Before the turkey became the favorite bird of Thanksgiving, another bird (one of many, include the goose and the partridge) was the king of the feast table at Christmas time – the bustard.
People have a lot of fun with that name. The bustard was hunted into extinction in Great Britain by 1832, and only recently reintroduced to the British Isles via some Russian immigrant bustard chicks (it’s a common name in Turkish, ironically – “Usman”). The tradition of eating turkey only at Christmas (and Thanksgiving) is a distant memory of the days when the principal dish on that day was something special. Before turkey took over, the popular Christmas delicacies were bustard, goose and cockerel, and in the houses of the rich, peacock and swan. The turkey was introduced into Europe by one of Sebastian Cabot's officers on a return journey from the New World, which is where the birds came from. Strangely, they were called turkeys because of their similarity with another bird which was already established in England for human consumption. This was known as the turkey. Merchants from the Levant, or Turkey, first brought them to England, having originally imported them from West Africa. This soon created a lot of confusion. So, the first turkey was renamed the Guinea Fowl, as a reminder of its place of origin.
The bustard is also said to have been a pagan symbol. The largest of the bustards, the Great Bustard, can weigh up to 40 pounds, and while it can fly, it seldom does so due to its weight, making it easy prey for hunters and their greyhounds. Bustards are omnivorous, feeding principally on seeds and invertebrates. They make their nests on the ground, making their eggs and offspring often very vulnerable to predation. They walk steadily on strong legs and big toes, pecking for food as they go. Most prefer to run or walk over flying. They have long broad wings with “fingered” wingtips, and striking patterns in flight.
In pagan runology, the symbol for the bird is a sort of Y symbol. The same symbol is also called Algiz in the runic alphabet. This symbol is thought to represent *Elhaz, the reconstructed Proto-Germanic (meaning the linguists aren’t certain) name for the terminal (suffix) -z (from PIE word-final *-s). The reconstructed word *algiz (meaning “elk”) is based on the name of the Anglo-Saxon eolh (“elk”). The word may also the German word “elf”, an imaginary supernatural being, commonly a little sprite, much like a fairy; a mythological diminutive spirit, supposed to haunt hills and wild places, and generally represented as delighting in mischievous tricks.
The Elder Futhark (or Elder Fuþark, Older Futhark, Old Futhark) is the oldest form of the runic alphabet, used by Germanic tribes in Northwest Germany during the 2nd to 8th centuries for inscriptions on artifacts such as jewellery, amulets, tools, weapons and runestones. The Algiz is part of the ancient Nordic and Anglo-Saxon runic alphabet, often equated to the modern day z, however it was traditionally pronounced yr. The letter has come to symbolize many neo-pagan religions and is often worn as a pendant. When casting rune stones it is most commonly determined to represent refusal to move on.
Other authorities on paganism say that it is the Mark of the Bustard, the bird that can’t get away from its hunters. The rune for this bird is identical to the algiz, with its wings turned upward. The mark could also be the bird’s footprints, but in runology the reference is specifically to its wings. A friend and I were having a testy argument, he translating the rune from the perspective of a logical hunter, and I, from the viewpoint of Christian transformation parables.
According to The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Signs and Symbols: The Ultimate A-Z Guide from Alchemy to the Zodiac, by Adele Nozedar (who holds to the discounted “elk” theory), the symbol “is a three-branched symbol that appears on the cloaks of shaman. It represents communication between the world of death and the world of resurrection. The same symbol, if seen in the dust around the bed of a recently deceased person, says that the soul of the person has left the body and taken wing. The bustard itself, although it seldom flies, symbolizes the union between Earth and Heaven.”
My argument was that you wouldn’t ordinarly depict a basically flightless bird (at least in the case of the 44 pound Great Bustard) as flying. The symbol would be the other way around. The early Christians, trying to convert the pagans using symbols they understood so as not to alienate them, taught them that this symbol was also an allegory for the risen Christ, who defeated death and united Man and God in Eternal Life.
The symbol also represents the visual mystic character for “Aum” (the split “Y”). This is the sacred word to the Hindu. Chanting “Aum” is supposed to help awaken 'the serpent power of Brahma' at the base of the human spine. Occultist Albert Pike also identifies this symbol as mystical in his book on Freemasonry Morals and Dogma.
Some pagans, even as they do today, resented Christianity’s imposition. They turned the symbol upside down becoming what is known as the “todersrune” or death rune. The Germanic tribes who used it attributed strange and mystical properties to the sign. Such a 'rune' is said to have been used by 'black magicians' in pagan incantations and condemnations. In modern time, Hitler's National Socialists ordered that it must appear on German death notices, and was part of the official inscription prescribed for the gravestones of Nazi officers of the dread SS. The symbol suited Nazi emphasis on pagan mysticism.
With the arms of the cross raised in an upright position, it is “a Pythagorean emblem of the course of life, in the form of a rising path with fork roads to Good and Evil.” It also signifies fertility, but with the arms pointing downward, it denotes evil and death.
Other authorities say that in pagan rituals 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. They would draw the magic circle and give the initiate a cross. The initiate would then lift the cross and turn it upside down. He would then renounce Christianity in all three dimensions of time (past, present and future) and break the horizontal pieces downward forming the design of the “Raven's Foot.” For one to wear or display this symbol is to announce either knowingly or unknowingly that you have rejected Christ.
The modern peace symbol is said to be the logo for the British-based Committee for Nuclear Disarmament. They propagate some blather about the peace being based on signal flags for the letters C, N, and D. Such a convoluted explanation is quite a contortion to avoid the truth. 1950's peace advocate Gerald Holtom may have been commissioned by communist sympathizer Bertrand Russell to design a symbol to unite leftist peace marchers in 1958. It is clear that either Holtom or Russell deemed the Teutonic (Neronic) cross as the appropriate symbol for their cause.
When I was in the 7th grade, our art teacher instructed us to draw our version of the “Peace” sign. Only I couldn’t quite get the hang of it. I didn’t draw the vertical line all the way down and wound up with something that looked like the Mercedes Benz logo instead. One of my classmates was very upset that I wasn’t getting it right, but I just couldn’t seem to bring myself to draw it and finally gave up. I sometimes wonder if an Invisible Hand was guiding my pen.
This past weekend, looking through the sales circulars, I was horrified to find the stores pedaling various versions of peace sign clothing for children. Peace signs with hearts, and flowers, and pretty colors of pink and lavender and yellow. You might as well draw the Nazi swastika (which was also once a pagan symbol for the sun) in attractive colors. The Nazis probably did.
One another group uses a symbol which could have been perverted: the sign for the earth, used by astronomers and astrologers. The broken equator would symbolize the end of the world. In Arabic, “peace” and “submission”.
Whichever of the theories is the case, the peace sign is not a good sign. Neither is its increasingly broad use, even on children’s clothing, a good sign. The peace-niks (as they were called in the Sixties) laugh at Christian “hysteria.” They never claim that it’s not true; just that using the sign is nothing to worry about. Don’t worry about, indeed. Not tomorrow anyway. Don’t ruin everyone’s holiday. But keep it in mind when you’re shopping for clothes and jewelry for Christmas on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.