Why are we so superstitious about the bird?
The European Magpie
What an interesting bird is the Magpie! It isn’t a song bird, far from it. Its plumage is black and white with tinges of turquoise and green. Folklore has it that seeing a solitary magpie is unlucky.
There are variations on a rhyme and the bird’s association with Satan.
1 for sorrow
2 for joy
3 for a girl
4 for a boy
5 for silver
6 for gold
7 for a secret never to be told.
8 for a wish
9 for a kiss
10 a surprise you should be careful not to miss
11 for health
12 for wealth
13 beware it’s the devil himself.
Magpies are passerines or ‘perching birds’ along with over 5,000 other species. The magpie is a scavenger but it has been said to have gone after song birds, something which was originally thought to be specific to birds of prey.
Eggs laid in April vary in colour but are most commonly blue with speckles. Between five to eight eggs are laid in a sturdy nest of sticks, earth and clay. The nests have one single entrance which is well concealed.
Magpies are one of the few species reported to be able to pass the mirror test and thus recognise their own reflection in a looking glass.
To avoid the misfortune after seeing a solitary bird there are things that you should do. Devonshire people spit three times to avoid bad luck, some say you should pinch the person you are walking with or pinch yourself. Others use the words ‘I defy thee’ repeated seven times.
To show respect for the solitary magpie the passer-by should salute, however if the bird looks into your eyes this is not necessary as it has respected you.
The 19C proverb ‘a single magpie in spring will foul weather bring’ may arises from Magpies only being seen together when the weather is fine.
In English folklore it is said that the magpie is the only bird which never wept for Jesus when he was crucified, and thus the bird is cursed.
A Scottish superstition says that a magpie near a window means death. There may be a connection here between a Scottish story of a magpie carrying a drop of Satan’s blood under its tongue.
The magpie may be considered unlucky because of its pechant for shiny objects. The birds love to collect things and take them back to their nest. Could this be to attract a mate?
The Magpie in Music
La Gazza ladra is an opera by Rossini and the overture was made more popular today by Prog band Marillion.
Follow the links below to hear…