Monday, 3 December 2012

THE HOAX OF THE WITCH'S FOOT: HOW THE JOHN BIRCH SOCIETY CREATED A MYTH ABOUT THE PEACE SIGN

The peace sign
The peace sign, three lines in a circle, is so common and widespread that it's easy to overlook the fact that someone, somewhere designed it once. It started as the badge of the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), designed by Gerald Holtom for a march to Aldermaston in 1958. The symbol is a combination of the semaphore signals for the letters "N" and "D," standing for "nuclear disarmament". Wearing it became a sign of support for nuclear disarmament. Christopher Driver's account of CND's early history described it as "a visual adhesive to bind the March and later the whole Campaign together ... probably the most powerful, memorable and adaptable image ever designed for a secular cause." (Christopher Driver, The Disarmers: A Study in Protest, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1964) The best account of the peace symbol – how it was created and how it's been used over the past fifty years – is Ken Kolsbun's book Peace. (Ken Kolsbun with Michael S. Sweeney, Peace: The biography of a symbol, Washington D.C.: National Geographic, 2008, ISBN 978-1-4262-0294-0)

The symbol spread beyond CND and was adopted by the wider anti-war movement. It was seen in the USA days after its first appearance on the 1958 Aldermaston march when a photo appeared in Life magazine. Buttons with the symbol were imported into the United States in 1960 and thousands were sold on college campuses. By end of the decade it had become a generic peace sign, crossing national and cultural boundaries.

But there are strange rumors about the peace sign, associating it with Communism, Satanism, the Nazis and the Illuminati. All over the web you will find it stated as fact that the peace sign is "really" a Satanic symbol, a badge of the anti-Christ, a broken cross, a Nazi symbol, a crow's foot or a witch's foot:
"Throughout the last 2,000 years this symbol has designated hatred of Christians."
"The regular peace sign was considered an anti-Christianity symbol before it became adopted as a peace sign. It is said that it is a broken cross."
"During the dark ages it was used in Druid witchcraft and by Satanists of all sorts during the initiation of a new member to their order."
"The Saracens in A.D. 711 used this symbol to alternately represent a broken cross, a raven's claw, or a witch's foot, all presumably satanic symbols. Under the reign of Roman Emperor Nero, infamous for his brutal persecution of Christians and Jews, this symbol was prominently used to represent a broken cross or broken Jew."
"Bertrand Russell was well aware of the satanic and anti-Christian roots of the symbol."
"Russell's interest in the peace symbol becomes visible when you know he was a member of the British Fabian Socialist Society, a secret society advocating a New World Order."
“This symbol is the Teutonic rune of death."
As an indication of how widespread these ideas are, see their Google hits:
  • "peace sign" + "witch's foot" - 3,000 hits
  • "peace sign" + "broken cross" - 7,000 hits
  • "peace sign"+communism - 200,000 hits
  • "peace sign"+satanism - 200,000 hits
  • "peace sign" + nazi - 500,000 hits
  • "peace sign" + illuminati - 2,000,000 hits
Some people wonder if this is true but the more interesting question is, "Where did it all come from?" Every idea starts somewhere and is started by some individual. That person may have put it forward as a result of honest and disinterested investigation, but not in this case.

The myth about the peace sign was created in July 1968 by ultra-conservative Christians in the USA. They were members of the John Birch Society who thought peaceniks were Communists and agents of the anti-Christ, and they set out to convince America of it by means of an elaborate hoax involving false evidence and forged documents. The prime mover in the hoax was David E. Gumaer, who was known to the FBI as a right-wing, anti-Semitic extremist and who was under surveillance by the FBI’s domestic terrorism unit. The John Birch Society energetically promoted the hoax between 1968 and 1971. Their work was so effective that it is now widely accepted as fact and circulates as internet junk

Enter the Christian right
By the late 1960s, with the USA deeply involved in the Vietnam War, and active protests for withdrawal at home, the peace sign became controversial. It was worn by hippies, opponents of the Vietnam War, draft dodgers and even by troops in Vietnam. Officials banned it from schools and other public places and there was anger over its superimposition on the American flag. It became a flash point between doves and hawks, between youth and the older generation.

