Posts Tagged ‘The Waldos’
It’s always fun waiting to see how Steve Bloom is going to spin his annual 420 story. Bloom likes to take credit for “discovering” 420 because he published a flyer in 1990 in High Times. But there’s always this mysterious 5-year gap in Bloom’s accounts. I was investigating the history of Soma when Bloom showed up at the office with that flyer for a gathering on Mt. Tam on April 20th at 4:20 that he’d been handed at a Grateful Dead show in Oakland. Bloom laughed at how silly it seemed and published a small blip in the news section making fun of it.
I had a much different reaction. Channeling the Rig Veda, I instantly announced this gathering on Mt Tamalpais was proof of the spiritual powers of cannabis and its ability to manifest real ritual and ceremony. Not only that, I instantly made 4:20 pm a daily ritual for myself, and began re-tooling the Cannabis Cup and Whee! festivals around 4:20 as the central ceremony. I was trying to build a case for the religious use of cannabis and I wanted to videotape and document those ceremonies as proof of that connection. And I have all that documentation intact.
Now Bloom watched all this go down for years and never once got involved with these 420 rituals, just poo-poohed the whole thing like a big joke. He watched the Cannabis Cup spread 420 around the globe during this time and saw myself and Stephen Gaskin deliver many 420 sermons to the uneducated masses, waking them up to the power of peace. Today Boom will tell you 420 spread through the Grateful Dead scene, which is not true. It spread through the teenagers of Marin county, some of whom had gone across the bay to Oakland to recruit comrades for their annual mountain-top ceremony, an event that only lasted a few years before police presence shut it down.
When I investigated the Waldos, the true creators of the 420 code, I came back to announce they were the real deal, and, of course, Bloom went into high gear discounting that notion and acting like I was deluded. Finally, he did cave in and admit the Waldos created 420 a few years back, but then last year, he backtracked once again and claimed it was actually another person from their high school, a tall tale told by a prankster and backed by zero evidence, while the Waldos have maintained a large stack of verifiable documents, including post-marked letters? A few months ago, Bloom was positively crowing about how the Waldos were frauds and he had finally uncovered “the real story.”
So, at the start of 420 week, what does Bloom say now: “Thirty-two years after I stumbled onto the 420 phenomenon, I really could care less who started it. Better off left shrouded in mystery, it makes for a good stoner bedtime story.”
I’d say he’s backed off that lame story, but he’s still not close to the truth, because the Waldod’s did invent 420, a reality Bloom has always had a hard time swallowing, probably only because I was the first to assert it and that would somehow, in his mind, steal his 420 spotlight?
The real story about this year’s 420 is about the people who organized those original Mt. Tam ceremonies, because the Waldos had no hand in these. And wouldn’t you know, one of them happens to have become altar master of the Temple Dragon Crew. This shaman will be returning to Mount Tamalpais in one week bearing the seven sacred candles of peace, which will be lit at 4:20 PM as an OM circle forms.
The real story of 420 is not about who found the flyer, who invented it, or who gets credit for anything. The real story of 420 is that this is our peace culture and shared by all of us who want to walk a path of non-violence. Don’t be fooled into thinking marijuana is only about getting high and/or making money, although that is as far as many people get with the plant. No, there is something much stronger, much deeper, much more intense going on around cannabis because it is the true sacrament of peace culture and always has been. And peace culture is a much truer emanation of the universal energies than anything those black magician masters of war running the Federal Reserve can dream up.
The first reference to 420 I ever saw was a flyer handed out at an Oakland Grateful Dead show that was designed to pull people across the Bay to participate in a 4:20 pm ceremony on Mt. Tam on April 20th. A short blurb was published in the news section of High Times in May, 1991, which, strangely, did not mention I had announced to my staff that 420 was proof of cannabis spirituality. From the day I saw that flyer, I began organizing 420 ceremonies in earnest, and the big ones were held by the national hemp legalization group I’d started a year earlier called The Freedom Fighters. There were 420 ceremonies at the Freedom Fighter conventions and at the Freedom Fighter encampments at the Rainbow Gatherings, both the regional in Ocala, Florida, as well as the Nationals.
