Over the past two decades the counterculture has embraced April 20th as a kind of cannabis Thanksgiving, in which smokers band together and celebrate their vice. The origins of this event supposedly trace back to California and the 1970s. The conventional plot goes something like this:
"It was Christmas week in Oakland, 1990. Steven Bloom was wandering through The Lot - that timeless gathering of hippies that springs up in the parking lot before every Grateful Dead concert - when a Deadhead handed him a yellow flyer.The article goes on to explain how 4/20 became an international phenomenon:
"'We are going to meet at 4:20 on 4/20 for 420-ing in Marin County at the Bolinas Ridge sunset spot on Mt. Tamalpais,' reads the message, which Bloom dug up and forwarded to the Huffington Post. Bloom, then a reporter for High Times magazine and now the publisher of CelebStoner.com and co-author of Pot Culture, had never heard of '420-ing' before.
"The flyer came complete with a 420 back story: '420 started somewhere in San Rafael, California in the late '70s. It started as the police code for Marijuana Smoking in Progress. After local heads heard of the police call, they started using the expression 420 when referring to herb - Let's Go 420, dude!'
"Bloom reported his find in the May 1991 issue of High Times, which the magazine found in its archives and provided to the Huffington Post. The story, though, was only partially right.
"It had nothing to do with a police code -- though the San Rafael part was dead on. Indeed, a group of five San Rafael High School friends known as the Waldos - by virtue of their chosen hang-out spot, a wall outside the school - coined the term in 1971. The Huffington Post spoke with Waldo Steve, Waldo Dave and Dave's older brother, Patrick, and confirmed their full names and identities, which they asked to keep secret for professional reasons. (Pot is still, after all, illegal.)"
"The Waldos also had open access to Dead parties and rehearsals. 'We'd go with [Mark's] dad, who was a hip dad from the '60s,' says Steve. 'There was a place called Winterland and we'd always be backstage running around or onstage and, of course, we're using those phrases. When somebody passes a joint or something, 'Hey, 420.' So it started spreading through that community.'
"As the Grateful Dead toured the globe through the '70s and '80s, playing hundreds of shows a year - the term spread though the Dead underground. Once High Times got hip to it, the magazine helped take it global.
"'I started incorporating it into everything we were doing,' High Times editor Steve Hager told the Huffington Post. 'I started doing all these big events - the World Hemp Expo Extravaganza and the Cannabis Cup - and we built everything around 420. The publicity that High Times gave it is what made it an international thing. Until then, it was relatively confined to the Grateful Dead subculture. But we blew it out into an international phenomenon.'
"Sometime in the early '90s, High Times wisely purchased the web domain 420.com."
In other words, the 4/20 phenomenon was essentially a triumph of marketing on the part of High Times. But, was their a specific purpose in the choosing of 4/20 other than an obscure reference to the Dead? In the last few centuries the date of April 20th has seen more than its far share of bloodshed and tragedy. Here are a few examples:
-1653: Oliver Cromwell dissolves the Rump Parliament
-1792: France declares war on Austria, beginning the French Revolutionary Wars
-1861: Robert E. Lee resigns his commission in the US Army to command the forces of VIrginia
-1884: Pope Leo XIII publishes the infamous anti-Masonic tract Humanum Genus
-1889: Adolf Hitler is born
-1914: 45 men, women, and children are murdered in the Ludlow Massacre
-1961: Final day of failed US-backed Bay of Pigs Invasion
-1999: Columbine High School shootings
-2010: Deepwater Horizon oil well explodes, leading to BP oil spill
This has led some conspiracy researchers to speculate that 4/20 is a major occult holiday. The general theory seems to hold that the 13 days leading up to May Day (May 1st), beginning with April 19th, are a significant time frame in the occult. Here is an example of this theory:
"The entire Occult Holiday spans from 4/19 through May 1 each year. The Lower Entities of Darkness thrive on humans that indulge in drugs, their main goal is to produce mind-control trances that allows attachment and possession...
"The Occult Holiday requires Blood Sacrifice To “The Beast”, a most critical 13-day period. Fire sacrifice is required on April 19 or 20. April 19 is the first day of the 13-day Satanic ritual day relating to fire and the fire god, Baal, or Molech/Babylon, Amun/Egypt (the Sun God).
"This day is a major human sacrifice day, demanding fire sacrifice with an emphasis on children. This day is one of the most important human sacrifice days, and as such, has had some very important historic events occur on this day. The Illuminati Occult considers war to be a most propitious way to sacrifice, for it kills both children and adults."I cannot endorse this theory as I have found no indication in any of my books that the 13 day period leading up to May Day/ Beltane had major significance to the ancients.
Frazer, for instance, believes Easter was originally associated with the spring equinox, which was historically celebrated on March 25th in the West. Thus it would not have possibly factored into the April cycle as it does this year.