Ken Kolsbun wrote that, in an attempt to discredit the peace movement, the John Birch Society published an attack on the peace symbol in its June 1970 issue of American Opinion, calling the symbol the witch's foot or crow's foot. That article, Peace Symbols: The Truth About Those Strange Designs, has been identified as the source of all these ideas about Communist and Nazi origins, anti-Christian meanings, witch's foot and crow's foot. But it was not the first such article.

On 8 May 1968 the Pasadena Star-News printed a reader's question innocently asking, "What does the 'peace' symbol mean? That is, what is the significance of the design? I've asked people and tried to look it up in reference books in the library, but I've had no success whatsoever."' The newspaper replied with a mixture of fact and speculation: "Some very similar symbols go back hundreds years, but the peace symbol you see so often today was originated by Bertrand Russell 10 years ago. It is now frequently used to symbolize opposition to all forms of warfare, but its original, meaning was 'complete nuclear disarmament'. The outer circle, therefore, symbolises the whole world and the interior design is a combination of the semaphore signals for D (a vertical line) and N (an inverted 'V'). In the past, a very similar inverted cross was known to represent Peter hanging upside down on the cross. When that symbol was placed on the door, it was a sign to persecuted Christians that there would be church services in that home." This question and answer appears to have sown the seed of ideas about the broken cross and the witch's foot.

The start of the hoax in Free Enterprise magazine, probably written by Billy James Hargis

Two months later an obscure newsletter, Free Enterprise, published an article (above) that called the peace symbol the Broken Cross of the anti-Christ spread by godless Communists. Free Enterprise was the organ of We the People! an ultra-conservative organisation led by Billy James Hargis. Hargis was a Christian fundamentalist who believed that world events were part of a cosmic struggle between Christ and Satan, in which the United States were on the side of Christ and the Communists on the side of Satan. Hargis, a member of the John Birch Society, believed that "The entire left-wing movement is of the devil." (Billy James Hargis, The Real Extremists:Far Left,The Christian Crusade, 1964) He was a successful propagandist and his conspiracy theories had a lasting influence on the Christian right. He was probably the author of this article and, if so, was the first person to say the peace symbol was the broken cross of the anti-Christ.

What happened in Pasadena

Billy James Hargis
Later in 1968, Hargis's ideas were taken up by another John Birch Society member, Marjorie Jensen of Pasadena. Jensen was a middle class housewife who ran the Network of Patriotic Letter Writers from her home. The Network engaged in canvassing, phone calling, and letter writing. In 1968, it put out a pamphlet called Their Peace Sign that contained all of Hargis's myths about the broken cross and  added a new theme, the witch's foot. This combination proved to be a great success and the theme of the witch's foot was to run through every subsequent version of the myth.

According to the Arizona Republic newspaper, Jensen's' pamphlet said the peace sign was common in the middle ages and was called the crow's foot or witch's foot. The pamphlet said "it was a symbol of the devil, with the cross reversed and broken." (Arizona Republic, January 13, 1969) Much of the pamphlet is copied word for word from Hargis's article, including his comments about Communists in the garment industry. An article about the pamphlet also appeared in Jensen's local paper, the Pasadena Star-News on 24 October 1968.

Jensen said her source for the witch's foot was The Book of Signs by Rudolf Koch (1876-1934). Koch was a German typographer who collected old signs from carvings and manuscripts. His book, originally published in German in 1923, came out in English in 1955 and was instantly popular with artists and designers.

No sooner were Jensen's ideas published than people questioned them. Arizona Republic quoted Rev. Charles Seller, Presbyterian chaplain at Arizona State University, who said with more reason than Jensen that the peace sign "'was first used by persons demonstrating for peace in England in the late 1940s. That was the group led by Bertrand Russell.' Mr. Seller said the design comes from the semaphore signs for N and D meaning 'nuclear disarmament.' In semaphore, the sign for N is both arms down in an inverted V and the sign for D is one arm straight up and the other straight, down."

Curious readers went to The Book of Signs themselves to look for the peace symbol but were puzzled when they couldn't find it. On October 21, 1969, the Star-News printed a letter from Mrs V. W. Danville, who had checked The Book of Signs at her public library and found it said nothing about the peace sign. The paper replied that that was because the peace symbol was designed not in the late 1940s but in 1958. They had consulted the American Friends Service Committee, who passed on a history of the peace sign from Peggy Duff, ex-general secretary of the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. "The man who designed for the first Aldermaston March at Easter 1958," they wrote, was Gerald Holton [sic] an elderly designer in Twickenham, a London suburb." Holtom's symbol, they said, was based on the semaphore symbols for N and D representing nuclear disarmament; "the circle represented the unborn child and the broken cross he death of man again bringing the nuclear angle."

