Predicting Weather with a Wishbone

Foretelling Weather: The Ol' Goose Bone Method

By Warren Evans
November 23, 2020

Can you really predict weather with a wishbone? Back around the turn of the last century, in the days before the National Weather Service, the so-called goose bone method was a famous weather-forecasting technique. Here’s how to try it at home.

Of course, many of us have broken the dried “wishbone” with another person. The person who ends up with the larger part of the bone gets to make their wish. Some of us may even recall that old-fashioned pastime of making wishbone necklaces.

A Wishbone for Weather Predicting?

An even more peculiar use for the wishbone was to use it as a sort of weather instrument. Here’s how it worked, according to the author:

Around Thanksgiving, a bird from a local farm would be slaughtered and cooked. Our tradition was to bring home a goose.

Grandma would roast it, carve it, and serve it, always being careful not to cut the wishbone from the carcass.

After the goose had been eaten, she would carefully remove the wishbone and cut away all the meat and fat left clinging to it. Grandpa would take the bone and put it on a shelf to dry, keeping an eye out for the coloration that would follow. If the bone turned blue, black, or purple, a cold winter lay ahead.

  • White indicated a mild winter.
  • Purple tips were a sure sign of a cold spring.
  • A blue color branching out toward the edge of the bone, meant open weather until New Year’s Day.
  • If the bone was a dark color, or blue all over, the prediction was for a really bad winter.

That’s all there was to it. 

There is a logical explanation—sort of:

  • An overall dark color meant that the bird had absorbed a lot of oil, which acted as a natural protection against the cold.
  • The darker the blue coloring, the tougher the winter ahead would probably be.

Image: The 1980 Old Farmer’s Almanac

Of course, back in the day, all the geese were local and not factory-farmed. Just like persimmon seeds and woolly worm caterpillars, not just any goose will do!

Would this work for any fowl, including the Thankgiving turkey? Try it out and see what you think. 


The 1980 Old Farmer's Almanac


Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

We used to always butcher a

We used to always butcher a Goose for Thanksgiving and my Dad would look at the goose backbone and would see what kind of winter we was going to have and it was ALWAYS correct. These were farm raised geese.

Mmmmmmmmm, sounds like a wild

Mmmmmmmmm, sounds like a wild goose tale...

it may but there are a lot of

it may but there are a lot of crazy beliefs in this world

I would guess that it would

I would guess that it would be a wild goose. Wild animals depend on instinct more than farm-raised ones. A wild goose going on instinct would know what sort of diet habits to adapt if it felt a cold winter coming on. A farm-raised goose would eat whatever it was fed.

Good article. I have never

Good article. I have never heard of this method. My thought though is does it make a difference if the goose was wild or farm raised?

i would also think it would

i would also think it would be wild