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A B C D E F G H I J K L M
N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Magpie

Often seen as a harbinger of bad fortune. In Scotland the magpie was once believed to carry a drop of the Devil’s blood under its tongue which perhaps stems from another belief that the magpie was the only bird not to wear full mourning at the Crucifixion. One seen flying or croaking around a house or sitting alone symbolizes that misfortune is present. Should a flock of magpies suddenly abandon a nesting area then, like the crow and rook, death is present and hard times are ahead. To avoid bad luck it is said that taking your hat off to the passing birds will act as protection against darker forces. Perhaps these associations stem from the fact that it was the only bird that would not enter the Ark preferring to stay outside. It is one of the very birds that also has black and white plumage, a combination of the sacred or holy colour (white) and of evil (black). To have one perch on your roof though is supposed to indicate that the house will never fall down. According to tradition it would be best to rearrange a journey if you see just one. If one is seen on the way to church it signifies that death is present, hence some believe that it is best to cross yourself to ward off evil or negative energies whilst saying ‘Devil, Devil, I defy thee’. An old English (UK) tradition notes that if one magpie flies by, you should take your hat off and bow repeating the same line. In Somerset (UK) it was once thought that to carry an onion at all times would provide protection.

Traditional English Rhymes

‘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.’

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‘One means anger,
Two brings mirth.
Three a wedding,
Four a birth.
Five is heaven,
Six is hell.
But seven’s the very Devil’s ain sell.’

*****

In Germany the number of birds, according to tradition, indicated forthcoming events. One is viewed as unlucky; two brings merriment or marriage; three is a successful journey; four is good news and five indicates you should expect company. The Chinese traditionally see the magpie as a bird of good fortune, except if you kill one when misfortune will arrive.