I don’t know if the Magpie counting song exists outside England. It goes: 1 for sorrow, 2 for joy, 3 for a girl, 4 for a boy, 5 for silver, 6 for gold, 7 for a secret never to be told.
The Unthanks were on Jools Holland recently, singing Magpie. I could paint this post as an appreciation of different English accents (the Unthank sisters are from the Anglo Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria), but I think their gorgeous voices are enough of a reason to share the video:
In the old days, when you saw a magpie on its own, you were supposed to spit on the ground and then politely say, “Good morning Mr Magpie. How’s your wife and children?” Otherwise, like walking under a ladder or letting black cats wander across your path, you were asking for bad luck by offending the magpie’s sense of good manners.
If you’re reading this outside the UK, I’d love to know if magpies are thought of as lucky birds where you live.
“Apparently, David Dodds had given a lift to an old lady who insisted on quoting: “Devil, devil, I defy thee”, and spitting of the floor of his new car every time she saw a magpie (a traditional response to counteract the bird’s supposedly evil effect). Understandably, it didn’t go down too well. However, it resulted in this wonderful song. A well-known superstitious rhyme is used as a chorus; also included are many widely held folk beliefs about the bird.”
© Sing Better English, 2015