Thursday, December 4, 2008

Willow's Weekly Word


While cleaning up the Manor from the aftermath of Thanksgiving,
I found this dried wishbone hanging on the wine rack above the oven.
One particular person I know loves to save them every time he carves
the turkey! I often find them, days later, hanging to dry in odd places.
I can actually remember seeing them tied up with ribbons to adorn gift
packages in the 1950's. (Ick!) I thought you might enjoy a little
background on the quirky tradition of the luck of the wishbone this
week instead of our usual etymology.

The wishbone is the third member of the great Euro-American lucky
charm triumvirate, the other two being the horseshoe and the four
leaf clover. Sometimes called the "merrythought" in the British Isles,
the wishbone is a bone overlying the breastbone of fowl, but most
especially the chicken and the turkey. It is the custom to save this
bone intact when carving the bird at dinner and to dry it over the
stove or by the fire or, sometimes, to dry it for three days in the air,
three being a fortuitous magical number until it is brittle. Once the
merrythought is dry, it is given to two people, who pull it apart until
it cracks and breaks, each one making a wish while doing so. The
person who gets the long half of the wishbone will have his or her
wish come true. If the wishbone breaks evenly, both parties get their
wishes. In some families it is said that the wish will only come true
if it is not revealed to anyone. Because of its association with
conviviality and festive dinners, the wishbone has a long history of
use in holiday cards. The wishbone is found on numerous Good Luck
postcards of the era. In the 1930s, the wishbone was a common
image on North American good luck coins and one could even buy
little gold or silver wishbone charms; but by the 1990s it, like that
other dead animal part, the rabbit foot, had fallen out of favour with
the makers of lucky amulets.


Thanks to Falling apart Trisha on Answerbag for this info.

45 comments:

  1. I didn't know they tied them on gift packages in the 50's. Oh my!
    I do remember friends in the 60's who had rabbits feet....Nugget just gave a shiver! :)

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  2. Very cool! I didn't know anything about its history.

    Hey Willow, are you superstitious?

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  3. That was a very informative post. I do remember them attached to packages now that you mention it. But I'd totally forgotten about it.

    I did get the long end of the wishbone once when I was a kid. And I'd tell you what I wished for, but I can't because I'm thinking it still might come true. ;0)

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  4. Reya, I think superstitions and folklore are fascinating, but no, I wouldn't say that I was particularly superstitious.

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  5. Interesting custom. I don't remember seeing a wishbone on cards before, although I have seen people splitting one (although, if memory serves me well, it was a just carved one).

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  6. Being the superstitious person that I am I always save the wish bone!

    CJ xx

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  7. Still today, I save the wishbone, for the next trip my 21 year old Grandson visits me...believe me, they get quite brittle, as the trips are far and few these days. I'll have to talk to him about that this Christmas...remember your Grandmothers children!!!

    Thanks for the info...only you would delve that far into a history, we love you for it!

    sharon

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  8. What a lovely post! Up to now it's always been a puzzle to me as to why they call it the wishbone. I don't know whether we have an equivalent in Spanish.

    Excellent, witty and very well-researched article.

    So, which end did you get when you pulled? If you ever did...

    Greetings from London.

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  9. Well, you can't have my black cat's tooth. And don't step on a crack.

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  10. Bill--Oh, come on! ((please)) You know how much I've been wanting that black cat's tooth. Sigh.

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  11. I haven't thought about a wishbone for a 100 years but I do remember as a little one, making my wish and yes, I had a rabbit's foot too...I'm glad that it's over in importance...still working on avoiding that crack in the sidewalk and the dropped dish towel and the itchy left palm and the itchy right palm??

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  12. So, Willow, what's your wish? Fascinating to hear the history behind the (rather funny) tradition.

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  13. Willow, I always learn something new on your blog. I love that old Christmas card. I remember splitting wishbones with my brother when we were kids, but these days with a munchy dog in the house, we get rid of those dangerous bones quickly. The only thing you didn't share was what you'd be wishing for, as Mod Girls notes as well.

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  14. Yes, the wish bone is a trifle gruesome - but we always used to fight to get be the ones to pull it apart.
    Only use the little finger......

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  15. MG and Sarah, my wish will only be revealed if I don't tell. ;^)

    Elizabeth, right! Only pull with the pinky fingers! I completely forgot that part.

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  16. Ah, very interesting. I didn't know all this.

    Another thing that's also interesting regarding luck is something called the "milt".

    Hardly anyone has heard of it!

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  17. Love that old card with the wishbone ... now if only I had thought to get a whole turkey!

    :-Daryl

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  18. Another trip of nostalgia, Willow. I still dry out the wishbone and save it the three days. This belongs to the saying: "Three times lucky."

    My brothers all had lucky rabbit feet attached to a key chain. This seemed to be the brotherhood of cubs and scouts in the 50s.

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  19. Thanks, Willow, for the history of the wishbone. I have now learned something new today.

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  20. I've never seen a wishbone tied to a gift, but I kind of like this tradition! As kids my siblings and I always wished on them whenever mother cooked a whole bird. Nice to know the history. I would like one of those charms if anyone finds a supplier of icky charms...

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  21. Adam has been saving them since he was five. He used to think they were fossils

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  22. Excellent history on wishbones! We do the wishmaking using the tiny cornish hen wishbones from Christmas dinner.

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  23. Willow, I just made the cabbage roll casserole again and I think I may have overdone the spice measurements in my written recipe - specifically the cinnamon & cloves. Change to I/s tsp cinnamon and 1/8th -1/4 cloves (or of course to taste). Cloves are lovely but too much cloves is never a good thing. The pinch of nutmeg stays. I love nutmeg and I prefer freshly ground. If you'd like the casserole to be more tomato-ey I would stir in a small can of tomato sauce along with the diced tomatoes.

    Hope it's a success and that WT enjoys !

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  24. that should read 1/2 tsp. cinnamon ;-)

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  25. Thanks, Susan, got it! And I do think I have some whole nutmeg to grate, too. Mmm.

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  26. I read a poem once about how grand it must be to tear and mend across the sky with a wishbone over your heart.I have always thought of them as special.

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  27. Thank you for the fun info! Your wishbone looks like burnished ebony . . . ours were always pale and grubby.

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  28. Very nice composition!
    I knew about the horseshoe and the four leaf clover, but not the wishbone... allways learning! :-)

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  29. Funny...a yearly tradition and I've never known the reason.

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  30. I remember pulling my half of the wishbone when I was little, squeezing my eyes tight and hoping for a pony. 30 some odd years later, I'm still waiting :)

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  34. I wish I had time to peruse all of your blog but will savor it at a later time. We actually have a lot in common. Would love to invite you over to my farm; I have some art to show you. Thank you.

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  35. Congrats on Blog of Note! I did a post on the wishbone too!

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  36. Hi Willow! Congratulations...I was just looking at Blogs of Note and there you are, top billing!

    Sara

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  37. That is what we would do at my gma's house two people on one side and two on the other. Although we don't anymore..so the story goes

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  38. Wow--what a great tid bit of knowledge so full of history. I absolutely enjoy your blog. Plan to visit often. ALICIA

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  39. Some interest things. Thik youll never seen before Special society Very funny peoples :)

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  40. I love this post. I am instantly reminded of waiting to pull the wishbone, me and my sister. Whoever lost was such a sore loser. We really believed in such luck then.

    I did have a rabbit's foot for a while...until one day I figured out that it was a real foot and I was so so sad.

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  41. Learne new things today, thanks Willow

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Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)