I keep seeing lone magpies everywhere. One for sorrow, two for joy. I can’t remember the last time I saw more than one, if I’m honest. If I’m being really honest, this unsettles me hugely.

I don’t know why. I’m a scientist. The world works like this. All of my beliefs cohere together and yes, God makes scientific sense within that to me. Or rather he would if I had a better grasp of various things that have been explained to me and made sense to me in the past but I’m not terribly bright, so I can’t remember. But what I don’t understand is where do all these superstitions fit in? Where does wearing a specific pair of purple pants to any exam or interview I ever do, for luck, make sense? Or the lucky piskie necklace my mother gave me for the same purpose? Or the earrings I only ever wear for job interviews? Or the silver cross necklace which I still wear every single day? If I’m going to need ‘luck’ on a given day I make our black cat walk across my path before I leave. And I make up superstitions on the spot sometimes, trade-offs. If I do this, then desired/undesired event A will or won’t happen. It’s just a comfort blanket, a lot of these things, but I do, for some reason, believe those things. And I don’t know why.

Meanwhile, those magpies. There’s a rhyme you’re meant to say when you see a lone magpie. I can never remember it. This seriously worries me.

EDIT: later. I was sent a link by a good friend to the Wikipedia article on the subject which doesn’t mention the rhyme to which I referred to (for lone magpies) but does have a large selection of variants of the rhyme about magpies. I think the most common is probably

One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret that’s never been told.

However there are regional variants which add extra lines or bring different things – the devil, kissing, the true love you’re missing, bogey pie, and so on. Very interesting. Also if you scroll up a way it also goes through how you’re supposed to greet Magpies in order to allay bad luck or bring yourself the good luck promised by their number. But there was definitely a rhyme you should say to a lone magpie, which isn’t in the article. Hrm.



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12 responses to “Superstition

  1. “I’m not terribly bright”

    Sod off, Mohan.

    Luck is about how you feel – if you feel lucky, or more confident, you tend to do better at things. If you need a visual aid, meh, means to an end. But it’s still only an aid, the actual luck or otherwise comes from you. Same for magpies. /driveby Disney

  2. My grandparents always used to say ‘Oh, there’s the colonel’ whenever a magpie hoved into view. they assured me there was a totally viable and hilarious reason for this, but that i wouldn’t understand.

    I have nothing further to add.

  3. Jenny

    I’m not *not* bright, there are just some things I struggle to hold in my brain and rememebr. LIke…physics. I’m sorry, I should probably have phrased that differently/more wordily.

    I’m guessing you never got the chance to find out about the Colonel thing, Marcus?


  4. Photolosopher

    A friend of mine believed that you should salute a lone magpie and call it “my lord”. I wish she’d never told me – now, whenever I see a magpie, I have to ignore a vague urge to raise hand to forehead…

  5. Good morning Mister Magpie, where’s your mate?

  6. Claire

    Good morning Mr Magpie, and how’s your wife today?

  7. Tom

    My first piano teacher would obsessively stop the lesson to salute a lone magpie with “afternoon captain”, (or whatever time of day it was).

  8. Woman/Man/Teacher after my own heart then.

    I obsessively cross fingers on the 13th day of every month, I’m don’t acknowledge anniversaries that are either on the 13th of a month, or are the 13th anniversary, and god KNOWS how I’m going to cope in 2013. Or, god forbid, a Friday 13th of 2013. Or the 13th January 2014, because that’s technically the 13th of the 13th month of 2013.



    • Jenny

      Oh gawd, C, how are we even still alive? I’m thankfully not bothered about thirteenths πŸ™‚ mainly because apparently I mainly make up my own superstitions (eg LKs).

      And why ‘captain’, I wonder?


  9. Adam

    Paraskevdekatriaphobia – is the irrational fear of friday the 13th…

    this has little or bearing on most things mentioned, but I just love the word!!

  10. Eight for a wish
    Nine for a kiss

    and there is a 10th but I do forget. I always salute a solitary magpie, always. If I’m driving or on the train looking out of the window, or walking down the street.

  11. Jenny

    According to wikipedia, it’s ten for a time of joyous bliss, ten brings the true love my heart’s missing, or ten for a bird you won’t want to miss. Something like that.

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