Thanksgiving is just a few days away. This chapter of ORIGINS looks into superstitions surrounding the holiday, such as breaking the wishbone, and dives deeper into some “fowl” play involving mystic chickens and an uprising of Walking Dead Turkeys. Butter your biscuits for Chapter 16!
Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so what better time to take a look at the ORIGINS of this holiday. We all know the story of the pilgrims and Indians (the Wampanoag Indians or Wampanoag Native Americans) and how they broke bread together and the beloved turkey they supposedly shared (which was more accurately venison and water fowl…but there’s nothing interesting or supernatural in that account so we won’t go into a history lesson here). What I was curious about as I began my research was anything evil or “fowl” (see what I did there? I’ll be here all week.) and I found a few interesting things about the wishbones, supernatural chickens, and more.
Let’s start with a bit of the unsupernatural: David Letterman says that a popular tradition among New Yorkers is to forego buying a frozen bird and opt to purchase a live one. Why? To shove it in front of a subway train of course. No truth has been confirmed in that statement. In San Francisco’s Chinatown, engaged couples chain locks to the Golden Gate Bridge and throw away the keys. This is an ancient Chinese superstition, to leave padlocks on a bridge to ward off any bad spirits of separation and loss in a new couples’ future together. Other traditions include the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Presidential pardon. Instituted by Lincoln according to some schools of thought, the President pardons one lucky turkey who is sent to Disney to lead the Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Here are a few silly old wives’ tales, superstitions, and omens related to the turkey:
- Eating a child’s turkey leftovers produces naughty children, so make sure your leftovers are labeled properly.
- If your family members are not gathered around your table for the meal, one of them will die within the next year, so invite accordingly and you can plan ahead for both events.
- If you want to move out of your apartment or in-laws basement, prepare the entire Thanksgiving Day meal yourself and you will get a new home within the year. This one should be on every realtor’s to do list. Free Turkey with the purchase of your new home.
- For those of you who generally have dry or burned turkeys, just knock on a wood board three times and it will be delicious.
- Popcorn is a lucky dessert because during the first Thanksgiving, several Wampanoag who disliked the Pilgrims disappeared into the woods and the frightened Pilgrims feared their deaths until the Indians appeared carrying baskets of popped corn to share.
Now let’s dive into the fun stuff: The wishbone is a well-known, common practice at Thanksgiving. Two people grab the bird’s clavicle, make a silent wish, and tug as hard as they can until the bone cracks. Whoever gets the biggest portion is slated to receive what they wish for. Customarily, newlyweds are to be given the Thanksgiving wishbone to procure good luck throughout their marriage. It’s a really bizarre connection: good luck to cracking a bone in half. Maybe the term “break a leg” comes to mind, another offering of luck that includes breaking bones. If that’s the standard, I think the mob should have lots of luck, don’t you?
The wishbone has its roots in ancient Italy. Chickens were thought to hold divination powers. The Etruscan women would even choose husbands by spreading feed along a chart of letters and seeing where the hens pecked and whose name it spelled, like a Ouija board…but with chickens. Alectryomancy or “rooster divination” was the practice performed by priests and scribes to solve communal problems like thievery. The Trashmen really capitalized on this in their 1963 Surf Rock single “Bird is the Word”, which may have a different meaning now that we understand Chicken Ouija Powers.
According to astrology, the best time to ask a chicken a question is when the sun and moon are in Leo and Aries, and it’s best to use either a black hen or a young white rooster. But if everything tastes like chicken, should it really matter the color or age of the one you use to get mystical answers? I’m thinking no. The bird is killed, the wishbone left to dry in the sun, and passerbys could lift it, stroke it, and make a wish. If the bone was so lucky, why’d the chicken get killed?
There is a certain chicken that is black inside and out known as “The Lamborghini of Poultry.” I know what you’re thinking. How many horsepower does that baby have and does it run on regular unleaded or 1.21 gigawatts? Selling for upwards of $2500.00 per bird, the “ayam cemani” chicken is native to the Indonesian island of Java with black feathers sleek as a panther’s fur, licorice colored beak and talons, plus internal organs, muscles, and bones the color of pitch. It’s like a dark chocolate Easter treat but it tastes like, well, chicken. While most people don’t eat this beautiful ebony bird, they are interested in its magical blood. The ruby red blood contains healing qualities and can even reverse bad luck (except for the chicken of course, whose spilled blood provided its host with no luck at all). With higher than average iron counts, this persnickety poultry is said to be beneficial to mothers before and after labor. They are even sacrificed as an omen of fortune for the mother during childbirth. Others swear that eating this supernatural creature can ease their conscience, bring them luck, and crowing fosters prosperity.
