Monday 2 July 2018

Magical Dolls: Football, Mascots & Lucky Charms

Did you know that the word "mascot" historically meant little witch?

Mascots, when they are cuddly toys, are magical dolls as well as just being a way to support a sports team.

Any fan of football or other sports and games will be familiar with team mascots. They are used as an identity symbol and something to help boost morale during the game. Big competitions often have their own mascot for the entire event - such as the Russian bear for 2018 Football World Cup.

Mascots can be people, animals or objects and they can be used by individuals, organisations and army regiments as well as for sports.

Although nowadays mascots tend to be represented by people in costumes - as well as toys that fans can buy - mascots were rather different historically. Their origin also blends both practical and magical intentions.

They probably started as live animals rather than people dressed up in costumes or dolls. This would have had a dual effect and purpose. A scary predatory beast could have been intended to strike fear into the opposing side, but displays of team mascots were probably also used to entertain and excite spectators before games began.

Although some mascots are still real animals, over time many became stylised representations. This in turn became people in costumes and then cuddly toys. The latter are also an obvious sales and marketing opportunity that could hardly be ignored.

Even today, many sports fans think of a mascot as a good luck charm. They might not consider themselves superstitious, but nevertheleless will bring one along when they watch a game in the hope that it just might help their team win. And the magic of mascots is right in the etymology of the word.

According to the Merriam-Webster student dictionary:
The ancestor of mascot is the Latin word masca, used in the Middle Ages to mean "witch." Masca passed into the Romance speech of southern France as masco. Later it developed a derivative mascoto, literally meaning "little witch" but actually used to mean "charm" or "magic spell." ...The word mascoto came to be mascotte in modern French, meaning a "good luck charm." It was made popular by the operetta La Mascotte in 1880. In this operetta "la mascotte" is the lovely young woman Bettina, whose influence brings victories to the army of the prince of Pisa. English later borrowed the word as mascot, with the meaning "a person or thing thought to bring good luck." 
So, if you have a mascot and are watching the World Cup, don't forget that it is a magical doll - a "little witch" - that you can use to wish good luck to the team you support.

I have written a book on magical dolls called Pagan Portals - Poppets and Magical Dolls, published by Moon Books.

Pictures: Russia World Cup Mascot (You can view the 2018 Russia World Cup mascot on Amazon); goat mascot and Goat Major of the Royal Regiment of Wales, Cardiff, Wales (photograph by Greg O'Beirne, shared under Creative Commons).

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