Spread through the US press

Throughout 1969, there were articles and letters in American newspapers across the country about the broken cross and the anti-Christ, probably placed by members of the John Birch Society. The Beaver County Times published a letter on 21 November 1969, headed '"Peace Symbol" Perversion of Christian Cross', from Grace Maire, which said, "The 'peace cross' has been adopted by many youth organisations on orders from the Communist party. Many American are familiar with this symbol but are not aware of its history. In fact, its origins reach back to the Middle Ages, when it was embraced by Satanists as their symbol. In the Dark Ages, it was known as the 'Witch's Foot'. It was never associated with 'peace'. The Christian Cross is inverted, its crossbar 'arms' are 'broken' downwards, signifying Satan's contempt for Christian concepts." This was often repeated word for word in other publications, indicating a single source.

Beaver County Times, 21 November 1969

The controversy spread. The Patriotic Letter Writers were joined by the Gospel Tract Society who published Peace Symbol: The Mark of the Traitor in similar terms. By May 1970 the Christian Century newspaper felt obliged to write an editorial saying, "people who don't like peace also don't like the peace symbol. That's the conclusion we have come to after months of reading explanations of the symbol's significance. Protestants, Catholics, Jews, atheists, liberals and fundamentalists who are antiwar wear it emblazoned on buttons or dangling from chains around their necks, while superhawk and rightist devise their own theories concerning what it represents." (13 May 1970. Quoted in "Peace Symbol 'Explanations' Touch Off A War Of Words", Ann Arbour News, 15 November 1971)

Promotion by the John Birch Society

In June 1970, the conspiracy theory moved up a notch. The John Birch Society published Peace Symbols: The Truth About Those Strange Designs in its national journal American Opinion, repeating and elaborating the ideas of Billy James Hargis and Marjorie Jensen. It was written by one of their staffers, David E.Gumaer.

Gumaer's article is remarkable for its detail, its breadth and the range of his sources. Its theories are bizarre (Gumaer had a preoccupation with witchcraft and Satanism), but it has the apparatus of an academic text. Gumaer had obviously done great deal of research, building Hargis's and Jensen's brief articles into an apparently authoritative account. But the article is tendentious and muddled and  it uses "proof by intimidation", browbeating readers with citations of learned and obscure books that they have never heard of and that they can't contest. Some of the books prove not to say what Gumaer says they say, some of them are made up and some of his evidence is actually forged.

Gumaer, who has a police record for battery, tax evasion and trespass, was described by the FBI as “a right-wing, anti-Semitic extremist”  when they observed his John Birch Society speaking tour of 1970-71. His speeches “were generally of an alarmist nature, intended to arouse the wrath of conservative America.” By 1985 he had gone beyond pamphleteering and making speeches and was described as "armed and dangerous" by the FBI’s domestic terrorism unit.

In Peace Symbols Gumaer wrote that "Far from being a modern design, the symbol which [Bertrand] Russell adopted as the Communists' insignia for peace dates back many centuries in the history of anti-Christian activity." According to Gumaer, the peace sign was a Satanic symbol adapted by the Roman Emperor Nero from the cross of St Peter, then carried by the troops of Titus in the sack of Jerusalem in 70 AD and by the Saracens invading Spain in the 8th century. He gives the sign many names: Nero cross, sign of the broken Jew, broken cross, witch's foot, crow's foot, Drudenfuss, the man dies and the Todesrune. His article includes a drawing of the Devil, supposedly done in the 16th-century, in which "the eyes of the demon are exactly like the peace symbol being promoted by the Reds." According to Gumaer, the sign was used by both Communists and Nazis,who, in the John Birch Society ideology, are indistinguishable. In fact, according to Gumaer, the peace sign is everything but a peace sign."I admit that this business is weird,' wrote Gumaer."But it does explain the comments in the Establishment press about a resurgence of satanism, and the proliferation of black magic shops in areas where leftist students and radicals gather. The revolutionaries are pushing this business like there's no tomorrow. And those peace symbols are a part of it. They are symbols of the anti-Christ!"