The first 420 ceremony at the Cannabis Cup was in 1993 simply because after founding the Cup, I did not return to the event for four years, stung by comments that I’d created the event only as a excuse to get high, and not as a serious event. The Cannabis Cup 4:20 pm ceremony began as an open council that everyone attending the Cup was invited to. Council always began with an OM, the ancient prayer from the far east that harmonizes people. I’ve done a lot of research into the origins of the “OM” and come to the conclusion it was created by the Sakka’s (Scythians) and moved around the world. OM has two sounds, the “O” rings the rib cage, and the “M” (also known as a y-buzz) rings the facial bones and skull. I also believe “Amen” is a western adaptation of the eastern “OM.” After the OM, we’d pass Eagle Bill’s Native American wooden staff (in place of a feather), and the person who held the staff was allowed to speak. In this manner we discussed how to move forward with the Cup and our ceremonies. In 1994, Eagle Bill was the master of ceremonies and high priest of 420 council. Later, this function was taken over by whatever counterculture icon we were honoring. For example, when Bob Marley was inducted in our hall of fame, Rita Marley was the high priestess, and Ras Menelik was the high priest.
By 1995, there were numerous 420 pm and am ceremonies taking place at the Cannabis Cup. All the am ceremonies were held in the lobby of the Quentin Hotel, where the staff and performers stayed. I didn’t really organize 4:20 am ceremonies. The Temple Dragon Crew (protectors of the Cannabis Cup) began organizing those. Basically dozens of people would show up and chant and sing for hours until 4:20 am, and then everyone would line-up under a big clock in the lobby of the Quentin Hotel and have their picture taken at exactly 4:20. When I found out the crew was doing this, I joined that ceremony. I would credit Rocker T as a primary instigator of the 420 am’s.
The biggest 420 am celebration was always the night of the awards show, as many would return to the States the next day and usually there was a lot of cannabis left to consume. Entire kolas would be set on fire in the hotel lobby and passed around and sniffed. Later on, the crew took slabs of waterhash and used them as papers, filling the insides with cannabis. Those hash/weed joints were each worth hundreds of dollars and would be consumed in a matter of a few minutes.
The Waldos contacted the Cannabis Cup in 1997. This is the same year 420 starts at Boulder, Colorado, although some try to claim there were 420 ceremonies in Boulder prior to 1997, I’d like to see some proof of those claims before I’ll swallow that story. I published the true origins of 420 in High Times after meeting the Waldos in 1998, around the same time I created the WHEE! festival in Oregon, which was ten times bigger than the Cup. Whee!, like the Cannabis Cup, used 420 as the central ceremony of the event.
I was contacted today by a reporter working on an article on the history of 420. I’m happy to help any researchers interested in this topic. There’s a big difference between using the word “420” as a code, and organizing a ceremony. The idea of 420 ceremonies really spread around the world primarily through the Cannabis Cup, which was attended by influential stoners from around the world. Below are some of the questions I was asked, and the answers I gave.
I have the HT edition with the flyer and in bold it states “Get together with your friends and smoke pot hardcore.”
HT didn’t publish the flyer, they published Bloom’s selective excerpts from the flyer. The purpose of the flyer was to attract people to an annual ceremony on Mt. Tam.
It’s abridged? I didn’t know that.
I saw the entire flyer. It was for a ceremony on Mt. Tam. At the time I was researching Soma and the Sakka culture, and shouted out “THIS IS IMPORTANT!” Bloom thought it was ridiculous. He wouldn’t even participate in my 420 ceremonies, which I began that very day. The most important thing to realize about counterculture ceremonies is they are always rooted in improvisation. The Waldos were masters of improvisation. But the Waldos did not create the Mt. Tam ceremony. That was created by the kids in their high school who came later on, their younger brothers and sisters created that ceremony, but it stayed on Mt. Tam and never moved…until the Cannabis Cup. Bloom started his campaign to write me out of the history of 420 last year. When he published his current story, I’d finally had enough. He was there, he knows the truth. He also knows that he resisted everything I was doing all along the way.
I guess he’s passionate about crediting the Deadheads.
Jack Herer was a lifelong Deadhead and sold most of his books on Dead Tour. Jack’s first 420 ceremony was at the Cannabis Cup.
I think Wavy-Gravy’s ‘eternity’ comment puts it in the longest term perspective. It’s his way of saying “so what?”
