"a talisman, charm, thing supposed to bring good luck to its possessor," also "person whose presence is supposed to be a cause of good fortune," 1881, from provincial French mascotte "sorcerer's charm, 'faerie friend,' good luck piece" (19c.), of uncertain origin, perhaps from or related to Provençal mascoto "sorcery, fetish" (a Narbonnese manuscript of 1233 has mascotto "procuress, enchantment, bewitchment in gambling"), from masco "witch," from Old Provençal masca, itself of unknown origin, perhaps from Medieval Latin masca "mask, specter, nightmare" (see mask (n.)).
Popularized by French composer Edmond Audran's 1880 comic operetta "La Mascotte," about a household "fairy" who gives luck to an Italian peasant, which was performed in a toned-down translation in England from fall 1881. In reference to animals (later costumed characters) representing sports teams, by 1889.
For the edification of readers not versed in baseball lore it should be stated that the mascot has become quite an important institution among the professional teams of America. He may be a boy possessed of some special attainment or physical peculiarity, or he may be a bull-pup with a prominent patch over his left eye. It matters not whether a mascot be brute or human, so long as his presence upon the players' bench insures a victory—in the minds of the players—to the team with which he has cast his fortunes and in whose favor he exercises the influence he is supposed to have with Dame Fortune. [Harry Clay Palmer, ed., "Athletic Sports in America, England, and Australia," New York, 1889]
Late Old English ræfen, refen, earlier hræfn (Mercian), hrefn, hræfn (Northumbrian, West Saxon), from Proto-Germanic *khrabanaz (source also of Old Norse hrafn, Danish ravn, Dutch raaf, Old High German hraban, German Rabe "raven," Old English hroc "rook"), from a PIE root imitative of harsh sounds (compare Latin crepare "to creak, clatter," cornix "crow," corvus "raven;" Greek korax "raven," korōnē "crow;" Old Church Slavonic kruku "raven;" Lithuanian krauklys "crow"). Old English, by a normal alteration of -fn, also used hræmn, hremm.
A larger species of crow common in Europe and Asia, noted for its lustrous black plumage and raucous voice; the raven is "popularly regarded as a bird of evil omen and mysterious character" [OED].
Raven mythology shows considerable homogeneity throughout the whole area [northern regions of the northern hemisphere] in spite of differences in detail. The Raven peeps forth from the mists of time and the thickets of mythology, as a bird of slaughter, a storm bird, a sun and fire bird, a messenger, an oracular figure and a craftsman or culture hero. [Edward A. Armstrong, "The Folklore of Birds," 1958]
The Quran connects the raven with Cain's murder of Abel, but in Christianity the bird plays a positive role in the stories of St. Benedict, St. Paul the Hermit, St. Vincent, etc. Poe's poem was published in 1845. It was anciently believed to live to a great age but also to be wanting in parental care. The raven standard was the flag of the Danish vikings. The vikings, like Noah, were said to have used the raven to find land when at sea. "When uncertain of their course they let one loose, and steered the vessel in his track, deeming that the land lay in the direction of his flight; if he returned to the ship, it was supposed to be at a distance" [Charles Swainson, "The Folk Lore and Provincial Names of British Birds," London, 1886]. As an English name for the constellation Corvus by late 14c.