One for Sorrow or two for Joy.

The Magpie

One for Sorrow.

One for Sorrow.

From Mag to Long Tailed Nin to Mock a Pie the Magpie is known by various names and for various reasons around the Country. But Magpie omens go back to medieval times. Sometimes they are favourable, for example that the chattering means that guests or strangers are coming (1159 and onwards); more often not:‘…whan pyes chatter vpon a house it is a sygne of ryghte euyll tydynges’ (1507). This is especially so if the bird is flying around, or perching on, a house where someone is ill. In Sheffield, it was disliked because it refused to enter Noah’s ark, preferring to sit on its roof ‘and jabber over the drowning world’ and in Sussex, because ‘it was a bad bird, and knew more than it should do, and was always looking about and prying into other people’s affairs’.

Two for Joy

Two for Joy

One for sorrow.
The rhyme has its origins in superstitions connected with Magpies considered a bird of ill omen in some cultures, and in Britain, at least as far back as the early sixteenth century. The rhyme was first recorded around 1780 in a note in John Brand’s Observations on Popular Antiquitites on Lincolnshire with the lyric:
One for sorrow,
Two for mirth,
Three for a wedding,
And four for death

One of the earliest versions to extend this was published, with variations, in M. A. Denham’s Proverbs and Popular Saying of the Seasons (London, 1846):
One for sorrow,
Two for luck; (or mirth)
Three for a wedding,
Four for death; (or birth)
Five for silver,
Six for gold;
Seven for a secret,
Not to be told;
Eight for heaven,
Nine for [hell]
And ten for the d[evi]l’s own sell![

There is also the Saluting of the Magpie to which folk add “ Good Morning Mr Magpie which is supposed to ward off Bad luck. By saluting we are showing the magpie respect and therefore hoping he doesn’t pass on any ill fortune.
But the bird we associate with Black and White is much more than that not just in colour but in Character. Love him or Loathe him this mischievous bird is here to stay.


About dickslexic

I have many interests including Football, Wildlife and Photography. I also love Music especially Rock orientated and loved the 1970's Punk movement and all the music and bands that spawned from it.
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2 Responses to One for Sorrow or two for Joy.

  1. Not many in Sheffield bought the whole Noah’s Ark malarkey. You can’t tell us owt!

  2. johng1962 says:

    ‘Orrible black ‘n’ white killers! Good pics though!

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