"'Magpies' is an old superstition that school children learn. It's supposed to be linked to how many you see is what you'll get and if you only see one your supposed to cross yourself (finger tracing the shape of a cross on your face cheek to cheek then forehead to chin) to get rid of the bad luck." -Nicola

One for Sorrow (Magpies) - English Children's Songs - England - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World  - Intro Image


This rhyme often ends with seven.

According to Wikipedia, Magpies are considered a bad omen in some cultures and in Britain going back as early as the early 1500's. In the US, you'll sometimes find this superstition connected to crows, since there aren't any magpies there.

The earliest version of this rhyme in print goes back to about 1780 in John Brand's "Observations on Popular Antiquities" as follows:

One for sorrow,
Two for mirth,
Three for a funeral
And four for birth.

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Thanks and Acknowledgements

Thanks to Nicola Holdsworth for sharing this rhyme with us!