As it turns out, the Pilgrims were innocent. It was the poultry-worshipping Etruscans about 2500 years ago. They were quite sure that domestic fowl had fortune-telling capabilities and they used chickens as precursors to our modern day Ouija boards. They drew a large circle in the dirt and divided it into twenty parts, each part representing a letter of the Etruscan alphabet. Then they scattered grain and set their feathered fortune teller to work. Soothsayers eagerly copied down the letters chosen by the hungry birds and tried to find deeper meaning in their pecking.
When a sacred chicken was killed, its clavicle was laid in the sun to dry. The Etruscans liked the clavicle because it was shaped, well -- I don't really like to go in this direction on the blog, but here it is -- it was shaped like a human crotch and so it represented the repository of life. Understandably, a dried chicken clavicle was a pretty lucky thing to have. People touched it for good luck and made wishes on its magical powers, dubbing it the wishbone. But not everyone was lucky enough to have a wishbone and scarcity brought out some unfortunate behaviors: fighting, wrestling, hair pulling, toga yanking. In the scuffle, understandably, a wishbone or two was broken. And so the wishbone breaking tradition was born. The Etruscans passed it on to the Romans who passed it on to the British, who brought it over on the Mayflower. Imagine the thrill of the Pilgrims when they found turkeys--fowls with wishbones big enough to turn any Etruscan green with envy.
So, without further ado, the wishbone breaking of 2008. Our kids have a hard time waiting 4-6 days and we've found the microwave can significantly speed up the drying process. Alas, Abby, our child who jumped around all morning wondering if the wishbone was ready because she had some good wishes, did not get a lucky break. And yes, that term comes courtesy of the Etruscans; the Etruscans and their wishbone breaking ways.