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Ticklish Superstitions About Sneezes

by Shelly Tucker on August 8, 2013©

ragweed plant I don’t believe in the old superstitions, but it’s that time of year when I find myself “blessing” people left and right as they sneeze … and, boy howdy, do people sneeze at this time of year! In fact, in Texas, people sneeze constantly because allergy season seems to be year-round. The ragweed proliferates, and so do the “Bless you”s.

Sometimes people are offended by my “bless you,” but I continue to do it even if they don’t want to be blessed. I don’t know why I do this. It’s just a habit because, I repeat, I am not superstitious. It can be a little bit ticklish, because I bless total strangers, whisper “bless you” when people are too far away to hear, and interrupt conversations to bless people. I’ll say “Bless you” if I hear someone sneeze on the other side of the courthouse lawn. Heck, if no one is around when I sneeze, I’ll even bless myself.

While I don’t believe them, I like reading about old superstitions. Since I enjoyed sharing thirteen superstitions about brooms last Thursday, I decided that this Thursday, I would share thirteen superstitions about sneezes. If you have some to add, please feel free to comment! I would love to hear them.

Some people say that the practice of saying “Bless you” when a person sneezes only dates back to the Great Plague of the seventeenth century, when sneezing was one of the early symptoms of the dread disease and blessing someone had serious intent. However, records exist of similar traditions all the way back to the early Greeks … and nearly every culture has some superstition associated with sneezing. The breath was often considered the essence of the soul, and it was presumed that a person’s soul could leave the body through a sneeze! However, in some instances people felt that a sneeze was good luck. Here are a fraction of the superstitions that I found:

Thirteen Superstitions About Sneezes

  1. The longer version of “bless you” is “May God bless you and the Devil miss you.”
  2. Sneezes meant different things on different days of the week in England during the 1800s. During allergy season here in Texas, when we are sneezing every doggone day, I guess all these things are going to happen:
    Sneeze on a Monday, sneeze for danger
    Sneeze on a Tuesday, kiss a red-headed stranger;
    Sneeze on a Wednesday, sneeze for a letter;
    Sneeze on a Thursday, something better;
    Sneeze on a Friday, sneeze for sorrow;
    Sneeze on a Saturday, see your sweetheart tomorrow.
    Sneeze on a Sunday, safety seek for the Devil will own you the rest of the week.
  3. Sneezing before putting on one’s shoes was reputed to be a bad omen, although other traditions claim that if you sneeze first thing in the morning you will get a letter in the mail [I think that with the current financial state of the Post Office, the Postmaster General is encouraging sneezing as a way of supporting the postal service.].
  4. A sneeze before beginning work was a sign in India that the work would not go well, so you may as well not work!
  5. Germanic tribes believed that if a man sneezed first thing in the morning, he should lie down again for another 3 hours or his wife would be his master for a week.
  6. According to Southern folklore, a sneeze while sitting at the table was a sure sign that the person sneezing will make a new friend before they sit down for their next meal.
  7. In Scotland, it was believed that “idiots” were incapable of sneezing … therefore, it is with relief that I can tell you that I am not an idiot (although some would debate that question)!
  8. For that reason, and others, a baby’s first sneeze was considered important (it meant the child was normal). In the British Isles it was thought that infants were under a fairy spell until they sneezed.
  9. Two people sneezing simultaneously will result in good luck for both of them.
  10. Be careful about the direction of your sneeze! A sneeze to the right is lucky, but a sneeze to the left is unlucky (particularly if one is at sea or near a grave). A sneeze aimed straight ahead means that good news will come your way.
  11. In Japan, if you sneeze once then you are being praised. If you sneeze twice, you are being slandered. If you sneeze three times you are being admired. Four sneezes means you are catching a cold.
  12. In many different traditions, it is believed that someone who sneezes while talking is undoubtedly telling the truth.
  13. A tickling nose that refuses to become a sneeze may be interpreted as an indication that one is the object of another person’s secret longing.

So, there you have it. Now, don’t hold back your sneezes, because your brains might explode if you do (no I just made that one up), but remember that the Welsh folk believed that every time you sneezed you expel a demon. If that is so, I had no idea that so many people were possessed!

{ 1 comment }

WOL August 9, 2013 at 7:01 am

It was my impression that when one sneezed, the Devil could sneak into you while you were distracted by the sneeze. Blessing someone when they sneezed forestalled this. There are people who reflexively sneeze when they emerge from a dimly lit place into bright sunlight, and it’s genetic. Spanish speaking people don’t say “Achoo” when they sneeze. They say “Achis” and the French say “Atchoum” In many cultures, the response to someone sneezing is to wish or command them to be healthy, which is what Gesundheit! is. It’s German for “Have Health!” Sometimes, I say Gesundsneeze instead, just because.

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