The Ritual of the Wishbone
Where do you get your ideas?
Since the release of my Horror/Thriller, WISHBONE, this question is probably the one I’m asked most often—second only to `Hey, I’ve got a great idea for a book…want me to tell it to you?’
Ideas come from the What if File in the recesses of my brain; which inundates me with worst case scenarios. See…where you might look at a microwave as a place to warm up old coffee, I see it as a potential portal of disaster just waiting to turn on man. This also goes for kittens, teddy bears, bubble baths, and yes, wishbones.
In the case of my book, WISHBONE, a friend and I were watching a particularly crappy horror film where yet another beloved, fuzzy pet turned on man…it might have been bunnies or a Capuchin monkey, or a gerbil, but it was some innocent (adorable) creature that suddenly wreaked havoc on a small town thanks to spilled nuclear waste or something along those lines. Either way, it was not a species with a track record of taking down humans. I turned to my friend and said, What’s next…Killer chickens? I said this to be funny, and only because I couldn’t think of anything less capable of ferocity. What started as a joke got that What If File to open and while we sat their sipping wine and chatting about the neighbors obnoxious kids pounding a ball against my house, my subconscious went to work spinning the skeleton of what would later become the horror/thriller, WISHBONE. After that, it was a matter of taking the idea and creating the twist that would put some meat in the proverbial stew…and that comes purely from a warped imagination, I guess.
To follow is the history of the wishbone ritual which most of us grew up performing, especially at the Thanksgiving table, with a sibling or cousin. We did it because our parents taught it to us, as their parents had taught them, and because the prospect of winning and having our wish come true, was the most magnificent idea we could imagine, but where had the tradition begun?
The wishbone is one-third of the great Euro-American lucky charm triumvirate (along with the horseshoe and the four-leaf clover). To be precise, the bone is the sternum or breastbone of a bird. It is customary to air-dry the bone for three days until it is brittle and will easily crack; though, for many families, the traditional game is played immediately at the meal table, straight from the cooked bird and without drying time. The wishbone is held evenly between two people using only two fingers while each make a silent wish and pull the bone apart until it cracks in two. The person with the larger half will have his or herwish come true, provided their wish remain a secret and never be shared. If the wishbone breaks evenly; both parties get their wishes – though an even break is extremely rare if at all possible.
In its intact form, the wishbone itself is not symbolic of good luck, but it holds the promise of wishes come true. The ritual may be rooted in ancient history. People have been partaking in various forms of the wishbone game for centuries. Long before the chicken or turkey tradition, the goose-bone was used in Medieval Europe. Geese were thought to have supernatural powers through which a divine spirit may foretell their future.
Edward A. Armstrong in “The Folklore of Birds” (Dover Publications, 1970) cites an early reference to divination by the use of the wishbone of a goose. Armstrong says in 1455, Dr. Hartlieb, a Bavarian physician, wrote: “When the goose has been eaten on St. Martin’s Day or Night, the oldest and most sagacious keeps the breast-bone and allowing it to dry until the morning examines it all around, in front, behind and in the middle. Thereby they divine whether the winter will be severe or mild, dry or wet, and are so confident in their prediction that they will wager their goods and chattels on its accuracy.”
At some point through the ages, what we now refer to as the wishbone became known as the merry-thought bone. Early American settlers brought the wishbone tradition from Europe where the goose-bone was eventually replaced with the more common chicken and turkey bones for this fun and superstitious mealtime ritual determining whose wish will come true.
In my book, the wishbones are certainly not symbolic of merry thoughts. They represent the (I believe) misguided perception that having something more will bring happiness…If I only had that job, that house, that car, more money…True happiness is found within folks. In WISHBONE, Julien and Rachael found this out the hard way.
On the very first page of my book there is a quote from Ben Franklin…
If a man could have half of his wishes, he would double his troubles.
After writing WISHBONE and witnessing how the grass in Kings Hollow is not always greener on the other side, I tend to agree with Ben.
WISHBONE is available in both Kindle and Paperback on Amazon.com