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The Mystery, History and Magic of Making a Wish

The Mystery, History and Magic of Making a Wish
on February, 01 2013

Making a wish

How many times have you heard your friends and family say that you have to make a wish prior to blowing the candles set on your birthday cake? It is safe to assume that you really did make a wish. Whatever your wish is, it is a custom that had been handed down for generations. How about throwing a coin in a fountain or a wishing well? Or you’ve pulled several wishbones with your friends to see who’s got the larger piece after making a wish. Maybe the wish came true, maybe not. Nevertheless, wishing for something good does not hurt anyone.

The lore and the legend of making a wish may not have been established but it sure is a common practice. So whatever the reason for making a wish, let us take a look at the historical, magical and mysterious story of making a wish.


It is fascinating to know that the simple wishbone from a fowl’s breast has a long history of use in divination. Did you know that using it to foretell the immediate future started with the Etruscans? The civilization existed in Italy from 600 BC. They believed that the hen and the rooster could tell fortunes. Why? Because a hen clucks before laying eggs and a rooster crows when dawn is near. The chicken was sacred to them and the clavicle bone was dried when the fowl was killed. The dry clavicle bone was stroked by someone who wanted to make a wish, and this tradition was the origin of the term, “wishbone.” The Romans brought the tradition to Britain, where it evolved into breaking the wishbone. The English Pilgrims brought it to America. They found out that turkeys also had the same bone and it became part of the Thanksgiving tradition to pull the wishbone apart to see who got to make the wish.

Wishing Wells

Their origin is not definite but the practice has long been observed since ancient times. It is believed to be part of Celtic and Romano-British mythology. When the archeological excavation in Northumberland in England unearthed Coventina’s Well, it also unearthed about 16,000 coins issued from different eras of Rome, some of which were as early as the first century. Archeologists presume that people threw coins into the well while making a wish to goddess Coventina. She is known as the goddess of springs and wells, also the goddess of healing, and associated with abundance, renewal and childbirth. Wishing wells and fountains are located around the world so making a wish is easier.

Candles on Birthday Cakes

This is a tradition that was started by the Ancient Greeks, with the round cake and a candle to symbolize the moon and pay homage to Artemis, the moon goddess, with the candle representing the moon’s reflected light. It is believed that the smoke from the candles carries the wishes up high to where the gods and goddesses live, that is why a birthday celebrant is often told to silently make a wish prior to blowing out the candles.

Bernadine Racoma

Bernadine is a writer, researcher, professional and multi-awarded blogger and new media consultant. She brings with her a rich set of experience in the corporate world, as well as in the field of research and writing. Having taken early retirement after working as an international civil servant and traveling the world for 22 years, she has aggressively pursued her main interest in writing and research. You can also find Bernadine Racoma at .

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