You can pick any form of spirituality, it all works. The secret, however, is that you have to believe. I wrapped my deepest beliefs around 420 from the moment I became aware of it. I remain very close with the Waldos, who deserve a place in history alongside the Merry Pranksters. The Temple Dragons should get more credit for spreading 420, especially Rocker T. So what? So what, Merry Pranksters? So what, Congo Square? So what, cannabis spirituality? There’s something deeper going on here than just having a party, that’s what. I was the first person to announce cannabis was Soma of the Rig Veda, at least in North America to my knowledge. It was during my investigations of the historical use of cannabis that I became aware of 420. Bloom handed me the flyer. He then wrote a story about how silly the whole thing was, after I already told him I was going to reorganize my spiritual beliefs and events around the concept of 420. Thousands of people came through these events for ten years. Yet today, Bloom asserts the ceremonies I created did nothing to spread 420? The people involved know better. I’m not trying to take credit for 420, and I’ve made it clear what I think 420 should be about: “A day of peace in the drug war,” but after Jack Herer died, in wishes with Jack’s family, I asked people to also remember Jack on that day. But if you are going to write the true history of 420, please never forget the Temple Dragon Crew!
1) Congo Square, New Orleans. This is the actual birthplace of the counterculture, where Native Americans, African slaves, and a wide mixture of European whites first gathered to create an improvisational culture, blending elements of all their histories to create the popular, non-violent, hybrid-vigor culture we know today as the counterculture.
2) Hippie Hill, San Francisco. Located at the base of Haight Street, just steps from the corner of Haight/Ashbury, Hippie Hill was the ceremonial gathering place for the birth of the hippie movement.
3) Laguna Beach, California. Just as important as Hippie Hill was the influence of John Griggs and the Brotherhood of Eternal Love. There is a little-known surfer-hippie connection that has not been fully explored yet. Surfers who took LSD early in the sixties were among the first people to reach true enlightenment. The real center of energy may have been the auditorium on Newport Beach, but unfortunately that temple of surf rock was torn down.
4) Woodstock Festival, Bethel, New York. The first Woodstock was a true gathering of the tribe, and a place where the counterculture first realized itself in enormous numbers. It was our hippie version of the Sermon on the Mount. Also worth mentioning is Magic Meadow, Woodstock, New York. Located near the start of the trail to Overlook Mountain, Magic Meadow is the main ceremonial location selected by early beatniks and hippies who flocked to Woodstock as a haven for counterculture spirituality. Overlook Mountain also had a long history of use by Native cultures as a primary site for vision questing.
5) Strawberry Lake, Colorado. Located on the continental divide, Strawberry Lake was the site of the original Rainbow Family Gathering. The authorities tried to close all access to the site when they learned ten thousand hippies planned on camping there over the week of July 4th, but despite the roadblocks and police presence, all the hippies managed to sneak into the site via the back trails.
6) Camp Winnarainbow, Laytonville, CA. Wavy Gravy is the foremost master of ceremonies of the counterculture and he built the second most successful counterculture community in America. Wavy is the master of improv energy and channeling the fun vibe. His camp is the perfect place to send your kids to learn about counterculture spirituality.
7) Ken Kesey’s farm, outside Eugene, Oregon. The original bus, Further (or Furthur) is parked here. Kesey is our counterculture version of Odysseus, and his magic bus ride was a seminal moment in counterculture history. Wherever that bus resides will always be a most sacred spot in counterculture history.
8) Mount Tamalpias, CA. The birthplace of 420 and the site of the original April 20th ceremonies. Since cannabis is the primary sacrament of the counterculture (and has been used since its birth in Congo Square), the birthplace of 420 will always be a most sacred location for the counterculture.
9) Owl Farm, Colorado. Located a short drive from Aspen, the home of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson radiates with intense vibrations from all the ceremonies held on the site.
10) National Rainbow Family Gathering. Every July 1-7, the gathering is held in a different National Forest so this is a mobile sacred spot that moves around every year. The Rainbow Family is the heart and soul of the counterculture. Everyone needs to make a pilgrimage to this event at least once in their life to see what a world without violence and bigotry actually feels like.
Steve Bloom continues his selective and self-serving history of 420. In his latest missive, Bloom says: “In 1996, a person calling himself Steve Waldo contacted High Times claiming he and five friends had coined the term while they all attended San Rafael High School in Marin Country north of San Francisco in the early 1970s. So High Times named the Waldos the founders of 420.”