Gumaer makes much of Bertrand Russell, who was supposed to have made the peace sign. Russell, he said, was an atheist and a Communist. Russell, a public intellectual, was an atheist but not a Communist. He had nothing to do with the design and the idea that he originated the peace sign is faintly ridiculous. He was so impractical that, according toVed Mehta, he could hardly make a cup of tea.

Nearly every statement subsequently about the Nero cross, the witch's foot and the like, can be traced directly to the American Opinion article. Those who repeat the statements, like those who repeat Chinese whispers, rarely know where they come from. Most of what Gumaer said was nonsense but sheer repetition has persuaded some people that it must be true. The John Birch Society actively promoted Gumaer's article. According to its editor, Scott Stanley, American Opinion had about 50,000 subscribers but in two months they had about 200,000 requests for reprints. (New York Times, 2 August 1970)

The John Birch Society then promoted their hoax in the press, using front organisations and individual supporters.

An advert by the "Concerned Americans Information Service" appeared in the Bridgeport Post on 15 June 1970, asking,

WHICH WAY AMERICA?
CHRIST WORSHIP - OR - THE WITCH'S FOOT - SATAN WORSHIP

"On your right" it said, "is the very well known so called 'peace' symbol. Many Americans are very familiar with it. But what most of them do not know, is that it was called the Witch's foot in the middle ages, and it is a common symbol of the Devil, and Satan Worship, with the cross reversed and broken. … To this very day the inverted broken cross – (identical to the socialists' 'peace' symbol) – is known in Germany as 'todesrune', or death rune. Not only was it ordered by Hitler's National socialists that it must appear on German death notices, but it was part of the official inscription prescribed for the gravestones of Nazi officers of the dread SS."


Advert in the Bridgeport Post (15 June 1969) the Bridgeport Telegram (26 June 1969)

Through the activities of John Birch Society members the hoax found its way into letters pages across the country. Dayton Carr wrote to the Grant County Press (Petersburg, West Virginia) on June 17, 1970 about the peace symbol. "Lord Russell was an active anti-christ and … both he and his wife were members of the Fabians Society, a secret fellowship of wealthy Marxists bound to work for ultimate victory of International socialism. … As an anti christian, Lord Russell was thoroughly familiar with classical symbology who definitely knew, what he was doing by choosing a classical anti-christ design long ago associated with Satanism. … The Encyclopaedia Britannica states "the origin of the Nero Cross should be known to all Christian and was designed for Nero, a Pagan Emperor of Rome, not for love and brotherhood, but in pianistic hatred and derision for those who loved their God and Saviour Jesus Christ"". His letter is cobbled together from American Opinion without acknowledgement. Needless to say, the quotation is not from Encyclopedia Britannica, which says nothing of the kind, but from the John Birch Society.

Inventing a Nazi connection

The John Birch Society thought that Communism and Nazism were essentially the same and Gumaer was at some pains to prove that the peace sign had been used by the Nazis and that it was not designed in the peace movement. He cites a book called the Handbuch der Heroldkunst, by Bernard Koerner, which is supposed to show that the peace sign is really a black magic "death rune". Gumaer says that "the inverted broken cross – identical to the socialists' 'peace' symbol – is known in Germany as a 'todesrune', or death rune."

Runes were letters in the old German alphabet before the Roman alphabet was adopted in northern Europe. A few modern racists invented an occult meaning for the runes. Koerner was one of them, Karl Maria Wiligut and Guido von List were others. Koerner and von List were members of the Nazi party, Wiligut and von List and were mentally unbalanced into the bargain. The trio's writings persuaded Himmler to adopt the runes for use in Nazi Germany. The "death rune" was simply a fantasy and any serious linguist will tell you it has nothing to do with ancient German runes.

Be that as it may, the John Birch Society started another rumor about the supposed Nazi origins of the peace sign and the so-called "death rune" is now part of the myth.  The rumor reached the newsletter of the National Republican Congressional Committee on 28 September 1970.  On its question page "A.H." of Chicago asked if it was true that Adolf Hitler had used the peace symbol. "True" said the GOP newsletter, showing a Nazi poster of 1942 with a rune symbol in a wreath, looking rather like the peace sign. Who was this anonymous A.H. of Chicago, who in an obvious joke chose initials that stood for "Adolf Hitler"? Presumably a well-briefed member of the John Birch Society.

