31 JULY 1936, Page 13



IF you read local newspapers, you will have noticed that among a section" of the Anglican clergy there is a certain timid and judicious nibbling at the cult of holy wells. But H.H. Joan the Wad has got in first, though I suspect that the Church expelled her with a fork long ago, and that she is only coming back to her kingdom. I cannot tell you all the facts about H.H. Joan the Wad. She is a small, elf-like figure ; a " proved luck-bringer. You, too, may benefit in Health, Wealth and Happiness to an amazing extent." " No one is allowed to have Joan the Wad unless they have previously possessed the History of the Lucky Cornish Piskey Folk." This history costs 3d. I bought it. I now know that " Queen Joan is the only Lucky Cornish Piskey," that she has a Devonshire colleague, or consort, Jack O'Lantern, and that " substitutes are not effective." The image must be dipped in the well of a saint somewhere near Polperro. You can get this water, as one can buy Jordan or Ganges water, at two shops in St. Ives. If there should be a queue, spend the time in walking along the quay to another shop, where you may buy a lucky Cornish horseshoe, with your horoscope thrown in ; ls.

There must be good business in Wads. " Have enclosed P.O. ls. 6d. for another Joan the Wad." One of the Piskey shops has five or six framed cases of testimonials ; a prize is offered for the best testimonial—this would be part of the good luck. Most of the testimonials come from sweepstake winners or backers of horses. I saw no letters from bookmakers. There are letters about husbands who have found jobs, or who have not lost jobs ; letters about getting back your health ; a notice about meeting " the boy of your dreams " ; letters from Wad- owners who have been able to rent a house, or dispose of a house ; letters about getting a bottle of wine and £5 at Christmas ; about a girl who won a scholarship. Examin- ing has been shown to be flukey work ; but if examiners are to be influenced by benevolent poltergeists. . . .

What is one to make of this rigmarole ? The shadow of a shadow of the great religions of the world ; the mystics turned Micawbers. Reformation, Counter-refor- mation, Spiritual Exercises, Devout and Holy Lives, all set aside to make room for Mumbo Jumbo. Or should one praise the invincible optimism of Wad-owners, and admire their refusal to be beaten by the chances of the world ? Their heads are bloody, but unbowed, and they deserve their Wads. None of them seemed over- prosperous. Most of them had a good deal of leeway to make up, whether in sweepstakes, the form of horses, or life in general. They had made an act of faith in the universe ; they had postulated some Power, outside themselves, making, if not for righteousness, at least for a little luck. They were not guilty of the sin of witch- craft. Wads, like Rousseau's men, are naturally good.

Are these and like cults to be taken seriously ? One knows that there is a vast amount of negative super- stition ; ladders, salt, thirteen, crossed knives, black cats, white May, ladybirds, and what not. How far does this positive half-belief in magic extend ? Has Herr Hitler a Wad ? Am I to suppose that the mascots I see on cars are objets de Is the lady on the bonnet of a Rolls-Royce a Wad for the upper classes ? The fairies have indeed left their printed lawns.

Above all, what is to happen on a racecourse if every man, woman, and child, and every horse has his or her Wad ? Here we reach the grave problems which have worried theologians ; is there a limit to Joan's Treasury of Merit ? As for me, how am I to deal with the two red-capped, white-bearded gnomes from Scandinavia who have been looking down at me from my mantelshelf these many years past ? They are my friends.