you’re ending the season, you’re ending the cycle, and it’s a time of like, quieting down, it’s a time … Which is still part of Christmas, for sure, and it’s also the time of reflection, and kind of like, re-grounding yourself.

So, I think a time of death for a lot of us is not a time of doing a million things. It’s more like slowing down, calming down, reflecting, being grateful for certain things, but also kind of already slowly starting the process of looking into the future, and kind of the new beginning, the new start, and what would that look like, and maybe asking for help … Be journaling, or meditation, or in this case, a psychedelic mushroom helping you with the journey.

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah.

Kelly MacLean: And have you yourself tried the Amanita?

Tero Isokauppila: I have, yes.

Kelly MacLean: [laughs] Can you tell us your experience of it?

Tero Isokauppila: Well, if you listen to this, you might … Because it’s legal, and it’s psychedelic, and Super Mario took it, and Alice in the Wonderland, yada, yada, yada … You might sound like … Right now … It’s like, “Oh, I need to go on eBay, and buy it,” because you can legally buy it on eBay, and my message to those people thinking that: Don’t. It is not a beginner, or even an intermediate, type of a mushroom-

Kelly MacLean: Even if it were, I’m guessing eBay’s probably not the best way to get it. I’m guessing you had a better hook up.

Tero Isokauppila: [laughs] And no, you don’t need to consume someone’s urine as part of the process. You can just cook it, and remove these water soluble compounds out of it. It’s also part of a very lethal family, of two other mushrooms, the Destroying Angel, and Death Cap-

Kelly MacLean: Well, there’s another mushroom death connection-

Tero Isokauppila: Yes.

Kelly MacLean: Of course, poisonous mushrooms.

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah, and they’re Amanita’s cousins-

Kelly MacLean: Oh.

Tero Isokauppila: And they have this non-water soluble amatoxins that are completely lethal. Probably, I don’t have the exact stat, but I would assume that over 90% of mushroom deaths are related to these two mushrooms.

Kelly MacLean: Oh, wow.

Tero Isokauppila: They’re pretty much the main killers. So, you don’t … So, the trip of Amanita is not an easy one, or something I could recommend, and also the risk of misidentifying to a lethal mushroom is somewhat high if you don’t know what you’re doing. So, like, do not go … Unless you exactly know what you’re doing, I would not recommend. And I know a lot of mushroom people who it’s taken like, ten years of building courage to have that mushroom.

Kelly MacLean: Yeah. 

Tero Isokauppila: But, again, it’s a dosage question. You could have a smaller dose … It has a lot of this strong flavor … In a broth, or something like that-

Kelly MacLean: But for the people out there who love psilocybin, and are like, “Oh, it’s like a-“

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah.

Kelly MacLean: You know, “Cabernet to the pinot-“

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah, no-

Kelly MacLean: Or something.

Tero Isokauppila: It’s not that. That is more like, what would be … Yeah, it’s more like the mescal to the green juice, type of thing. 

Kelly MacLean: Hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: They’re quite different.

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm. 

Tero Isokauppila: You know?

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Tero Isokauppila: So, I can’t really … Do not go and consume this mushroom, please.

Kelly MacLean: So, hopefully it won’t be via poison mushroom, but when you die-


Tero Isokauppila: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: We always ask people at the end of this podcast, what is one wish you have for yourself, for your own end of life, or for your own death?

Tero Isokauppila: I think the real answer … It doesn’t matter.  Like, it doesn’t really matter. Like, there’s no-

Kelly MacLean: What doesn’t matter? Like, all of this?

Tero Isokauppila: Pretty much all of it-

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Tero Isokauppila: And it comes … I say that with great hope, but like, my death doesn’t really matter. I mean, in a micro, nano level? Yes. But in the abstract? It doesn’t. Like, it’s just like a blimp, and I think that’s something I’ve at least come to accept, and I’m fine with, and it doesn’t really matter. Maybe when I’ll have a child, momentarily, I will think differently-

Kelly MacLean: Yeah

Tero Isokauppila: And maybe that will shift my … But right now, if you ask me, it doesn’t really matter, and I don’t have any wish.

Kelly MacLean: Do you have a personal wish, or preference for that experience? Or for what lies beyond?

Tero Isokauppila: I guess this is a great philosophical question, do you want to know when you die? How you die? Or do you want it to be a surprise?

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Tero Isokauppila: I would probably prefer the surprise. I also have this … One of my main beliefs in life, that could be completely false, but one of my main beliefs in life is that we all are going to regret something when we die. Every one of us.

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: And again, this could be completely false. 

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: But I live … I try to live my life in a way that I know that I’ll regret something, but when I feel like, “Oh, I’ll regret if I don’t do this,” that kind of comes to my mind, and I’m like, “Okay, I definitely need to do this, otherwise I’ll regret it when I die.” So, it’s … It sounds like, really negative, but it’s actually quite positive-

Kelly MacLean: Well, I love-

Tero Isokauppila: In my mind.

Kelly MacLean: I love that, and when I tell people about this website, or this podcast, they often think it’s so negative, but for me, same thing. That reminder that you’re going to die, or even moments like this fire-

Tero Isokauppila: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: Or probably like, an Amanita trip-

Tero Isokauppila: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: Where you’re really reminded to your core that life is temporary-

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah. It’s a full memento mori.

Kelly MacLean: Yeah … Then you live your life with a lot more awareness and fullness.

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah.

Kelly MacLean: So-

Tero Isokauppila: But … Yeah.

Kelly MacLean: Deep, bro.

Tero Isokauppila: Deep. [laughs] Yeah.

Kelly MacLean: Thank you so much.

Tero Isokauppila: Thanks for having me on.

Kelly MacLean: Is there anything else you want to add?

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah, I think this Christmas story, if you’re interested, Santa Sold Shrooms, you can get it on Amazon … And even if you’re not interested in a Christmas story, whenever you’re celebrating a major holiday, be it even Thanksgiving, or Easter, Halloween, or whatever it may be, maybe just take a moment to figure out like, or remind if you already know, why do we celebrate these-

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Tero Isokauppila: Cultural kind of cornerstones of life, death, seasonal changes? And I think, hopefully, that will also help kind of elevate your relationship with death and life.

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Tero Isokauppila: See what I did there? I didn’t say life and death. I said death and life.

Kelly MacLean: Death and life. [laughs] That’s a first.

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah?

Kelly MacLean: I always hear it the opposite.

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah.

Kelly MacLean: It’s a very beautifully illustrated book as well. And it’s a very fun, and eye opening romp, I think … This read.

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah.

Kelly MacLean: So, Santa Sold Shrooms-

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah. Santa Sold Shrooms.

Kelly MacLean: Check it out.

Tero Isokauppila: Check it out. Amazon. And thanks for having me on.

Kelly MacLean: Yeah. Thank you so much. Happy holidays.

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah. Holy days. [laughs]

Kelly MacLean: Holy days.

Tero Isokauppila: Yeah.