Sceptical reactions

In August 1970, Linda Green reported in the New York Times that an American Legion group had distributed a pamplet saying, "'The Communists have infiltrated the garment industry and you find the broken cross embroidered on packets and other garments for the casual American to wear.' It also contained a statement from Michael Wurmbrand, identified only as 'formerly of Rumania,' that the peace symbol 'was called the "witch's foot" in the Middle Ages, and it was a common symbol of the devil, with the cross reversed and broken.'" Like other journalists, Linda Green tried to find out the source of these claims and she spoke to Elvin Laudeman, an American Legion commander, who acknowledged that his group had prepared the flyer and distributed it around the country. "'We're just trying to get some of this stuff out of the bag about Communist inspired organizations,' Mr. Laudeman said. He said the information had come from 'mailings,' but that he did not know the specific origin of any of the ideas." The so-called "mailings" were in fact a cyclostyled pamphlet (see below) that was being distributed at fundamentalist churches, probably by members of the John Birch Society.


The John Birch Society promote the hoax in a pamphlet.  This one was distributed in South Dakota.

Green reported that these ideas had begun to worry both Christians and Jews. Israel H. Moss, of the Anti-Defamation League, said "I see this as an effort to label the entire peace movement as Communist." He said it was easy to pick out anti-Semitic inferences in the material, citing reference in the American Legion literature to the garment industry, which is generally identified with Jews. Anti-Semitism has been a theme of theme of the Bircher's campaign from the start - the "garment industry" was brought into it by Hargis, and Gumaer was a known anti-Semite.

In November 1970 Time Magazine reported the Gumaer article - "American Opinion magazine, published by John Birch Society Founder Robert Welch, compared the familiar peace symbol to an anti-Christian "broken cross" carried by the Moors when they invaded Spain in the 8th century" - and the article in the GOP Newsletter. "Some experts say the symbol was a letter in an ancient Nordic alphabet," reported Time, "Any resemblance, however, is probably coincidental. The peace design was devised in Britain for the first Ban-the-Bomb Aldermaston march in 1958. The lines inside the circle stand for "nuclear disarmament."

 By 1971, the controversy had become well known and newspapers devoted features to it. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette had displayed a peace sign in one of its articles and was surprised by the huge response it provoked. "Response to features in The Press are not unusual," it reported," but it is rare that so much printed material from throughout the United States was sent along. The literature was interesting in that so much of it was so similar (reprints, copies, direct quotations, illustrations, etc.) and so much of it was concerned with symbolism." Much of it seemed to have been drawn from the article in American Opinion, said the Post Gazette.

The Ann Arbour News turned to the subject of the peace sign in 1971 after a uniformed county sheriff's deputy passed out cards explaining the "real" meaning of the peace symbol at a local service station. According to the deputy's card, the peace symbol is "'the Christian cross perverted, with the cross bars broken down to signify Satan's contempt for Christian principles.' The deputy's reputed source? The 'New Yorker' magazine. But librarians at the University of Michigan and Ann Arbour Public Library dispute this, and say research shows the 'New Yorker' never printed such an explanation of the peace symbol." The words on the sheriff's card are almost identical to those of Grace Maire's in the The Beaver County Times: "The Christian Cross is inverted, its crossbar 'arms' are 'broken' downwards, signifying Satan's contempt for Christian concepts," again indicating a single source for all these documents.

Ann Arbour News spoke to Mary Jo Lynch of the University of Massachusetts Library who "has done a considerable amount of research on the peace symbol over the past couple of years". Ms Lynch had written about the controversy in the RQ library journal, summer 1971.  She told Ann Arbour News what every rational person knew: "The symbol was designed by Gerald Holtom in London in 1958 for an Easter march of the campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The meaning of the symbol, according to the general secretary of the International Confederation for Disarmament and Peace in London, is twofold: 'First, it represents the semaphore letters ND, standing for nuclear disarmament. Secondly, the broken cross represents the death of man and the circle the unborn child. This is a reference to the genetic effect of nuclear weapons.'" The general secretary of the International Conference for Disarmament and Peace was Peggy Duff, who had been general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament between 1958 and 1965. On a speaking tour of the USA in 1971, she explained the meaning of the symbol. The Eugene Register-Guard reported her explanation: "It's not a dove's track; it's not a symbol for satan," she said.

Eugene Register-Guard, 12 February 1971

There were similar articles in other papers. By the end of 1971 the press was getting bored and few articles appeared from then on. But by now the hoax was an established myth, circulating underground and latterly spreading across the internet.

