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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Magpie Folklore and Superstition


A single magpie is associated with bad luck:
  • If a lone Magpie is seen, one should salute it to show you respect it.
  • On seeing a lone magpie one should pinch the person they are walking with, if they are alone they are to pinch themselves.
  • Upon seeing a lone magpie one should repeat the words "I defy thee" seven times.
  • A single magpie in spring, foul weather will bring.
  • A single magpie seen flying around a house denotes bad luck.
  • To see a magpie perched atop a house means you should rearrange a journey.
  • A single magpie seen on the way to church indicates that death is present.
  • A magpie on a windowsill warns of an immediate death.
  • A single magpie denotes foul weather (presumably arising from the fact that pairs of magpies only forage together when the weather is fine.)
  • To see a Magpie on its own is  unlucky - to undo that bad luck, point out the Magpie to someone, so you are not the only one to see it. 
Greeting Magpies: You should make sure to greet magpies when they are encountered in order to either allay bad luck or encourage good luck as related to the number of birds (see below).
  • This formality can be forgone if the Magpie looks directly in your eyes, which shows it respects you.
  • Common greetings include "Hello Mr Magpie"
  • "How is your wife/where is your wife?"
  • "Good Morning/Evening Sir" and other marks of respect.
  • Whenever I see a lone Magpie I do say, "Hello Sir!" and I will try to avoid glancing in its direction again! It has become almost a habit now and I don't think I will ever not say it when I see one.
More ways to avoid the bad omen of a single Magpie:
  • Repeat the following rhyme: Magpie, magpie, chatter and flee, Turn up thy tail and good luck fall me.
  • Take off one's hat on seeing the bird, bow, wish it 'Good day'
  • Blow a kiss to it
  • Spit over the left shoulder
  • Turn round three times
  • Cross one's fingers and say: I cross the magpie, The magpie crosses me; Bad luck to the magpie, And good luck to me.
The Magpie Numbers Rhyme (There is considerable variation in the lyrics, common alternatives also included):
  • One for sorrow - One for sorrow
  • Two for joy - Two for mirth - Two for luck
  • Three for a girl  - Three for a wedding - Three for a funeral
  • Four for a boy - Four for a birth - Four for a death
  • Five for silver - Five for heaven
  • Six for gold - Six for hell
  • Seven for a secret never to be told - Seven you'll see the devil himself
Sometimes the following are added:
  • Eight for a wish - Eight you live
  • Nine for a kiss - Nine you die
  • Ten for a surprise you won't want to miss - Ten for a time of joyous bliss
  • Eleven for health
  • Twelve for wealth
  • Thirteen beware it's the devil himself.
Magpie Superstitions Around the World:
  • In China, instead of being a sign of misfortune, European magpie is considered to be a lucky sign. The name is literally "happiness magpie."
  • In China  a singing Magpie foretells happiness and good luck.
  • An old English folk tale states that when Jesus was crucified on the cross, all of the world's birds wept and sang to comfort him in his agony. The only exception was the magpie, and for this, it is forever cursed.
  • In many parts of Europe, the Magpie is honored due to the fact it warns people of the approach of wolves and armed men.
  • In German folklore the magpie is seen as a thief.
  • In ancient Greece, the Magpie was associated with Dionysos and intoxication. 
  • In both Italian and French folklore, magpies' penchant for picking up shiny items is thought to be particularly directed towards precious ones.
  • In Korea, the Magpie delivers good news and invites good people into your life. He is also seen as the village spirit. Therefore in Korea, the Magpie is seen as the symbol of good luck and happiness.
  • In the Middle Ages and during the witch-hunts in Europe, the bird was considered to be connected with witchcraft - just like crows, ravens and black cats.
  • In Mongolia, the Magpie is considered a clever bird with control over the weather.
  • In Native America, the Magpie is considered as a friend and helper. 
  • In Native American folklore, wearing a magpie feather is a sign of fearlessness in some tribes as the magpie is bold and has little fear.
  • In Norway, a magpie is considered cunning and thievish, sometimes wicked, but a playful and loud bird is also bringer of good weather.
  • In Ancient Rome, the Magpie is sacred and linked to the god Bacchus. 
  • In Scandinavia, the Norse snow shoe goddess Skadi was associated with Magpies.
  • In Scotland, a Magpie near the window of the house foretells death.
  • In Scottish folklore, (in a story possibly related to the above) magpies were long reviled for allegedly carrying a drop of Satan's blood under their tongues. 
  • In South Dakota, there is a myth that all the animals had a race to determine if the two legged animals had the right to eat the four legged ones or if it was the reverse. The Bison was winning, but the Magpie was sitting between his horns. As he got close to the finish line she burst forward and won. The Magpie straddles both the inspiration and chaos archetypes.  
  • In many parts of the United Kingdom spotting a single magpie is considered bad fortune and saluting it is a way of showing the bird respect in the hope that the magpie won't pass on some of the misfortune that follows it. 
  • The Magpie is featured in some creation myths and one myth is that it allows its tail to be used as a bridge for people needing to cross a river into this world.
More Magpie Superstitions:
  • If a flock of magpies suddenly abandon a nesting area, hard times are ahead.
  • A chattering magpie denotes the arrival of a stranger.
Reversing the Magpie Myth of Bad Luck:

As you can see, the solitary Magpie is very often seen as bad luck, something to be feared. Perhaps this should be reversed and the solitary Magpie will then become a lucky symbol, a symbol to be revered. When you see this solitary Magpie make a wish. When the wish materializes you will understand the true magic of the Magpie and you will understand that someone created this fearful superstition to prevent us from truly understanding and utilizing the magic of the Magpie.

Collected from various sources
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