Nov 19, 2010

The Magpie

Driving around Ireland we noticed large black and white birds that seemed to be everywhere. Once while a friend was driving us, Tom asked what it was. "Oh, those magpies!" the friend replied, and he counted them whenever they flew by. He explained that there is a poem that tells you that seeing one by itself was bad luck. Of course, after that we started counting them, and wouldn't you know it. Half the time we saw a lone bird. But no worries, as soon as we saw another one we added it to the total, never admitting we saw one by itself. ;-)

We didn't take any photographs of them so I borrowed the one above. (Wouldn't want to pretend that we are that good at photography!) Here is the poem (there are a couple of versions):

One for sorrow, two for joy;
Three for a girl, four for a boy;
Five for silver, six for gold;
Seven for a secret, never to be told;
Eight for a wish, nine for a kiss;
Ten for a bird that's best to miss.

More magpie folklore from BBC news:

"Large blackbirds, like crows and ravens, are viewed as evil in British folklore and white birds are viewed as good," he says. "Magpies have a dubious reputation because they are a bit of both. Over the years they have been lumped in with blackbirds."

The negative connotations attached to magpies can be traced as far back as Shakespeare's time, when their "chattering" was complained about.

In the late 19th Century, superstitions circulated locally, says Mr Roud. So, in Durham in the 1880s, it was believed they were the only bird not to go on the ark with Noah, preferring to sit outside "jabbering over the drowning world".

1 comment:

  1. I did not know that you do not have magpies where you live.
    They are everywhere here and at this very moment, there are two sitting in the tree in front of my window. :)
    When I was in Irland, I was amazed about all the hooded crows I saw there.