The Book of Signs

Gumaer claimed that the peace symbol represented "a Satanic Medieval symbol shown on Page 83 of the authoritative Book of Signs by Rudolf Koch". Most of the claims about the Satanic origins of the peace sign and the witch's foot are supposed to come from Koch's book. The Book of Signs is readily available. Anyone who has a copy can easily find out for themselves that in the entire book there is nothing about Satan or Satanism.  So what did Koch actually say?

Koch's house mark called "the Crow's foot or witch's foot"

Koch showed a symbol labelled "The Crow's foot or witch's foot" (above) in a chapter on old house marks. "House marks," he said, "were, at first, private signs of peasant proprietors, and their use was originally confined to their holdings, all moveable property upon which was distinguished by the holdings-mark." Later "they were used as trade-marks and the marks of craftsmen and artists." It was uncertain what house marks meant and that the names given to them are recent. He prints the mark that is now called the witch's foot next to house marks of an anchor, a carpenter's square and a pot-hanger. He does not say that any of them was Satanic. The idea that Koch wrote about Satanism is pure invention by Marjorie Jensen, spread by Gumaer.

The pentalpha. This way up it's supposed to be good, the other way up, bad

In Gumaer's hands the idea of the Satanic "witch's foot" became total confusion. Gumaer says that the pentalpha symbol (above) was also called the witch's foot and that it was thought to be a protection against demons. He then says that in Masonic literature the pentalpha the other way up was the sign of Satan. Then he says the peace sign is a witch's foot and the also the sign of Satan. Gumaer's twisted argument goes like this:

(1) the center of the peace symbol looks like a house mark called "the witch's foot"
(2) a five-pointed star is also called "the witch's foot"
(3) Freemasons sometimes say the five-pointed star is Satanic
(4) therefore the peace sign is Satanic.

Using this slippery logic it's possible to prove that black is white: black is called "a color", white is called "a color", therefore black is really white.

Koch's "broken, or chevron Cross"

Right at the start of all this nonsense, back in 1968, Hargis called the peace sign "the broken cross". Funnily enough no-one who talks about the broken cross ever mentions the fact that Koch did indeed include a symbol called "The broken, or chevron Cross" in his book (above). You might have thought that Jensen, Gumaer and their followers would have something to say about that, but they don't, and even though they combed through The Book of Signs to confirm their theories about the peace sign they passed over the broken cross in silence. While the witch's foot has been reproduced thousands of times, Koch's broken cross has been totally ignored and you will search in vain for any reference to it outside The Book of Signs. Why might that be? The reason is obvious: the broken cross looks nothing like the peace sign.

Bogus scholarship

To back up his ideas about the crow's foot, the witch's foot and the broken cross, Gumaer refers his readers to several learned volumes. "Confirmation of this appears in such rare but authoritative volumes as the Grimorium Verum," he says, "the Grand Grimoire and in a number of manuscripts attributed to Pope Honorius, a sorcerer of some reputation in the Middle Ages. Scholars seeking further verification should look to Sword of Moses … the Clavicule of Solomon and the Malleus Maleficarum … ." These obscure titles, that hardly anyone has ever heard of and which in 1970 were almost impossible to track down, are obviously intended to impress. This is called "proof by intimidation". Now they are all online and we can see for ourselves that they say nothing about the peace sign or the witch's foot.

Grimorium Verum Written in the 18th-century. It contains characters representing demons or spirits and characters for conjuration but nothing like the crow's foot/witch's foot.

The Grand Grimoire Possibly written after the 18th century. It may be a translation of The Sworn Book of Honorius, a 13th-century text. The British Museum catalog entry for The Sworn Book of Honorius says it contains "Pen-drawings of angels and spirits and marginal floral ornament". There is no mention of the crow's foot/witch's foot and no drawings resembling it.

The Sword of Moses An apocryphal Hebrew book of magic edited by Moses Gaster in 1896 from a 13th or 14th century manuscript. It has no drawings and doesn't mention the witch's foot.

Clavicle of Solomon  Probably Clavis Salomonis, a book of spells attributed to King Solomon but more likely to date from the 14th or 15th century. It contains occult drawings and symbols but not the crow's foot/witch's foot.

Malleus Maleficarum  A treatise on the prosecution of witches, written in 1486 by Heinrich Kramer, a German Catholic clergyman. See the scanned text of an edition of 1580 or the text in English.There are no illustrations and there is no mention of the crow's foot/witch's foot.

