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satan and the swastika a; The spy who hoodwinked the Nazis with sorcery.

Byline: MIKE LOCKLEY Staff Reporter mike.lockley@trinitymirror.com

SHAFTS of lights pierced the woodland clearing like spears, the dappled sunlight creating a spotlight on those cloaked individuals gathered in a tight circle.

They chanted, they swayed, they cast spells; they performed pagan rituals to the ancient gods they seeked to summon.

The secluded site had become a temple to the occult. And the black arts were being performed at a time when pure evil stained Europe.

The ceremony, in Ashdown Forest, Sussex, was organised during the darkest days of World War Two.

But this was no ordinary, clandestine meeting of the devil's devotees.

This was Britain's most bizarre wartime propaganda exercise - and its architect was former Worcestershire schoolboy Cecil Williamson, a highprofile occultist.

This strange slice of "black propaganda" had a very logical, and earthly, goal.

For some time, our government had monitored Nazi Germany's growing interest in secret societies, pagan rituals and the occult. That interest spread to the very top of the Third Reich.

SS chief Heinrich Himmler was a slavish Satanist, using ancient occult books to justify his vile Ayran beliefs. Deputy Rudolf Hess was guided by astrology and clairvoyance. Hitler was obsessed with finding the Holy Lance, the spear said to have pierced Christ's side on the cross.

Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, assisted by Cecil Williamson, decided to turn the very same suspicions and sorcery that guided Nazi top brass against them.

They hatched Operation Mistletoe - the fake 1941 Ashdown Forest ritual. Its aim, Williamson later claimed, was to convince occultists in the German High Command that witches and warlocks in this country were working to thwart them.

The counterfeit coven had, in fact, copied a genuine ritual carried out during the Napoleonic war when invasion was a common fear.

Forty Canadian soldiers were recruited for the World War Two ceremony. They wore robes decorated from The Key of Solomon, an ancient textbook of magic. Props included a "magic mirror" and a dummy of Hitler.

Williamson's account has been dismissed as a fantasy in some quarters, but there is evidence to back his story. It is a matter of fact, for example, that a radio transmitter provided by America and codenamed Aspidistra was set up in Ashdown Forest, and operated by a Canadian engineering battalion. If our secret service wanted to know chapter and verse about the Third Reich's support for paganism, satanism and ancient magic, they turned to the right man in Williamson.

He was an influential neopagan witch, founder of the Museum of Witchcraft and friend of notorious occultist Aleister Crowley.

During the war years, he fronted the Witchcraft Research Centre.

Born in Paignton, Devon, on September 19, 1909, he had become interested in witchcraft when only seven years old. His days at Malvern College boarding school in Worcestershire, were miserable. He was relentlessly bullied and, it was rumoured, cast a spell that led to his principal tormentor being crippled in a skiing accident.

After college, Williamson was sent to Rhodesia to learn the ropes of tobacco farming. While there, he became fascinated by African magic.

He returned to London in 1930 and began work as a film industry production assistant.

In 1933, Williamson wed Gwen Wilcox, a make-up artist for Max Factor of Hollywood, but domestic bliss did not blunt his interest in the dark arts.

Williamson gathered a huge collection of folklore artefacts and his long list of contacts included Crowley, Egyptologist EA Wallis Budge and historian Montague Summers.

He was recruited by MI6 in 1938 and had soon amassed information on 2,000 Nazi Party members with a keen interest in the occult and astrology.

When war broke out, he was seconded to a specialist unit of Special Executive Operations, based at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire. The Psychological Welfare Executive is said to have produced an intelligence file entitled The Use Of Astrology In Propaganda.

Williamson's team were, effectively, World War Two's witchfinder generals.

You didn't have to believe in the occult to be a part of the hush-hush operation: you simply had to make the Germans believe you believed.

Then you had to make them believe the omens of doom peddled by the department. It was intended to be a moralebusting exercise without bombs and bullets.

As implausible as it seems, Williamson was at the forefront of a phony magic war.

Hungarian astrologer Louis de Wohl proved a particularly effective weapon. He was sent on a lecture tour of America, with his talks predicting the downfall of the Third Reich as shown by the stars.

It was baloney, but not dismissed by some powerful Nazi figures.

