‘Good Morning Mr Magpie, How’s your lady wife today?’ is a common phrase muttered if you see a solitary magpie, or if you are like me and lazy, you might just give it a nod. Mostly because I try and logically talk myself out of superstition, but some habits die hard.
Superstitions are odd, for example:- Don’t put new shoes on a table… surely this is better than putting old shoes on a table, as you might just get mud all over the table. I will give that there are some which come from fact, such as, don’t walk under a ladder… this is just common sense as something, or someone might fall on you.
Craww has optimised the feel of the solitary magpie in this beautiful oil painting of this much revered bird. The misty background giving way to the feathery brush strokes, with the heart of the single bird pierced by the woody stems of hedgerow flowers. Usually when we see a magpie, the assumption is that it is male, hence the phrase muttered, but why is it that we are so in tune with the perceived prophetic abilities of the magpie?
I am sure that we all know the rhyme about the magpie, but just in case you have been living in a cave, here is how it goes:-
One for sorrow
Two for joy
Three for a girl
Four for a boy
Five for silver
Six for Gold
Eight for a secret, never to be told
Nine for a letter from over seas
Ten is for love that is true as can be
There are variations on this rhyme, and very early versions started as:-
One for Sorrow
Two for mirth
Three for a funeral
Four for a birth
But why? Well there are a few reasons. Firstly, magpies mate for life, so the early assumptions of seeing just one magpie was that its partner had died, leaving it to foretell the sorrow. This is so nicely depicted in Craww’s painting with the pink flowers symbolising romance, piercing the heat, as if it the bird is pained by its solitude.
Earlier myths about the magpie come from the crucifixion of Jesus, where it is said that the bird represented the Devil. At the crucifixion of Jesus, it was said that a dove and a magpie landed on the cross. The dove collected the tears that Jesus wept, whereas the magpie did not.
Further hatred for this bird came about, when it was said that the tongue of a magpie contained a drop of the devil’s blood, and cutting the tongue of the bird out would then allow it human speech.
Obviously there are some facts about magpies which haven’t helped their cause. Stealing shiny objects, which they then hoard in their nests, and they have also been blamed for the decline in song birds in the UK due to their predatory nature, eating the eggs of smaller birds.
Dead magpies were hung over doors to protect households from ghosts, but it is thought that this tradition started through farmers hanging dead magpies with their hunts kills to stop other magpies scavenging the meat.
So, while one is seen as a misfortune, more is seemingly a happier affair, with the magpie satisfied with its mate, and the suggestion that flocks of magpies would be a family unit, odd numbers being the lesser desired outcome due to the nature of one of the family unit being without a mate.
However you feel about the magpie, I think that this painting captures so much in its very simplistic design, solely focusing you on the bird and its sorrow.
If you want to see more hauntingly beautiful images by Craww you can find them on his website here.
How do you feel about the Magpie? Why not tell me in the comments?