The Chicken Animal Totem is believed to be a strong spirit and one of the most influential of all the totem animals. Chicken Animal pearls have been used by priests, priestesses, and other believers in the occult to bring Chicken Energy into the possessor, basing the power of the pearl on the magical virtues of the owner. Sacred Chicken Totems have abilities including:
- Absorbing ideas
- Guarding space
- Fertility and creativity
- Sensing danger
- Individuality and uniqueness
- Teaching, knowledge and independence in groups
In pop culture, avian abilities have been given to many superheros, such as wing manifestation for flying, claw retraction, hollow skeletons, agility, balance, and endurance. To honor Thanksgiving in a way that I’m sure has never been done before, let’s take a look at six of the top superheroes with bird powers:
Robin. My all-time favorite version of Robin is from Teen Titans Go. I have a ten year old who introduced me to this show, and like most parents I tolerate the horrors of tween television for my children’s sake. This show is the exception. I have watched it alone. Ironically, Robin has no bird features to brag about, except small wings in some depictions and goggles, which in birdology could be used to see the earth’s magnetic fields, like European robins, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard that correlation before. Have you?
Black Condor. With black feather wings and a face painted to the contours of its namesake, Black Condor flies due to genetic manipulation. He has limited telepathic abilities, telekinesis, and a rapid rate of healing. He is ruthless, fast, and strong, just like the bird he represents. Condors are among the largest flying birds in the world with a ten-foot wingspan to boot.
Hawk and Dove. Polar opposites, Hawk represents war while Dove symbolizes peace. Working as a team, these superheros embody their spirit animals well. Hawk is full of gusto, punches, and instigates tension. Dove is wimpy, soft, and ready to resolve situations. They came into pop culture in the 60s when war and peace were popular abstracts on everyone’s mind.
Nighthawk. The Batman of Marvel™, Nighthawk wears a feathered cape with high shoulders and looks as intimidating and regal as any hawk in the sky. Originally a bad guy with anger issues, he quickly switched sides and even became an Avenger. Like a real hawk, his intimidation and power, strength and agility make him one of our favorite avian based heroes.
Hawkman. Okay, now we’re just getting redundant. Wearing a hawk helmet and a pair of massive wings, this superhero is like the crotchety old man telling people to get off his lawn, only he uses a mace instead of words.
Falcon. The breakout star of Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier, Falcon has a mental connection to all birds enabling him to see what they see. He is also an excellent bird trainer. As a gymnast, he is also skilled in hand-to-hand combat and never lets his protective bird wings get in his way. He communicates with his pet falcon named Redwing (yes, he has a pet falcon) through telepathic abilities, which I personally think is a much cooler superhero name than Falcon, but what do I know? And of course, this superhero can fly.
This Thanksgiving, you might try to create a tur-duck-en only see if Falcon or Nighthawk aren’t busy and might like to come join you for dinner. They can even carve the bird on bird on bird. And how cool would it be to break a wishbone and win against a mega-strong superhero like Hawkman? That would be my wish. If you wanted to mess with your family, you could replace the duck with a $2500 ayam cemani, but then you’d probably have to charge a cover fee per family member of at least $250 just to cover the meal. I doubt even that bird is tasty enough to garner those cover fees. Worst case, if you burn your Thanksgiving turkey this year because you didn’t knock on that board three times, you can just tell everyone they are eating the Lamborghini of Poultry and that the pitch black skin and meat are supposed to look that way.
I’m Jaimie Engle, and you’ve just discovered ORIGINS.
ORIGINS is a bi-weekly podcast that shares the story behind legends and lore, where myth and science meet; written and produced by me, award-winning author Jaimie Engle of The Write Engle. If you like stories with a supernatural slant, I happen to write them. Please follow on all social media @theWRITEengle. I follow back. As always, subscribing, liking, and sharing this podcast is your greatest compliment. Thank you. I’ve also opened a Patreon account. If you like what you hear, consider donating a buck a month to say thanks. And finally, stick around and be dazzled by a short story from my book The Toilet Papers titled “Turkey Zombies: A Thanksgiving Tale of Terror” about a Thanksgiving when people weren’t turkeys, turkeys were eating people.
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