The superstitious ritual of breaking a wishbone has been around for centuries with an interesting history rooted in Medieval Europe. As far as historians and archaeologists can tell, in 15th Century Europe the Etruscans, an ancient Italian civilization, believed geese had supernatural visionary powers as oracle birds with these prophetic powers residing within its bones. The Etruscans observed the migratory behavior of geese and believed their reappearance each year signaled the return of the sun, the arrival of spring, and with it, fertility and prosperity.
The day to celebrate the magical and prophetic powers of the goose was November 11, Saint Martin’s day. After feasting on a fattened goose its bones would be dried in the sun, and the next day the breastbone in particular would be examined to predict the severity of the approaching winter. A dark wishbone predicted a severe winter, whereas a lighter color forecast a mild winter.
In 1455 German physician, Dr. Hartleib witnessed and described this practice, and also noted that the Teutonic knights of the time would use a goose’s wishbone to determine the most advantageous time to wage war. Continue Reading →