Gumaer knew about these volumes and knew that they were irrelevant to his theories about the peace sign but he cited them regardless.

Inventions and forgeries

 Bogus scholarship was not enough for Gumaer. He had to invent a non-existent book and forge two pictures as well.

Gumaer's drawing (left), supposed to be a 16th century woodcut, and and a genuine 16th century woodcut (right)

The first forged picture (above left) is of Satan with eyes like the peace sign and peace signs on his wings. Gumaer says it is a woodcut by the Scottish Reformer John Knox (1514-1572) and that he found it in Symbol of the Anti-God by the Marquis de Concressault, Sovereign Grand Chancellor of the Celtic Knights of the Holy Sepulchre (Brittany Press, Nantes, 1969). The original of the woodcut is supposed to be in the Museum of Witchcraft in Bayonne. According to Gumaer, Knox said the peace sign was "the mark of the beast". Just how rubbish can you get into a small space?  Gumaer got in a lot.  Every word of this is false.
  • The picture has been drawn with a pen or brush and is not a woodcut, certainly not a 16th century woodcut, and it was probably made in the offices of American Opinion.
  • To Knox the mark of the beast included "crossing in baptism, kneeling at the Lord's table, mumbling or singing the litany" (Letter to Mrs Anna Locke, 1556), but not the peace sign.
  • There is no such book as Symbol of the Anti-God. It cannot be found in the Library of Congress, the Bibliothèque Nationale Française or the British Library either in English or French and it is clearly Gumaer's invention.
  • There is no such order as the "Celtic Knights of the Holy Sepulchre" and no office of "Sovereign Grand Chancellor". There is Roman Catholic body called The Order of the Holy Sepulchre. Its Grand Master in 1969 was Cardinal Eugene Tisserant, not the "Marquis de Concressault". The order in England and Wales is called the Lieutenancy of England and Wales of the Knights and Dames of the Holy Sepulchre.
    • There has never been any such title as "Marquis de Concressault". John Stewart of Darnley (1380-1429), an ancestor of the Earls of Lennox, was made Lord of Concressault, but the title is extinct.
    • There is no such publisher as "Brittany Press". Les Editions Bretagne Midi publishes statistics and official documents and Editions Bretagne publishes art prints, but "Brittany Press" is an invention.
    • Bayonne is a small town in south west France.  It is richly endowed with museums - it has a Basque Museum, a Museum of Natural history and museum devoted to the painter Léon Bonnat, but no museum of witchcraft.



    Gumaer's illustration (left), supposed to date form the fifth century, and a marginal illustration from a chronicle written in Alexandria in the early fifth century (right)


    The second forged picture (above left) is a purported "crude Fifth Century illustration" of St. Peter on a cross that looks a bit like the peace sign. There do exist 5th century manuscripts containing illustrations (above right) but this looks nothing like them. Gumaer gives no source for his picture and it is certainly not a "crude Fifth Century illustration", it is a crude forgery.

    Gumaer says that the cross of St. Peter was also called the "Nero cross" and the "sign of the Broken Jew". He makes several assertions about historical uses of the  phrase "Nero cross" but doesn't provide any sources or evidence that the phrase was used in any document before 1970. His only citation  is a book by a 17th century witch finder Francesco Maria Guazzo, the Compendium Maleficarum which doesn't mention the Nero cross at all. The Nero cross is wholly Gumaer's fantasy.

    The end of the trail

    The trail of the witch's foot leads nowhere. Gumaer's medieval tomes say nothing about it. The "witch's foot" was a house mark that had no connection with either Satan or the peace sign. The "death rune" was a Nazi invention and that had nothing to do with the peace sign either. There was no such thing as a "Nero cross" or a "cross of the broken Jew".

    Scott Stanley, the editor of American Opinion, told Linda Green of the New York Times that the staff "had fun" with the article - which is a way of admitting that they fabricated it. The John Birch Society spread its ideas through front organisations and individual supporters.  The ideas fooled people who were impressed by Gumaer's fake learning, but so much of the so-called "evidence" put forward by American Opinion is irrelevant, incorrect or invented that it is impossible to escape the conclusion that the theory was a hoax designed to discredit the peace movement.

    Thanks to Ken Kolsbun for original documents.

    No comments:

    Post a Comment