Dream Gates

Dream Gates

The First Santa I – Making a Reindeer Shaman


Long ago and far away, where the sun shines all night on Midsummer’s Eve and never shows its face at Midwinter, a boy they called Dreamer lived with his family among the Reindeer People. They were a simple folk who lived on fish and the fruits of the earth, on reindeer milk and sometimes, in the hungry depths of winter, on reindeer meat. They followed the reindeer through the cycle of the seasons, forever in search of something to eat. They made tools and toys and holy statues out of reindeer bone, and when they danced around their fires, men and women both wore crowns of reindeer antlers.
Dreamer was an awkward boy. He couldn’t run or move as fast on snow shoes as the others. He wasn’t very lucky at fishing, and he couldn’t lift the great tree-trunks they used for their winter games of log-tossing. They called him Dreamer because his mind always seemed to be wandering somewhere else. He loved the reindeer, and sometimes his mother would find him dreaming among them, arms wrapped in sleep around the belly of a reindeer cow.

Even the wild reindeer approached him without fear. That was why, one hungry winter, his father made him go out with the hunters, to call the wild reindeer from the shadows of the evergreens. As a magnificent bull reindeer trotted towards him, the boy’s father muttered, “Take him. He’s yours.” The boy trembled, with his father’s long bow in his hands, looking into the deep steady eyes of the reindeer.

Impatient, his father threw his spear. Blood spurted from the great heart of the stag over the boy’s chest. He dropped to his knees by the body of the reindeer, asking forgiveness. “We do this so our people may live.”

His father punished him for his failure to take the kill by forcing him to skin the reindeer with his own knife, and carry the hide back to the village on his shoulders. Staggering under the weight, he wore the reindeer hide bloody side out, so he seemed to be wrapped in a bright red coat.

That night, while the boy’s father and mother were snoring under their sleeping skins, he woke and looked up through the smoke hole into a field of stars. Through the field, a reindeer was racing on flying hooves. It swooped down through the smoke hole and stood over the boy, so close the steam from its nostrils entered him. He understood, without human words, what he was to do. He was to make a drum, using the hide he had carried back from the woods, binding it to the frame he would carve from an evergreen. He would use a piece of antler as a beater. An old one who lived alone in the woods would show him things he needed to know to make the drum right.
NEXT: Part Two: Drum Rider

  • Wanda Burch

    Magical – I sit awaiting Part 2 – and I can see the illustrations, vibrant and alive, pulling every child – and adult – into their vision! MORE!

  • Robert Moss

    Thanks, Wanda. “MORE” is perhaps the word that authors most like to hear in feedback. More of The First Santa tomorrow; more again over the weekend.

  • Don

    …Thank you for posting this story. I am anxious to read the rest of it.
    …Some years ago I read a book “When Santa was a Shaman,” by Tony van Renterghem. At that time I was fascinated by that book. I wonder what your honest opinion of it is, if you have read it.
    …What you are posting goes farther back into myth and history than that book does. To me you post is by far the most interesting.
    …The original Shaman Santa strikes me as being far more genuine than the Santa we see today, seated in the shopping mall, the camera set up, and the cash register ready. That is a travesty of our heritage.
    …As I said, I am very anxious to read more of “The First Santa” as you are writing it — to read the rest of it. Thank you so much!

  • Robert Moss

    Thanks, Don. Yes, I read “When Santa Was a Shaman” many years ago, and it;s somewhere on my shelves, but I didn’t use this book in making my own story, which comes from my own imagination, spring-fed by my personal visionary encounters with the reindeer people and an antlered goddess and supported by better sources on the anthropology and oral traditions of the shamans of the far North.

  • Aaron

    Wow! Only a few paragraphs and I’m enthralled. I am waiting with great expectation for part 2.

  • Robert Moss

    Aaron – keep clicking – all 5 parts are now posted, starting with the Introduction (a couple of posts back). If you have a hard time finding things, enter “Santa” in the Search this Blog box.

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