One for sorrow
Two for joy
Three for a girl
Four for a boy
Five for young
Six for old
Seven for a secret never to be told
This is a little rhyme one of my Irish roommates recently taught me that is in regards to magpies. There happens to be an abundance of magpies that frequent the UCD campus, so, as you can imagine, when I see one, I desperately look around for another one to avoid being cursed. I’m normally not a very superstitious person, but the Irish take their superstitions very seriously, and I think it’s starting to rub off on me. I’m not entirely sure what each line means, but I do know that I spend much of the day trying to rationalize my childish fear of impending sorrow when I spot a lone magpie. It’s not clear who came up with these rules, but I feel that he or she may have just been messing around. Is it brazen of me to ignore the obvious connection between magpies and my fate? It may seem a bit silly, but I can’t seem to ignore these thoughts because I literally see magpies everywhere I go.
I heard an exceedingly strange superstition recently. Apparently, if you would like to know the name of the person you are destined to marry, you should place a snail on a plate that is sprinkled with flour, cover the plate, and leave it to sit overnight. In the morning, your soulmate’s initial will be on the plate, traced by the snail. I’m not sure where I can find a worthy snail, or what good a simple initial will do me, but I think am an intrigued enough to try. The outcome may shed some light on my ongoing magpie problem.
On a similar note, I went thrift shopping the other day. I needed to get something to wear to a formal ball, and I have to cut any corner I can to stay within budget. It’s truly amazing what you can find in a thrift store; I’ve never really spent much time in a thrift store previously, and I can’t imagine why. I managed to get an entire suit for eight euro! It fits decently, and I think it looks rather dapper, if I may be so bold. I also bought a book of short stories by great Irish writers that was only a euro. It includes stories by the likes of James Joyce and Frank O’Connor, to name a few. I’ve made my way through about half of the stories and have found them to be quite enjoyable and surprisingly poignant.
One story happened to be particularly stirring and continues to resonate. The story is “Sir Dominick’s Bargain” by J. Sheridan Le Fanu. Basically, the story is about a gentleman who happens upon a ruined castle in his travels and is drawn to its mystique. While marveling at the ruined castle’s grandeur and reveling in the comforting solitude he finds inside, he is approached by a mysterious, hunchbacked man who seemed to appear out of thin air. The mysterious man then proceeded to weave a haunting tale of the demise of last lord of the castle and how it came to a state of such disrepair.
The tale was of Sir Dominick Sarsfield, the last lord of the caste. When he came into his inheritance, Sir Dominick lived lavishly and shared his wealth generously with his townsmen. His wealth, however, ran out, and, eventually, he was over his head in debt. His debt was so great that he was in danger of loosing everything that he owned. He could not bear the thought of such disgrace, and, in his desperation, made a deal with the devil. The devil offered to clear Sir Dominick of all of his debts as well as seven years of prosperity. At the end of the seven years, however, Sir Dominick would then owe his soul to the devil. Sir Dominick accepted the devil’s offer and, again, enjoyed the lavish lifestyle he valued so greatly. When the day of reckoning came, of course, Sir Dominick did not want to surrender his soul to the devil. When the devil came to collect his due, Sir Dominick panicked and tried to escape. Despite his efforts, the devil caught Sir Dominick and killed him for his transgression.
The story is, of course, an allegory that is, in my opinion, used to illustrate the human condition. Each individual has his or her own devil to grapple with. Maybe that devil is greed, indulgence, or arrogance. One thing seems certain, though; status and possessions aren’t worth the cost of your soul.
“If death was a thing that money could buy, The rich they would live, and the poor they would die.” – (Excerpt from “Sir Dominick’s Bargain”)