Inspired by one of Nia’s stunning photographs I have found a few of my photographs of these curious birds. All but one in this post are of the Azure-Winged Magpie as it is very common in the Algarve. It is a beautiful bird, although our own Eurasian Magpie does also look very beautiful in sunlight.
In England we have a nursery rhyme about them;
One for Sorrow
Two for joy
Three for a girl
Four for a boy
Five for silver
Six for gold
Seven for a secret never to be told
Eight for a wish
Nine for a kiss
Ten a surprise you should be careful not to miss
Eleven for health
Twelve for wealth
Thirteen beware it’s the devil himself.
Do you know this rhyme? Perhaps you know a different version from your childhood. I wonder if there is a Portuguese version? If you know of alternatives or even better a Portuguese version do leave a comment below.
The belief is that the original version of this rhyme arose out of superstition. The Eurasian Magpie in England at least has over the centuries been regarded as a bird of ill omen, and I recall when visiting friends in Lancashire one of them greeting a magpie which crossed our path.
I’ve yet to find any Portuguese legends about this bird, however I have in writing this post learnt of the Room of the Magpies. Doesn’t that sound fascinating. This room can be found in the National Palace of Sintra, which is about 25miles from Lisbon. Apparently King Joao I created Sala das Pegas to reflect the chattering female courtiers, there are 136 magpies all of which from the pictures I have seen seem to be of the Eurasian Magpie. The roses and ‘Por Bem’ reflect the story that the chattering was a result of him flirting with one of the ladies in waiting. The National Palace looks wonderful and is now on my list of place to visit when we explore north.
It is not just England and Portugal who have a fascination with this wonderful birds. Aesop of course wrote about them with his story about a Magpie highlighting to the other birds through his brief yet vigorous questioning that Kings needing to be suited for the job rather than vain pretenders such as Peacocks. One of the most famous Magpie legends comes from China, where they regard the bird as a good omen. It is told that every year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month a flock of Magpies create a bridge so two star crossed lovers – The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd – can come together. There is even an opera about them – La Gazza Ladra – written by Giaochino Rossini. This focuses on the love shown by magpies of shiny things, and how a girl was wrongly accused of stealing jewellery when in fact it was the magpies hence the title – The Thieving Magpie. By the way recent research has found no evidence that they like shiny items!
Thanks again to Nia for the inspiration this morning, and my final photo well I know it was not taken in the Algarve but I couldn’t resist this one taken last winter of Septimus and Eurasian Magpies together in a tree.