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Do we only like superstition when it enhances our day to day lives? I have an incredible itch on my right palm – ‘that signifies money coming in’ now I like that one and don’t mind enjoying that superstition. But the left-hand itching is: money leaving you, I’ll just ignore that one!

The classic ‘One magpie, signifies: one for sorrow’ - how long will I wait to see the second, to cancel out the sorrow and create the joy?

The first recording of the rhyme is in John Brand’s book in 1777 and it was just the first four lines, it was adapted over time to create the thirteen lines. It was then simplified to ten for the TV hit show ‘Magpie’ that ran until 1980.

But how did the bird become evil enough to have such a high superstition placed upon its poor feathered head! I mean it’s a beautiful bird, who constantly has a companion and while one looks for food the other is high above keeping a look out for danger. How is that an evil bird? Surely that’s a start of a love story?

The morning of my third booked operation, I opened my curtain to a single magpie flying past my window! ‘Bloody great, nice one!’ I proclaim! And here it begins, how long will I wait to see if his mate flies past too. I frantically scan the trees for the other bird, but to no avail. ‘Hello Mr Magpie, how’s your wife and kids!’ I say out loud for the bird to hear but of course it doesn’t as its flown past and is nowhere to be seen. ‘That’s it! My operation isn’t going ahead’ I shout to me husband who is getting ready to drop me off at the hospital! ‘I might as well not go in then, it will be cancelled again, for the third time, I just know it!’ My ever-rational husband replies, ‘what are you on about? So, you are not going to go into hospital, as you’ve seen a single magpie? His mate will be nearby you just can’t see her.’ Still not convinced I continue to hover around the window searching for the second bird, two for joy! Two signifying good luck, not bad! Of course, the second bird never showed its face, and I went to the hospital and the operation took place!

Since returning from the operation, I find that I am not superstitious anymore, well not with magpie’s anyway. I’m not wasting my life away waiting to visually see the second magpie. In fact, I smile and say good morning and acknowledge the bird. I don’t feel its going to give me a bad or good outcome to my day. Why is this? Purely because seeing the one magpie on the day of the operation didn’t stop the operation, so evidently, it’s a load of rubbish or does it go deeper than that? It must go deeper than that!

I’ve not really had control over my own health and life for a year, and since the 01 November 2021 I’ve been waiting from an ‘emergency’ operation. If I had private health care and wasn’t living amongst a crumbling NHS system, my health and life would have been sorted last year in 2021! So, the NHS has had control over my life, not me. They held the reigns, not me, I danced to their tune, not my own!

A good friend introduced me to the superstition of the magpies, so it has been part of my life since 1998, up until that point in my life I had never been superstitious, not one bit. I’d walk under the ladder to show off, I’d cross on the stairs to make a point! But before the operation I was insufferable! And why was this? Perhaps to try and gain some control over my life? By thinking if I see two magpies then my day will be good, and I’ll get a hospital date and my life will move forward? If I saw a single magpie then I could blame my rubbish day on that, as I wasn’t in control. Just as I did on the day the operation went ahead – single magpie, I can blame this on why I didn’t get the said operation!

It was slightly embarrassing towards the lead up to the operation though, if I was with a friend and I saw a single magpie, I would proclaim it and they would be the ones trying to make me feel better. How silly, how stupid to be controlled by a bird and a superstition, a superstition that goes back to when they burnt woman at the stake! Was I really entering a superstition that sat alongside the burning of women who were found guilty of witchcraft? Really? We are living in 2022! But that represents how much I felt like I didn’t have any control of my own life. And was looking for it in any place I could!

Perhaps people are superstitious to create a positive mental attitude? I didn’t walk under that ladder; thus, I will not have anything bad happen to me today. Positive Mental Attitude. I won’t cross on the stairs so I will be in control of bad things happening to me today. Positive Mental Attitude. So, in a way people may feel in control if they don’t do the superstitious actions that they have learnt, or that have been passed down to them through family members.

Who knows, all I know now is that when I see a single magpie now, I say hello and smile! I’m thankful to see this beautiful bird in all its glory. I no longer panic that it’s going to bring me bad luck or create a bad day. I hope to have more control of my life in the future and not be held ransom by a crumbling NHS or a single black and white bird!

“When you believe in things That you don't understand, Then you suffer, Superstition ain't the way, No, no, no”


Song by Stevie Wonder

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 for a bird you must not miss

Earlier version had the following extra lines to the rhyme:

Eleven for health, Twelve for wealth, Thirteen beware it’s the devil himself.

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