Chicken wishbone superstitions and the symbolism of wishbones are steeped in history. It’s one of those interesting folklores dating back thousands of years that is believed to bring power and good fortune to the person with the larger piece.
In this article, I’m looking at where the tradition and superstition of breaking wishbones come from, what it symbolizes today, and if it’s likely to bring you luck!
Where Do Wishbones Come From?
The wishbone or the ‘furcula’ which is the proper scientific name for this bone, is a small bone that fuses a bird’s clavicles.
Contrary to what a lot of people believe, it's not just chickens that have wishbones. Most birds have a wishbone, but it's really only turkeys, ducks, and chickens' wishbones that we come across.
To describe it, a wishbone is essentially a "V" shaped bone. It's easy for two people to hook a finger on either side and pull it to see who gets the larger piece of the bone.
Researching the history of the wishbone and why it’s seen as something more than just a bone, most paths lead back to somewhere around 700 BC.
It was believed that birds were some kind of oracles that could tell the future. It’s unclear why exactly this started, but people started stroking wishbones and making wishes.
This superstition picked up momentum when the Romans carried this superstition on. As far as I can tell, it's the Romans that were credited with snapping the bones in half with the person who has the larger piece being the luckier of the two.
Related - Read more about chicken anatomy and bone structure here.
What Is the Spiritual Meaning of a Wishbone?
The spiritual meaning of a wishbone is good luck, good fortune, and represents well wishes.
To use a wishbone, two people hold it on either end with their pinky fingers. Then at the same time, both pull away so the bone snaps.
At the same time, both people are supposed to make a wish and whoever has the larger part of the bone should have their wish come true.
Some people also carry artificial wishbones around or wear jewelry in the shape of a wishbone as a good luck charm.
Similar to how people have jewelry in the shape of a four-leaf clover or some other good luck charm.
Why Is It Called a Wishbone?
The proper name for the bone is actually a ‘furcula’. A wishbone became known as a 'wishbone' simply because people would stroke this bone and make a wish thousands of years ago.
Looking at it from a modern, marketing perspective, it just sounds good to be called a wishbone.
Do Wishbones Really Work?
Answering questions about whether superstitions work or not it's always tough. Let's be completely honest here, according to Merriam-Webster, a superstition is defined as:
a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, or trust in magic or chance.
Yet, millions of people the world over believe in superstitions. I've personally met a number of people who have told me that certain superstitions affect their lives.
There is some science behind why so many people believe in superstitions, and how superstitions coming true can be explained.
Some people are anxious about certain things, and simply believing in a superstition helps to lessen those anxieties.
While other people need to tell themselves something or reassure themselves in order to make positive things happen in their lives.
Whatever the cause or the reason is, for a lot of people simply believing in something gives them extra motivation and helps them bring things to fruition in their lives.
I've learned over the years not to judge people. We all believe in different things, so if you believe in the superstition of the wishbone, I'm behind you. I'd happily crack a wishbone with you! (but hopefully, I'd win)
Can You Break a Wishbone by Yourself?
I've seen it said that if you break a wishbone by yourself, you get to keep all of the luck for yourself.
This is wishful thinking, however, and is nothing more than a joke of sorts.
Although early records show that people would stroke wishbones by themselves, the tradition of two people snapping a bone can be traced back to Roman times.
If you want to use the wishbone properly, it takes two people.
You now better understand the origins and history of the chicken wishbone superstition and the spiritual symbolism behind snapping these little bones.
While I’ll admit that I'm not a superstitious person, I'm fascinated by the history behind different superstitions and do have an interest in many of them.
I've pulled chicken wishbones a number of times over the years, and I’ve always found it a lot of fun and will continue to do so!
I wish you good luck! - Oh, and if you want better luck, here's what you need to know about the superstitions behind eating chicken on New Year's Eve.
Image credits - Photo by Taylor Heery on Unsplash