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Friday, March 18, 2011

Witch Watch: Achoo! - A sneeze needn't mean disease

ww Farmington Observer July 29, 1976
Click here to enlarge.

Since the reproduction is so poor and there's not much to add to the article I've typed the entire thing out for you below. I do have to say though that Gundella surely did a lot of research for these pieces and since there was no internet at the time I'm guessing that she spent some time at the library or had an extensive library herself. Of course, encyclopedias were more in demand then but for some of the more specialized topics she was either very well read and had a great memory or put her nose in many books for a relatively speaking small newspaper column. Considering that I can Google most of these facts in a matter of seconds I'm quite impressed with her research.

Achoo! - A sneeze needn't mean disease

Because a sneeze is an involuntary act over which we have very little or no control, many superstitions have grown up around sneezing.

The early Greeks and Romans believed a sneeze to be a signal from the soul that evil influences were near.

In Aristotle's time, it was taken as the first sign of recovery for a person who was gravely ill. Even today in England, it is said that sneezers will enjoy long life.

To the contrary, sneezing during a meal is supposed to be a sure sign of the impending death of someone near you.

If you sneeze on New Year's Eve you will be cursed throughout the coming year unless you hurry to visit three homes before midnight, thereby breaking the curse.

In Estonia, it is said that if two pregnant women sneeze at the same time one of them will have twins.

Some say that Pope Gregory the Great started the custom of blessing sneezes in the sixth century when the great plague swept Europe. The sneeze was one of the early symptoms of the plague, and it became customary to say "God bless you" when someone sneezed or for the sneezer to cry out, "God help me."

Historians say that the familiar nursery rhyme "Ring Around the Rosy" refers to the great plague. "A tishoo, A tishoo, we all fall down" refers to the sneeze, the fatal symbol of the plague and the ensuing death.

Still other early peoples believed that when a person sneezed, his soul actually left his body. Therefore, demons and devils could easily enter and take possession at that time. Thus, they blamed the sneezer.

Fernandio DeSoto, when he first landed on this continent in 1539, was surprised to find out that the Florida Indians blessed their sneezes just as the Spaniards did back home.

Chinese people have been known to put jade in their nostrils to keep their spirits in and the demons out. The Brahmans touch their ears when then they sneeze to keep evil spirits from entering their bodies while their souls are temporarily out.

My own favorite superstitions about sneezers are contained in this old folk rhyme:

Sneeze on Monday, sneeze for danger;
Sneeze on Tuesday, kiss a stranger.
Sneeze on Wednesday, get a letter;
Sneeze on Thursday, something better;
Sneeze on Friday, sneeze for sorrow;
Sneeze on Saturday, joy tomorrow;
Sneeze on Sunday, see your sweetheart on Monday.

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