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Magpie folklore and superstition

By Amalasuntha

One for sorrow

Two for joy

Three for a girl

Four for a boy

Five for young

Six for old

Seven for a secret never to be told

The magpie rhyme has several variations, which version did you learn? I can remember learning this one at school in rural Yorkshire, but I know there are others!

The majority of folklore revolves around the seeing of a single bird, through the British Isles it is generally considered unlucky to view a single magpie, and so steps are taken to ward off such bad luck. In Scotland and Northern Ireland one should salute – and preferably greet the bird or ask after the health of the absent Mrs Magpie, whilst in the majority of England one should wave or doff ones hat (or hoody presumably?…) This is supposed to make the assumption that there are in fact two birds, and thus ward off the bad luck (one for sorrow) and change it into good (two for joy). The assumption seems to be that a lone bird will always be referred to as ‘Mister’, so through this I will refer to a single bird as a male (though I know it’s not forced to be!). In Scotland the sighting of a lone bird near a house window signals an impending death, as the belief is that the bird carries a drop of the devils blood under their tounge. Superstitions in Yorkshire and Sweden suggest a connection with witchcraft and an especially ill omen. From the remoter parts of Yorkshire comes the remedy of flapping your arms as wings and vocally imitating the birds missing partner to avert disaster (though I never have seen anyone actually do it…) . In Devon the tradition is to spit three times to avert bad luck. In German, Italian, French and Norwegian folklore the magpies are often depicted as thieves, in Norway however, they are also considered playful and a bringer of good weather.

Read the original article at: Chesterfield Pagans

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