Sunday, October 31, 2010

Eurasian Magpie and Magpie Lore

A Eurasian Magpie at Regents Park, London, UK; 4/10/10.

A Eurasian Magpie strutting its stuff in Regents Park, London, UK; 4/10/10.
After seeing many Magpies in Colorado, I was surprised to see several of them in London last Spring. But I should have known this would be the case, as Magpies (Above) like Jackdaws are abundantly referred to in British Literature dating all the way back to Shakespeare's days. Magpies were especially thought to be a mysterious bird and were regarded with superstition. So this is the perfect bird to blog about on Halloween.
The term “pie” is French and comes from the Latin word “pica”, meaning black-and-white, or pied. The modern name of Magpie became established from about 1600 in England and is derived from “Magot Pie”, which first appeared in Shakespeare’s MACBETH , Act IV, scene iii.

"Augurs and understood relations, have
By magot-pies and choughs and rooks brought forth
The secret’st man of blood."
In this scene MacBeth was shocked to see the ghost of Banquo whom he had just ordered to be murdered, and he calls the witches who predicted this 'magot pies.'

And again, in HENRY VI. Part III (Act V, scene vi):
"Chattering pies in dismal discords sung." King Henry names Magpies as being present at the birth of his murderer Gloucester.

There are numerous rhymes relating to the Magpie:
"One is sorrow, two mirth,
Three a wedding, four a birth.
Five heaven, six hell,
Seven the de’il's ain sell."

In Devonshire, in order to avert the ill-luck from seeing a magpie, the peasant spits over his right shoulder three times. It is a common notion in Scotland that Magpies flying near the windows of a house portend a speedy death to one of its inmates. The superstitions associated with the Magpie are not confined to the British Isles. In Sweden it is considered the witch's bird, belonging to the evil one and the other powers of night. In Denmark, when a Magpie perches on a house, it is regarded as a sign that strangers are coming.

I saw two Magpies in London, so that must mean I am mirthful.

1 comment:

~Val said...

Hmmm...what if you had seen three?? ;-)