By Wishbone North
Wishbones connect the breast of a bird to its neck. The bone is shaped like a tuning fork and is believed to grant wishes. When you find one in a cooked chicken, turkey, goose, or duck, ask someone sitting near you to grab one prong. Hold the other end of the bone yourself.
You’ll both make a wish – silently – and pull the prongs apart. Whoever ends up holding the longer fragment will have their wish will come true. But is there any other cosmic message that comes from wishbones? Let’s explore its spiritual significance and what it has to say.
Wishbone Spiritual Meaning
1. Concern and Care
In communities where wishbones are valued, that fragile joint is very carefully handled. You don’t want to snap it too soon, so you work around the neck opening as you clean, stuff, and prepare your poultry. Some cultures work with raw wishbones while others wait until it’s cooked. In certain traditions, the bone is just as valuable in birds that are alive and pecking.
When you do extract this wishbone, you carefully clean it to remove any bits of bird flesh. Then you dry it in the sun or the oven. Timing is really important and if it breaks prematurely, it could misdirect energy. The attention paid to this odd little bone can signify nurturing interest and affection. This is why wishbones are such a popular motif in jewelry.
2. Optimistic Thinking
Lots of us believe in positive totems. Yours might be something popular like a rabbit’s foot or a lucky coin. It could even be something hidden and a little naughty, like lucky underwear or socks. These items don’t bring you good luck on their own. Usually, they’re something you were wearing or holding when a positive event happened, so you associate the item with luck.
And it could be anything. The tie you wore on the day you aced an interview. Or the parking receipt that was in your coat when you bought that winning lottery ticket. All these things – as well as wishbones – represent positivity and optimism. Remember, you have to feel lucky and accept the power of fate and chance. Otherwise, your happy event it’s just a coincidence.
3. Good Sportsmanship
You may recently have listened to that episode of Endless Thread that mentioned cyber-witches. In it, they talk about the physical realm, referring to it as the meat-space. In this meat space, a lot of us treat sports like a religion. And when fans are this rabid about their team, there’s no space for friendliness, positivity, or recognizing the skill of your opponent.
In this context, wishbones become a spiritual symbol of fair play. When you both make a wish, you do it silently. If you say it out loud, it won’t come true! Also, you might embarrass your opponent if your wish is more righteous than theirs … But you both have an equal chance of winning and you don’t resent the person that gets the bigger piece of the pie bone.
4. Loyalty and Dedication
By nature, wishbones are brittle. Those forks shatter easily, and by snapping them, you release lots of lovely vibrations. Think of it like breaking eggs to make an omelet – the end justifies the means. But when wishbones are used in jewelry, they have a slightly different spiritual meaning. Pendants on necklaces and earrings will often use an intact wishbone.
The message here is that bone is delicate and cracks effortlessly. It represents the heart of the person who gave you the gift. By accepting and wearing the gift, you’re admitting that yes, you could break their heart, and you may even benefit from betraying them. But you’re choosing to keep them safe and retain the wishbone in its whole form to show your loyalty.
5. Good Fortune and Vibes
If you have any interest in the spiritual realm, you’ll know about the Euro-American Triad of Good Luck Charms. This mythology involves three special charms: a lucky horseshoe, a wishbone, and a four-leaf clover aka shamrock. As an aside, all shamrocks are considered lucky, even three-leaf ones. But four-leaf shamrocks can turbo-charge your good fortune!
In anatomical terms, the wishbone connects the two clavicles (aka collar bones), and it can only be found in birds and dinosaurs. Its scientific name is furcula. The wishbone supports the skeleton and helps the birds fly. In Ancient Italian and Etruscan traditions, the wishbone of dead chickens was kept for luck. It was believed to bring positive vibes and good fortune.
6. Weather Patterns
You’ve probably heard about the greatest meteorologist in the world – the groundhog. You might even have watched the movie! But long before Bill Murray, birds and other wildlife were used to predict the weather. It was usually pretty standard stuff, like migration or nesting seasons. The (dis)appearance of some birds can hint at a tornado or blizzard coming.
And of course, carrion birds can help a hunter-gatherer find a fresh kill. But in the spiritual space, birds were used for divination. In Bavaria, priests and druids used the wishbones of geese to tell how severe the winter would be. It’s the exact opposite of the groundhogs in middle America. We use them to tell us when the weather will warm up and winter will end.
7. Wisdom from the Future
In most American homes, the wishbone is broken once a year during thanksgiving. This might be because turkeys are cooked whole and have larger wishbones so the effect is far more dramatic. It might also be because most of us favor wings and nuggets. Plus, we get our chicken at KFC or local fast food joints so we’re unlikely to find wishbones in the wild.
But in those Etruscan communities we mentioned earlier, chicken spheres were used to tell the future. The idea was to draw a circle on the ground and divide it into arcs. Each arc would represent a letter of the alphabet, and some food was put in each section. Priests would then place a chicken in the circle and whichever food it chose, that letter would show the future.
