Origin of Common Superstitions Sneezing and Bless You

About the origin of the superstition of saying bless you after a person sneezes, ancient fears of the soul and breath.


If you are in the presence of someone who sneezes, protect him from danger by saying, "God bless you," or "Gesundheit." Other acceptable blessings are "Long may you live," or "May you enjoy good health."

Origin. Ancient man believed that his breath was also his soul or "essence of life." When God made man, he "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life." A rapid departure of that breath--a sneeze--is the same as expelling life from one's body. Also, it leaves a vacuum in the head which evil spirits can enter. Roman citizens feared sneezing when a plague hit their city during the reign of Pope Gregory the Great. Since they regarded the sneeze as a sure sign of approaching sickness, Pope Gregory in situated the use of the phrase "God bless you" to shield sneezers from any ill effects.

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