Predicting Weather with a Wishbone

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Foretelling Weather: The Ol' Goose Bone Method

Warren Evans
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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. 

About The Author

The Editors

Under the guiding hand of its first editor, Robert B. Thomas, the premiere issue of The Old Farmer’s Almanac was published in 1792. Read More from The Editors

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