How the Magpie showed Justice, Knowledge and Loyalty
A long, long time ago the people and animals hadn't talked for so long that they had forgotten that they used to speak to each other. Sometimes they could still be friends and talked in sign language. In Poitou, in Southern France, you will see heather and laurel tied to the top of the people's houses or a high tree as a sign to say they are friends of the Magpies.
It all started in Chauvigny where there was a little boy who was friends with Mr Magpie. Every morning as he headed towards the fields he would give Mr Magpie the nod and throw him a piece of his breakfast.
For this Mr Magpie would follow the little boy and keep an eye on him as he tended the herds of sheep in the fields. The little boy used to get bored watching the sheep and would think up tricks and games to keep himself amused. So one day the little boy saw a Knight riding up on his strong white horse and in his hand was a long straight spear. The little boy thought he would play a trick and ran back to the village crying
All the people in the village ran to get their weapons to chase off the wolf. Now Mr Magpie knew the little boy was being naughty, even though he was his friend, and he quickly gathered a twig of Ash tree, flew to the top of the highest tree and dropped the twig in front of the villagers whilst scolding the little boy.
The villagers ignored the Magpie and followed the little boy to find the wolf. They were very angry when they realised the boy had tricked them. Then the villagers realised that Mr Magpie had been telling the boy off, and they remembered the Magpie had dropped a twig. They said
"Aha Mr Magpie knew the little boy was lying and dropped the twig of Ash to let us know that a Knight was coming. Everyone knows that a Knight's spear is made from Ash because it grows so straight."
A little later the boy was bored again, the sheep were grazing quietly, when he saw a Druid coming down the road to the village. He ran back to the village as fast as his legs would carry him…
"Wolf, wolf, WOLF!!!!"
The Magpie had already picked a twig of Yew tree - as everyone knows that Yews are sacred to Druids. He flew to the top of the nearest house, scolded the boy and dropped the twig in front of the little boy's parents. The villagers were all running from the village until they saw the Druid!
His parents were very cross and said
"You naughty little boy telling us the Druid was a wolf! It was lucky the Magpie warned us that it was the Druid that was coming."
After that the little boy didn't like Mr Magpie and threw stones at him whilst calling him names. However Mr Magpie continued to keep an eye on the little boy because he was a loyal friend. A few days later a pack of wolves started attacking the sheep. The little boy ran back to the village shouting
"Wolf, WOLF, WOLF!!"
but the villagers ignored him expecting just another visitor. Mr Magpie had quickly picked some Whitethorn and flew with the little boy to the villagers dropping the twig at their feet and chattering loudly at them. The villagers seeing the Whitethorn and hearing his 'Caw, caw, caw' said
"Oh he's brought Whitethorn which means bad luck, the boy must be telling the truth! Quick there must be wolves in the field."
They ran off to chase the wolves away. The boy was busy crying
"Why did no-one believe me?"
An old man in the village heard him, picked up the boy and said "Because you cried 'Wolf' when there was no wolf. The Magpie knew you were lying and told the truth because it was the right thing to do. Even though you stopped being his friend, he remained loyal to you and helped you in the end."
The little boy asked how he could honour his friend, Mr Magpie. The Magpie brought him some Heather and Laurel. Heather to heal him when he's feeling sad and Laurel to stop lightning hitting him (for it was said that he would be killed by a bolt of lightning). So the little boy tied it to the top of his house and told the rest of the villagers that if they wanted a Magpie to warn them of visitors or wolves they should tie a bundle to their house or tree.