The folklore and magic of the Magpie by Sue Perryman



I'm writing this blog towards the end of March, the Spring Equinox has passed by, life is returning to the land and wild animals and birds are preparing for the patter of tiny paws/hooves/claws etc. The air is alive with bird song and the gentle buzzing of bees, and once again that I'm being stalked by Magpies!


When I venture outside they seem to appear everywhere I go, if I look out of my window, there is usually at least one in the garden, and when I'm driving one will land in the road ahead of me or swoop in front of my car, does everyone get this or is it just me?


I noticed this strange behaviour a few years ago, like most people in the UK, I know the Magpie rhyme that says:

' One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy,

five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never to be told.'


Although being a Terry Pratchett fan I prefer Nanny Ogg's version in 'Carpe Jugulum':

'One's for sorrow, two's mirth

Three's a funeral, four's a birth,

Five's a christening, six a dearth,

Seven's heaven, eight is hell,

And nine's the devil his ane sel.'

This version does vary throughout the book though, as Nanny say's herself, there's lots of magpie rhymes.


Being of a certain age, I remember watching the children's show called 'Magpie' which had the rhyme as a theme song. So, it was a long held belief that if you saw one, bad luck would be sure to follow. This is quite worrying when you see one every time you leave the house, so I decided to change how I thought of them, and instead see them as good omens (another Pratchett reference).


I decided to do a bit of research into the folklore and magic of magpies, I wanted to know where the associations with bad luck came from and was it worldwide!.