Why a Wishbone?
- Published:15th Jul 2016
What’s with the furcula and why is it lucky?
The furcular (or wishbone as its more commonly known) is a long-held symbol of good luck, traditionally standing for a wish or a desire. When unbroken, it means a wish will be fulfilled in the near future, however it is also believed that when a wishbone is pulled by two people then the one who wins the majority of the wishbone also wins a wish. Now I don’t know about you, but I can vividly remember wishing for a pony whenever I won a wishbone, alas, the pony never arrived.
Now where did this strange tradition even come from?
This custom has been dated back to the early 16th century and the origin of this custom came from the Etruscans, an ancient Italian civilization.
The furcula bone - known as a ‘merrythought’ in those days - from a goose or chicken was used, as birds were believed at the time to have supernatural powers and were seen as oracle birds that see into the future. The furcula bone is the fusion of two clavicles. Clavicles aren’t unique to birds though, we have them too. We know unfused clavicles as collarbones.
Etruscans developed a ritual that basically turned their chickens into walking ouija boards and this ritual was called alectryomancy.
A circle would be drawn and divided into segments that represented letters of the Etruscan alphabet and bits of food were scattered in each segment. The chicken was placed in the centre of the circle and as the bird fed the Etruscans would write down the letters in the order of when the chicken fed. This 'message' would then be used to predict the future and answer questions. Once a chicken was killed, the furcula was laid out in the sun so that people could stroke the bone and make wishes on it.
Luckily, we’ve moved on from there. The practice of breaking a wishbone for good luck became common place, cementing the wishbone as a symbol of good luck in society. By the 1930s, the wishbone had become a common image on good luck coins, and one could even buy little gold or silver wishbone charms.
The symbol of the wishbone went on to make a popular revival in the 70’s vintage style fashion and, with 70’s tastes having a resurgence in modern fashion in recent years, the wishbone has become one of the most popular designs to spring back up. It’s simple but elegant design, combined with its long history of good luck and positive energy no doubt contributed to this re-falling in love with the wishbone as a fashion symbol.
I have teamed up with Alice's Pig to show you how we've bought back the wishbone on their pretty vintage style fashion. Also, above is a sneak peak of their new A/W collection. The good luck ascribed to the wishbone, or furcular, could be just an old wives’ tale… or maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow to a pony outside my office…
Katie Mullally is a jewellery designer who creates vintage inspired Hallmarked jewellery. Click here to view her website
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