Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Something About Lovecraft at 4:20

Where’s Waldo?

420 (pronounced “four-twenty”) is cannabis culture slang for marijuana and hashish consumption, especially around the time 4:20 p.m., or taking place on April 20. Several years ago, I came across a theory about the writings of H. P. Lovecraft supposedly inspiring this celebration. The theory was the story "The Walls of Eryx" (1939) referred to the “mirage-plant” and an incident under its influences occurring at 4:20:
“I had encountered at last one of those curious mirage-plants about which so many of our men told stories. Anderson had warned me of them, and described their appearance very closely – the shaggy stalk, the spiky leaves, and the mottled blossoms whose gaseous, dream-breeding exhalations penetrate every existing make of mask.”
Lovecraft later explains his main character had the following experience:
“Although everything was spinning perilously, I tried to start in the right direction and hack my way ahead. My route must have been far from straight, for it seemed hours before I was free of the mirage-plant’s pervasive influence. Gradually the dancing lights began to disappear, and the shimmering spectral scenery began to assume the aspect of solidity. When I did get wholly clear I looked at my watch and was astonished to find the time was only 4:20. Though eternities had seemed to pass, the whole experience could have consumed little more than a half-hour.”
The notion Lovecraft inspired such a celebration seemed a bit much and, later, Anthony Franciosi of the Honest Marijuana Company wrote a piece debunking the mere idea.
Lovecraft doesn’t elaborate about whether it’s 4:20 a.m. or 4:20 p.m. [...] Since Lovecraft lived on the east coast of the United States, we can only assume he was referring to 4:20 Eastern. And 4:20 Eastern would make it 3:20 Central, 2:20 Mountain, and 1:20 Pacific. So although Lovecraft’s story is one of the earliest mentions of psychedelia and 4:20 together in one place, it’s highly unlikely that he can claim responsibility for creating 420.
On that note, I'm off to watch a Golden Retriever play basketball.

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