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Chatter and Flee

Posted by Alix on 3 August 2007


(image from Classic Nature Prints) .

Normally one for laughing in the face of superstition I still search for a second magpie when I see a solitary one, count flocks to see what they mean, have been known to salute them, and (weirdest of all for atheist me) to draw a cross using my foot on the ground. The Christian prejudice derives from the notion that magpies turned up to the crucifixion wearing white instead of black. A lesson for us all there; pay attention to the dress code. Like many superstitions there’s no consensus, magpies are lucky in China, inspirational in Korea and evil in Scotland. Apparently the ‘mag’ part of the name means ‘chatters’ (or at least it did in the 16th century). It’s suggested that you should salute a solitary magpie because they mate for life, so a solitary magpie is one who’s lost their mate, therefore you should express sorrow for it. The ‘sorrow’ is the magpie’s, and not the spotter’s. I much prefer this idea!

The counting rhymes vary, my favourite is:

One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy.
Five for rich, six for poor,
Seven for a bitch, eight for a whore,
Nine for a burying, ten for a dance,
Eleven for England, twelve for France.

Also mentioned on that site are the rhymes for warding off bad luck, personally, this one has never failed me:

Magpie, magpie, chatter and flee,
Turn up thy tail and good luck fall me.

The picture is from The Love Life of Birds by Axel Amuchastegui, which I believe is from 1952.


2 Responses to “Chatter and Flee”

  1. sandrar said

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