Mobile "black propaganda" radio stations were also set up in southern England which spewed out fake news. They broadcast American and British jazz music, bolted together by bulletins about the kinky sex secrets and corrupt practices of Nazi hierarchy and false astrological prophecies.

Nostradamus' vision of a bloody German defeat was aired regularly.

Upon his death in 1999, the Daily Telegraph revealed that Williamson was also involved in covert operations of a much less mystical kind.

He played a key part in Operation Fortitude, a complex ruse to mislead Germany into believing the D-Day landings would take place at Pas de Calais rather than Normandy. But Williamson's greatest wartime triumph is still at the centre of a debate over its authenticity. Some believe he was instrumental in luring deputy fuhrer Rudolf Hess to Britain in 1941.

It was a plan conceived by assistant director of naval intelligence Ian Fleming, later to find fame as creator of James Bond.

Britain's spy network believed Hess was a prime target because he was a supporter of peace and totally tied to astrologers and occultists. Hess took the bait thanks to superb political intelligence and bogus astrological predictions drawn up by Williamson.

He was hoodwinked into believing that a Scottish blue-blood, the Duke of Hamilton, was willing to negotiate peace on behalf of some members of the aristocracy. He had met the Duke at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Now all that remained was to name the date. Williamson was given the job of producing a fake astrological forecast showing the heavens would look kindly on a May 10 flight. On that day six planets would be aligned in the zodiac sign of Taurus and conjoined to the full moon.

Hess, bolstered by the stars, flew solo, firmly believing he would be greeted by the Duke of Hamilton and the Duke of Kent, then whisked to London for a private audience with King George VI.

Instead, he was "greeted" by a local farmer and Home Guard unit.

The account of his capture remains unproven but it is certainly true that Hess's defection changed Hitler's views on the occult.

On the fuhrer's orders, the Gestapo launched Operation Aktion Hess, rounding up hundreds of psychics and astrologers including Hess's leading occult adviser Ernst Schulte-Strathaus.

In June, 1941, the Third Reich banned all public performances of clairvoyance, fortune-telling and telepathy.

Hitler had discovered too late that tarot cards were not all they were cracked up to be, Britain's last witchcraft trial THERE is little cold evidence to back Williamson's claims of sorcery - even bogus sorcery - as a weapon against the swastika.

But there is one hard fact that reveals the Allies took the black arts seriously.

That is the bombshell revelation that the last person to fall foul of the Witchcraft Act was Scottish medium Helen Duncan, and that was in 1944.

Duncan (below) came to the Government's attention after a November 1941 seance in Portsmouth. During that sitting, she was seized by the spirit of a sailor who, through Duncan, informed those gathered that HMS Barham had sunk.

There was just one problem. The sinking had not been made public and would not be revealed to the masses until January 1942.

Duncan's spirit guide had breached the Official Secrets Act.

But was it truly classified information from the grave? Researcher Graeme Donald wrote: "The loss of HMS Barham, torpedoed off the coast of Egypt on November 25, 1941, was indeed kept quiet for a while. But letters of condolence were sent out to families of the 861 dead, asking them to "So, allowing for perhaps ten people in each family, there were about 9,000 people who knew of the sinking; if each of them told only one other person, there were 20,000 people in the country aware of the sinking, and so on - hardly a closely guarded secret.

"Duncan simply picked up the gossip and decided to turn it into profit."

Duncan was arrested under the ancient act which made "falsely claiming to procure spirits" a crime, after accusations that the ectoplasm that played a prominent part in her seances was actually cheesecloth.

After being tried for fraudulent witchcraft, Duncan was jailed for nine months. When the verdict was announced, she shrieked from the dock: "I have done nothing. Is there a God?" Duncan may have been shocked, but Winston Churchill was furious. After the headlinegrabbing trial, he fired off an angry letter to the Home Secretary, complaining about the waste of the legal profession's time on "obsolete tomfoolery".

That was a bit rich. His own government had employed Cecil Williamson to use that very same

You didn't have to believe in the occult to be a part of the hush-hush operation: you simply had to make the Germans believe you believed

CAPTION(S):

| Occultist Cecil Williamson, his friend Aleister Crowley (right) and Nazi top brass who were obsessed with the dark arts included (above from left) Rudolf Hess, Heinrich Himmler and Adolf Hitler
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 28, 2017
Words:1596
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