Once the merrythought is dry, it is given to two people (usually children), 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 revelaed to anyone. (The belief that a wish must be kept secret to ensure its fulfillment also occurs in "first star" and birthday candle wishing rituals).
In its intact form, the wishbone itself does not confer good luck, but it holds the promise of luck to the one who gets the longer half. Because of its association with conviviality and festive dinners, the wishbone has a long history of use in holiday cards. This postcard, dating from the postcard mania period of 1906-1918, is one of many in my collection that shows a merrythought with holly as a Christmas or New Year party amulet. 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.
Here are some more LUCKY W pages on which wishbones appear:
SEARCH THIS SITE: a local search
engine and a named link to each Lucky Mojo page
Lucky Mojo Site Map: a descriptive entry-level index to the whole Lucky Mojo pile
Lucky W Amulet Archive Home Page: an online museum of folk-magic charms
Sacred Sex Home Page: essays on tantra yoga, karezza, sex magic, and sex worship
The Sacred Landscape Home Page: essays on archaeoastronomy and sacred geometry
Freemasonry for Women Home Page: a history of mixed-gender Freemasonic lodges
The Lucky Mojo Curio Co.: manufacturers of spiritual supplies for hoodoo and conjure
The Comics Warehouse: a source for back-issues of comic books and trading cards
catherine yronwode, the eclectic and eccentric author of all the above web pages
nagasiva yronwode: tyaginator, nigris (333), nocTifer, lorax666, boboroshi, !
The Lucky Mojo Esoteric Archive: captured internet files on occult and spiritual topics
copyright © 1995-2000 catherine yronwode. All rights reserved.
Send your comments to: cat yronwode.