Thursday, November 23, 2006

Clucking furculas!

Researching my book about luck continues to dominate my life. In preparation for the silly season that is Christmas, I've been digging around for the origin of the lucky wishbone.

Yes, I've been fiddling with furculas.

The furcula is the fused collarbones found in birds. And not just birds. They've also been found in the fossil remains of theropod dinosaurs from as far back as 150 million years, which strengthens the pretty much accepted theory that birds are the dinosaurs that survived. Notch up one more point for the Evolutionists. Take that you pesky Creationists!

It was the Etruscans, that mysterious Italian culture that existed before the Romans, who started the whole business of wishbonery by using hens for divination. They would draw a circle on the ground, divide it into 20 segments (one for each letter in their alphabet) and then place some food in each. By following the bird's progress around this living Ouija board, a priest would note the letter order and interpret the messages. Later, when the bird died or was sacrificed, its entrails would be 'read' (Alectromancy) and the wishbone kept and dried. Rubbing it would then grant luck. Once they'd absorbed the Etruscans, the Romans started breaking the bones for luck. And it's gone on ever since.

But, of course, there's always only ever one wishbone per Christmas/ Thanksgiving/ birthday/ Sunday roast dinner. And what about the vegetarians? There's no good luck involved in pulling a carrot. But why should they lose out?

The problem was solved by Seattle entrepreneur Ken Ahroni who, in 1999, developed a plastic wishbone that would break with the same satisfactory snap as a real one. Since then, he's sold millions of them. They're really popular in the USA, especially around Thanksgiving. The vegetarians are happy. The kids are happy. Even the environmentalists are happy as they're biodegradable too. What an inspired idea. Ken's company even produces special edition wishbones to tie in with events like the Superbowl and Presidential elections. But can you find them in the UK? Not a chance. I've been searching everywhere. So, in the end, I contacted Ken and he sent me 100 of them. What a nice chap. His website is here.

I'm planning a mass public snapping.

No comments: