Coun­try Mouse

Mag­pie magic

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

EV­ERY day, on some rough ground be­side our of­fices, you can, if you’re lucky—or per­haps un­lucky, for noth­ing in the coun­try­side is so full of myth and omen— see 40 to 50 mag­pies at a time. The sound of their chat­ter­ing, like some­one shak­ing a match­box.

The num­ber of small song­birds is no­tice­ably sparse, for the mag­pie is the arch nest-rob­ber of eggs and hatch­lings.

For rea­sons I can’t sen­si­bly ex­plain, I al­ways nod my head when I see one; oth­ers sa­lute or raise their hat and some coun­try­men have whole rhymes that have to be de­claimed. Th­ese rit­u­als are in place to ward off evil, al­though, as every­one knows from the most fa­mous piece of bird lore—‘one for sor­row, two for joy…’—the num­ber spot­ted at any one time is crit­i­cally im­por­tant to your prospects. Th­ese days, there are many more mag­pies than a cen­tury ago, which cer­tainly keeps the su­per­sti­tious busy.

In 1688, revo­lu­tion­ar­ies met at the Cock and Pynot pub (pynot was the Der­byshire name for the mag­pie) and agreed to of­fer the throne to Wil­liam of Orange and over­throw James II. In time, Wil­liam III was to meet his own end due to the ac­tions of a mole. MH

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