"The place which it might have taken in the affections of the vulgar was already occupied by the similar but more barbarous worship of Attis and the Great Mother. Now the death and resurrection of Attis were officially celebrated at Rome on the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth of March, the later being regarded as the spring equinox, and therefore as the most appropriate day for the revival of a god of vegetation who had been dead or sleeping throughout the winter. But according to an ancient and widespread tradition Christ suffered on the twenty-fifth of March, and accordingly some Christians regularly celebrated the Crucifixion on that day without any regard to the state of the moon. This custom was certainly observed in Phrygia, Cappadocia and Gaul, and there seem to be grounds for thinking that at one time it was followed also in Rome. Thus the tradition which placed the death of Christ on the twenty-fifth of March was ancient and deeply rooted... But the resurrection of Attis, who combined in himself the characters of the divine Father and the divine Son, was officially celebrated at Rome on the same day. When we remember that the festival of St George in April has replaced the ancient pagan festival of Parilia..."Indeed, the festival of St. George is the only major pagan based holiday that falls within the 13 day April cycle described above. But Frazer seems to be mistaken, as Wikipedia claims Parilia occurred on April 21st and not the 23rd. Regardless, there doesn't seem to be a connection between the two. Walpurgis Night and May Day are rooted in Beltane, which wasn't a major holiday in Greece or Rome (though the Romans did have the mysterious Bona Dea festival of which little is known). Certainly St George is a highly esoteric figure, but he doesn't seem to have a connection to April 19th or the 20th.
(The Golden Bough, James Frazer, pg. 363)
Regardless, a great degree of bloodshed has resulted on April 20th as well as April 19th (which witnessed the final day of the Waco siege and the Oklahoma City bombing in recent years), but much of it has been relatively recently, from the Renaissance onward. Thus, it seems unlikely that the tradition dates back to the Mysteries and the like.
The Qabala is a different story. It's teachings were jealously guarded until the 13th century, but it wasn't until the Jews were expelled from Spain at the end of the 15th that it began to have a major impact on Western esotericism. The rise of the Qabala seems to roughly correlate to the increasing prominence of April 19th and 20th as key dates.
The Great Beast was quite fond of the number 419. He notes:
"Teth, the number of the 'laughing lion' on whom BABALON rideth. See Liber 418. Note 419 + 156= 575= 23 x 25, occultly signifying 24, which again signifies to them that understand the interplay of the 8 and the 3. Blessed be His holy Name, the Interpreter of his own Mystery!"
(777 and Other Qabalistic Writings, Aleister Crowley, pg. 48)
420 is not nearly as impressive, but is naturally linked to vapour and smoke. Breaking down four and 20 and their combinations is also interesting. Four is of course the number of matter, eg the four elements. 20 is Yod, the letter of the father. Added together it equals 24, the number of the Elders. 24 x 3 equals 72, the number of Shemhamphorasch. 42 is the number of the judges of the dead, as well as the 42-fold name of the Creative God. 420 can be derived by 42 x 10, 10 being the number of the illusionary physical envelope.
In modern times, there was another major occult backed organization that was quite smitten with that faithful April date as well.
|Hitler's 50th B-Day|
As may be imagined, 4/20 was quite a big deal in Nazi Germany. It was turned into an official holiday in celebration of Hitler's 50th. It featured the largest military parade in the history of the Third Reich. Incidentally (or not), the Nazi's also happened to do experiments on cannabis in an attempt to develop a truth serum. The United States government became especially interested in this research after the war.
"Buried in the voluminous files of the Ahnenerbe-SS are also references to the use of mescaline and cannabis as 'truth serums,' programs that -according to John Marks in his ground-breaking study of CIA mind control projects -have been kept classified by US intelligence since 1945. Here and there we come across the names of Paperclip scientists involved with military and CIA mind control programs, such as Friedrich Hoffmann, a Nazi chemist who advised the CIA on matters relating to psychotropic substances for use in interrogation and 'brainwashing.' Hoffmann has been linked to Edgewood Arsenal, where CIA maintained TSS (Technical Service Staff) personnel involved in various aspects of chemical and biological warfare, including -according to John Marks -the implantation of new memories in amnesiac patients. One finds an article by Hoffmann and co-authors William A. Mosher and Richard Hively, on the subject of "Isolation of Tran-6-Tetrahydrocannibinol from Marijuana" in the April 20, 1966 issue of Journal of the American Chemical Society, an issue published -ironically enough -on Hitler's birthday."How ironic indeed. Note that this would also link 4/20 to cannabis a good five years before the Waldos. Of course, its not likely a lot of members of the counterculture were reading journals on chemistry. On the other hand, they were attending the universities in which such a paper would be considered. The universities in California by the late 1960s and 1970s were hotbeds for various programs being run by the US intelligence community. I've already chronicled the bizarre remote viewing experiments conducted at SRI in the 1970s here and here. Incidentally, Stanford would play a major role in turning on the Grateful Dead, whose subculture initially spread the 4/20 concept.
