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100 years ago: The mascot superstition

22 May 2015

May 21st, 1915

NO ONE can fail to have noticed the prevalence of the new-fangled practice of carrying mascots. It seems to have come in with motoring. People, apparently sane, began to carry as a figure-head to their cars some grotesque token - a teddy-bear, or a monkey, or the like. Even our soldiers take mascots with them to the war. The latest development of this insane craze is to be seen at a West-end shop, where china cats are on sale for use as domestic mascots. An inscription on the pedestal assures the purchaser that the mascot will preserve him from harm. Long before the war broke out it was noticeable that with the decline of religion in England there came an accompanying growth of superstition. It looks as though the human mind cannot be satisfied when it has lost faith, but must needs fall back upon unworthy substitutes. Hence it has not been surprising to see an immense vogue of the occult. Spiritualism, crystal-gazing, palmistry, and a host of superstitious practices, not unmixed with charlatanry, compete with the decent observances of our holy religion; and now comes the mascot with its legend in place of that better and nobler one, In hoc Signo vinces, so much worthier to be the cherished safeguard of our gallant soldiers. How far some people have travelled from sanity is shown by an incident for which we can vouch. The occupants of a car which was adorned with a black cat for a mascot, seeing another car which had upon it a figure of St Christopher, laughed derisively at the superstitious emblem! 

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