In truth, Steve Waldo contacted the 420 Tours website, not High Times. I’d just recently resigned as editor-in-chief of the magazine so I could concentrate on building events and shooting video and had spent six years promoting 420 ceremonies at the High Times office, at the Cannabis Cup, and at the Whee! festivals I created. Bloom never participated in any of these 420 ceremonies and told everyone my “theory” about the Waldo’s inventing 420 was untrue. For many years Bloom insisted the Waldos were liars. All this was well documented in Mike Edison’s slimy book that details his conflicts with the High Times staff.
But the worst piece of disinfo promoted by Bloom is the idea that I had nothing to do with spreading 420 ceremonies around the world, when, in fact, I was the first person to announce that 420 was evidence of the spiritual powers of cannabis. Until I began organizing 420 ceremonies, the only 420 ceremony being held was in Marin County. Bloom claims that Deadheads created 420 ceremonies, which is not true. It was students at San Rafael High School that organized the first 420 ceremonies. The Waldos were fans of the New Riders of the Purple Sage, not “Deadheads.”
In January 1990, High Times news editor Steve Bloom returned to the office from a trip to the Bay Area and brought with him a flyer for an April 20th event to be held at the top of Mount Tamalpias in Marin County. The flyer indicated that “420” was California police code for “marijuana smoking in progress.” Bloom thought the flyer was funny and a bit ridiculous, but I felt otherwise. Since I’d recently started my research into the spiritual history of cannabis use and was deep into the Rig Veda, I seized on the flyer as evidence of the spiritual powers of cannabis. “I’m gong to re-focus all my ceremonies around 4:20,” I told Bloom. “We can use 420 to spread awareness about the spiritual aspects of cannabis.” From that day on, I began holding 4:20 PM ceremonies in my office at High Times and proselytizing about 4:20. That’s because there’s a connection between math, music, marijuana and spirituality. Numerology has always intrigued me.
Imagine my surprise when Bloom published a one-paragraph mention of the flyer in his news section that month, but failed to mention my promise to use the number to help build the legalization movement, something I thought was pretty important news. I was disappointed I’d failed to penetrate my missionary zeal to my news editor, but remained undeterred and made 4:20 council the central focus of my legalization group, The Freedom Fighters, which at the time may have been the largest pro-pot organization in the world. The next time I returned to the Cup in Amsterdam, I brought 4:20 council with me, and it’s been there ever since. In fact, the 4:20 councils at the Cup were videotaped for 15 years, and highlights can be found on my Youtube site (link at right).
Eventually, the Cup crew, specifically the Temple Dragons, began holding 4:20 AM celebrations at the Quentin Hotel lobby. (This was Rocker T’s idea.) The 4:20 AM ceremonies quickly became crowded when word leaked out they were the best parties at the Cup. Hundreds of people took photos of themselves in the Quentin lobby next to a clock as proof they attended a 4:20 AM ceremony. In 1997, I began using 420 as a central element of the Whee! festival in Oregon, and the following year, the ceremony was picked up on by the Seattle Hempfest. If Whee had been allowed to continue, it would be as big as the Seattle Hempfest, but just as I was forced to give up the Freedom Fighters, I was also forced to give up the world’s biggest hempfest.
After 420 caught on, the tour agent, Air Tech, changed their name to “420 Tours.” They set up a website and were soon contacted by Steve Waldo, who indicated he and his friends started the 420. I flew out to San Francisco to meet with Steve and check out his claims. I returned to the office a few days later and announced I’d discovered the origins of 420, and it wasn’t a police code.
Unfortunately, then-publisher of High Times Mike Edison disputed my story and refused to accept the Waldos were, in fact, the true originators. Imagine my surprise when many years later Bloom tried to take credit for “discovering” 420, when he was one of those at the office that could never connect with my efforts along these lines. For Bloom, my attempts at forging an untainted ritual tradition for modern stoners was a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, and I’m sure he feels that way today.
Thus began my odyssey to tell the true history of 420. Now many people spread false stories and stake claims on having a better explanation, but no one can document the use of the term “420” as a reference to marijuana prior to 1971, other than Steve Waldo. And no one can document 420 ceremonies outside Marin county in the early 1990s aside from mine. It’s strange to read Cannabis Culture claim they were using the term in the mid-1990s (several years after I began my 420 ceremonies) when, in fact, Marc initially ridiculed my 420 council at the Cup when he attended the first time. I’m sure that’s where he heard about 420 for the first time, although he later wrote my attempts at “hippie spirituality” were out-dated, which broke off our relationship for a while, although I’m happy to say all that’s been patched up.