(Sinister Forces Book One, Peter Levenda, pgs. 142-143)
"The first member of the Grateful Dead to turn on to LSD was Robert Hunter, the Dead lyricist, who participated in a government-sponsored drug study at Stanford University during the early 1960s. Hunter later recommended the experience to the other band members."
(Acid Dreams, Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain, pg. 143)
Other universities became involved in various mind control programs, such as 'personality assesment' research that was developed by the OSS, the CIA's WWII predecessor.
"After the war, personality assessment would become a new field in itself, and some of Murray's assistants would go on to establish OSS-like systems at large corporations, starting with AT&T. They also would set up study programs at universities, beginning with the University of California at Berkley. As would happen repeatedly with the CIA's mind control research, OSS was years ahead of public developments in behavioral theory and application."In general California has been something of a Mecca for the CIA's mind control programs since at least the 1950s. I've chronicled at bit of this scene in the later part of this piece.
(The Search for the "Manchurian Candidate", John Marks, pg. 19)
Now, we must consider Operation Paperclip for a moment. Here is a brief description:
"In 1945, Nazi scientists -using slave labor from concentration camps -were in a race to develop superweapons to enable Hitler to win the war. They were working at Peenemuende and Nordhausen, famous rocket laboratories where the V-1 and V-2 rockets were designed which made life such hell in Great Britain, and where even newer, more lethal rockets and weapons were being developed. Alfred Einstein was worried that the Nazis were on the verge of developing an atomic bomb, and communicated this concern to President Roosevelt. And, what was worse, Russian troops were advancing towards Peenemuende from the east and would capture the Nazi rocket scientists and their laboratories, factories, and blueprints, thus permitting the Soviets unprecedented access to the 'art of German engineering.' Policy makers in Washington knew the next major conflicts would be fought between the United States and the Soviet Union, and they could not permit the Russians to have the upper hand in technology. It was of the utmost importance that those scientists -or as many of them as possible -made it to American shores, out of reach of the Russians and, more importantly perhaps, pressed into service in the United States.
"To that end, several wartime intelligence operations were put in motion.
"The most famous of these is Operation Paperclip...
"Most people who have heard of Paperclip assume that it was a program to bring Nazi scientists to the United States to assist the space program, a concept that is at least partially true. There was much more to Paperclip and subsequent Nazi recruitment -than rocket science, however. Nazi medical personnel were also recruited, as well as psychological warfare experts and, with the Gehlen Organization, spies, assassins and saboteurs."
(Sinister Forces Book One, Peter Levenda, pgs. 134-135)
Needless to say, the Nazi recruits brought in as a part of Paperclip and other such projects had an enormous influence on both our space and intelligence communities. If the Nazi scientists in our space program are any indication, it would seem that they never forgot their roots.
"As previously mentioned, the unmanned Surveyor 3 spacecraft had touched down in Oceanus Procellarum, just a few hundred feet from where Apollo 12 would land thirty-one months later; Surveyor 3 (third in an unmanned lunar reconnaissance series designed and built by Hughes Aircraft, and managed by JPL) had landed a few minutes after midnight, April 20, 1967...
"Adolf Hitler's birthday.
"If that wasn't enough, we soon discovered that NASA -remember, an Agency riddled at all levels by 'German rocket scientists' from Operation Paperclip, former Nazis and SS members like Von Braun -had landed on the Moon on Der Fuhrer's birthday not just once... but twice-
"The second time was with Apollo 16, in 1972.
"Curiously, the Lunar Module on Apollo 16 had 'a problem' with it's critical SPS engine just before planed 'deorbit burn'... which delayed the intended landing time for several nail-biting hours, while NASA trouble-shot various engineering possibilities from Earth. This process dragged on and on... until the date of 'April 20th' clicked over on the clock. Then, suddenly, the 'problem' cleared itself -and the astronauts were given the go-ahead to land on 'the next rev'-
"Once again -on Hitler's date of birth."
(Dark Mission, Richard Hoagland and Mike Bara, pgs. 252-253)
Personally I think Hoagland is a disinformation agent, but he seems to have his facts correct on this account.
So, to recap... Nazi scientists are brought into the U.S. space program and manage to pay homage to the Fuhrer by landing a spaceship on the moon on his birthday. Nazi intelligence assets were also incorporated into US intelligence agencies. Further, several of the Nazis were were apt to be working in California at some point, either as part of a university research program, or in deep politics. Is it possible that the counterculture 4/20 was meant as a similar homage to the Fuhrer?
To my mind, this is quite possible, especially when one factors in the Dead influence. As previously noted, the Grateful Dead were introduced to LSD as a part of one of the CIA's research programs on the drug. The Dead would go on to spread the notion of 4/20 through their concerts and such. Is it possible that someone other than the Waldos coined the 4/20 concept? Or did they in fact coin it, but someone else associated with the Dead and aware of its significance adopted it into the slang? Or is this simply one of those glorious pieces of synchronicity?
Surely we will never no, but the coincidences are there all the same.