8. Promise and Potential
In certain jobs, you work with your hands a lot. You might be a carpenter, a surgeon, a gold sniper, or a dishwasher. Or maybe you’re like Barrack Obama and prefer to hide your jewels before shaking hands. All these people need to routinely remove their rings. Either that or wear a cheaper, silicone ring that can withstand any loss or damage. Wishbones help here.
A wishbone pendant makes a safe and pretty anchor for your ring, whether it’s on a necklace or a key chain. But beyond that, unbroken wishbones hold the potential to grant wishes. So a gift of a wishbone is portentous during graduation, birthday, retirement, first day at a new job, or even a push present. It infuses good energy that nurtures and unfurls your strengths.
9. Love and Longing
What exactly is a wish? It’s something you want, but that you don’t have yet. So a wishbone can be a powerful symbol when the one you love is far away. They may have gone on a work trip or left the state to study. Maybe they got a good job in a distant land and you both agreed that they needed to go. In this case, the wishbone represents how much you miss each other.
Maybe you wear matching wishbone pendants, earrings, key chains, or tattoos. Every time you touch your jewelry or body art, you’re thinking of the other person and wishing they were with you. That gesture becomes a hope and a prayer for their safety and protection. It offers comfort when they think of you, and keeps you feeling a little less alone in this world.
10. Warmth and Family
Because wishbones are associated with good things and positive feelings, old English communities called the wishbone ritual a ‘merry thought’. It was typically done by children. Grown-ups set the wishbone aside and proffered it to the kids after dinner. But while it’s easy to harvest a wishbone from cooked poultry, it’s a little trickier when the bird is still raw.
The idea is to extract, clean, and dry the wishbone so you can have the kids do their little wishing ceremony later. Or you could use the bone yourself to cast spells and seek ethereal guidance. In this sense, a wishbone represents the warmth of home. It’s about people coming together to enjoy friendly feelings, good food, gratitude, and a sense of communal wellbeing.
11. Multiplied Manifestation
While you can break a wishbone anytime you find one, Americans give the exercise special emphasis during Thanksgiving. Because this typically involves spending the weekend with close friends and family, the wishbone is often dried for three days before the kids get to break it. These additional three days tap into the mystical powers of the number three.
In spiritual spaces, three is the number of creation, completion, and manifestation. So by waiting three days, you enhance the potency of the wishbone in granting wishes. Curiously, the idioms ‘lucky break’ and ‘bad break’ are both derived from wishbones. The lucky break is the bigger piece, while the bad break is the person who gets stuck with the smaller end of it.
12. Resilience and Hope
In addition to tough breaks and lucky breaks, you might hear people speaking of a clean break. This comes from the unlikely case where the wishbone breaks into two equal pieces, splitting right down the middle. Technically, this means both your wishes come true. Of course, people will sometimes fight over the wishbone, wanting all that luck for themselves.
But a wishbone can be a healing tool as well. Maybe somebody you love is deep in depression or anxiety. It could be a medical diagnosis, or it may be event-related due to a disaster, death of a dear one, job loss, or financial misfortune. They might have no hope for the future and very little will to live. Gifting them a wishbone is a spiritual pact to hold on and keep going.
13. Subtly and Discretion
We’ve already noted that wishbone prayers are quiet and calculated. If you speak it out loud, it won’t come true. In this sense, wishbones signify secrecy and wisdom. As they say, real G’s move in silence. This is especially true in the spiritual space. Why? Well, cheerleaders are nice, so it can be encouraging to share your plans and have people supporting your dreams.
But ill winds exist as well, and not everybody wants you to succeed. So if you show your cards to the wrong person or spiritual power, they might sabotage you. It’s why you make your wish wordlessly. You won’t admit your wish to anyone until and unless it comes true. In this context, a wishbone signifies the wisdom of keeping your plans to yourself until they pan out.
14. Agency and Confidence
The ritual of breaking a wishbone follows a given sequence. You prime the bone by cooking the bird, pulling out the bone, cleaning it, and drying it – ideally for three days. Then you make the wish while touching the bone. Finally, you hold your breath and tug. But if you sport an intact wishbone, whether it’s jewelry or a tattoo, the magic works differently.
Every time you touch your ring, necklace, or tattooed skin, you’re making a silent spiritual wish. This is true even when you’re unaware of it because your wishbone symbol becomes a totem of psychological comfort. But remember, even when you wish, your tattoo or trinket remains whole. It means you’re not leaving it to fate – you’re making your own good luck.
15. Healthy Competition
We’ve mentioned that a wishbone is shorthand for family fun and good vibes. Unfortunately, some households dread the holidays because they seem to bring out the worst in everyone. It becomes a chance to air out year-long laundry and reload those big guns. So it can be helpful to turn the winds of fortune your way. Make sure the wishbone always breaks in your favor.
Of course, in the true American spirit, we can now order plastic wishbones by the dozen. That way, everyone at the table gets one, and at least half of you will have your wishes granted. In the spiritual space, wishbones could be a sign of competition or assertiveness. If you’re seeing wishbones in your dreams or as you walk, you may have a stealthy rival nearby.
Do you have more information about the meaning of wishbones? Tell us in the comments!