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Of Ravens and Magpies

Updated on August 16, 2011
Two Magpies and a Raven
Two Magpies and a Raven

A Bit of Lore about these Birds

One for Sorrow

Two for Mirth

Three for a Wedding

Four for a Birth

Five for Silver

Six for Gold

Seven for a Secret,

Never to be Told


Last summer I mentioned to a friend that there was an unusually large number of Ravens frequenting my yard. A few days later, she sent me this traditional that can be applied to Ravens or Magpies.

I began counting, to see how many Ravens I had... Every day five or six would land in my yard. Then Magpies began to show up also. Only two at first, but their numbers grew, until I nearly always had six Magpies or six Ravens in my yard. Sometimes, all 12 birds would congregate. Not given to superstition, it made me curious as to if there was any truth in the rhyme.

Last fall, my husband bought a share in a gold mine.

I hadn't thought about any of this, until this morning, when two magpies and a raven showed up in my yard. I watched them for a time, then they flew away... leaving me to wonder:

Do they count as three, or two and one, meaning two seperate events, or do they cancel each other out?

After a while, one magpie returned and grabbed for a fat worm the rain had brought up.  Immediately, a robin, who's nest is in our yard, came and chased the magpie away!

Robins are traditionally a symbol of hope and joy.
Robins are traditionally a symbol of hope and joy.

Ivorwen, 2009.

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Another for Sorrow

A farmer went trotting upon his grey mare,

Bumpety, bumpety, bump!

With his daughter behind him so rosy and fair,

Lumpety, lumpety, lump!


A raven cried, Croak! and they all tumbled down,

Bumpety, bumpety, bump!

The mare broke her knees and the farmer his crown,

Lumpety, lumpety, lump!


The mischievous raven flew laughing away,

Bumpety, bumpety, bump!

And vowed he would serve them the same the next day.

Lumpety, lumpety, lump!

Your Thoughts

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    • MarkHall profile image

      Mark Halliday 8 years ago from Australia

      I haven't heard this rhyme before - thank you. :)

    • Ivorwen profile image

      Ivorwen 8 years ago from Hither and Yonder

      LOL. I have never heard that magpie saying! It is funny how we assume some things to be male and some to be female. Personally, I am not too worried about offending birds, especially when they dress the same.

    • Noim profile image

      Noim 8 years ago from Bristol

      I've often had exactly the same thought! You may also have heard of the tradition of saying, "hello mister magpie, how's your wife today?" But what if the magpie is female, unmarried, a widdow or homosexual? Would they get offended and if so, is it still good luck to ask them about the wellbeing of their wife?

    • Ivorwen profile image

      Ivorwen 8 years ago from Hither and Yonder

      LiftedUp, I like the way you think about things. I do believe that God reveals so much more to us than we usually choose to see or hear. Just think of all those who heard the voice of God, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey, and mistook it for thunder! Of course, I am not taking this little bit of lore to be the same as the voice of God, but I do find it interesting.

    • LiftedUp profile image

      LiftedUp 8 years ago from Plains of Colorado


      I have never been quite that observant, to notice the number of birds of different types in our yard, but the hypothesis as to the numbers is interesting. It is possible, I know, that the One Who made the birds put some sort of instinct in them to correspond to events in His main creations' lives. One of those things we may know someday.

    • Ivorwen profile image

      Ivorwen 8 years ago from Hither and Yonder

      Thanks Feline! It always makes me wonder how these poems got started. Are they nonsense, or based on observation?

      Since publishing this, I have received several nursery rhymes that support this poem. I may have to edit, and add them in.

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 8 years ago

      We had a slightly different version of the rhyme...

      One for sorrow, Two for joy,Three for (something that I forget), Four for toy/boy (you got to pick according to your convenience!)...the rest was the same. And we used to say it when we spotted mynahs. Strange how customs overlap across the world! :)

    • Ivorwen profile image

      Ivorwen 8 years ago from Hither and Yonder

      Ralwus, I love bird watching too. Last summer I saw a flicker that I cannot find in any bird book -- the coloring was very different.

      Jarn, Thanks for reading! I appreciate it.

      TMB, Let me know what you see!

    • TheMindlessBrute profile image

      TheMindlessBrute 8 years ago from Orlando,Florida

      I've been watching the birds in my yard for a few years now and this is an interesting and cool new way to study them.

    • Jarn profile image

      Jarn 8 years ago from Sebastian, Fl

      Great story. Love it.

    • profile image

      ralwus 8 years ago

      I love birdwatching, thanks