Well, it turns out that a fairly common misconception is that the peace symbol is based on the Nero cross, once used to represent the torture of Christians by the Romans. A few years ago the Huffington Post carried an article about a Christian school in Holland that destroyed 3,000 of its calendars when a student in one picture was discovered to be wearing the symbol on his jacket.
But, the misconception simply isn’t true. According to the Peace Day website, the peace sign first appeared on letters from the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War after it was designed in 1958 by British artist Gerald Holtom for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). The design came from superimposing the semaphore letters “N” for nuclear and “D” for disarmament over each other.
The other common peace sign is a hand gesture in which the index and middle fingers are raised and parted, while the other fingers are clenched and the hand is held with the palm facing outward. It was originally used to symbolize V for victory in Britain during WWII, but by the 1960s, the “V sign” became widely used as a symbol of peace. As a victory sign, the symbol’s origins do include a story involving satanic worship, but not the way one might think. It was well know in Britain that Hitler’s inner circle was fascinated by the darker sides of mysticism, and British occultists were sure that the Nazi swastika was based on an ancient evil symbol. The story is that in 1941, Aleister Crowley, a British occultist, suggested using the V-sign as a magical foil to counteract the swastika, and that the usage caught on from there.
The story could be true, as Crowley not only had contacts in British intelligence, he actually worked as a consultant for them to help them better understand what Hitler might be hearing from his astrologers and other mystic advisors. The very idea of the hand symbol for peace being derived from seeking a magic symbol to counteract the evils of the Third Reich is appealing. Wouldn’t it be nice if, as we casually use it today, it could help ward off some of the evils of our times as well.