W is my 17 year-old brother. He was born and raised in Utah, like me. He wishes on shooting stars because they are so rare. By wishing on such a rare thing, your wish will come true. But you can’t simply make a wish, you must also recite a specific phrase. W believes he first heard the phrase from his mother, who got it from her mother. The phrase has been passed down through generations as a positive superstition for getting wishes granted.
“Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight;
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have the wish I wish tonight.”
There are many different ways to make wishes, like blowing out birthday candles or loose eyelashes. Wishing upon a star has been around for centuries, and like the other wishing ways, originated because of the rarity of the event. Everyone has wishes, but wishes rarely come true. By wishing your wish on something as equally rare, there is supposedly a higher chance of the wish coming true. The saying itself seems to speak to a higher existence, unlike other wishing spells, which are just spoken internally. Because of that, wishers are not just saying their wish to anyone, but to what they think will grant the wish.
Informant: “One interesting thing I remember doing as a kid was wishing on a star. The idea was that you had to wish on the first star you see at night, so if there was only one star in the sky, you would make a wish and not tell anyone, and it would come true.”
Informant’s daughter: “That’s weird, I had always heard the same thing, except it was supposed to be a shooting star, not the first star in the night sky.”
Informant: “Yeah, it was supposed to be the very first star you see. I actually don’t remember where I first heard about this, I don’t think I heard it from my mother. I think it was just something that kids would say. I know my sister and I both did this, and we would always wish for the same thing. We had a cousin who was blind, and we would both always wish that she wouldn’t be blind anymore…She’s still blind, so I guess that says a lot about how well this works…”
Informant is a middle aged mother of three who lives in the suburbs in the Midwestern United States. She identifies as of “American” heritage, which she bases on her admission that she never particularly looked into her family’s European heritage. The informant’s daughter is a recent college graduate.
Collector Analysis: It’s curious to see how for this particular piece of folklore, not only does the informant not know where she first heard it, but the informant’s daughter had heard an entirely different version of the same piece of folklore, making this folklore the inverse of a generational piece of folklore. Yet at the same time, there is some familial aspect to it, as shown by the fact that the informant’s sister had the same belief, and that the two of them would always use their wish to try to help their cousin.