Sometimes,- or actually, most often I have some random thoughts and questions going through my mind. When A. and I were on our way to an afternoon tea cottage in The Netherlands I had a sneeze – There isn’t a day that goes by without me sneezing – and of course A. said: ,,Bless you.” then he popped the question that I have been thinking about for a little while too: Why do we say ‘bless you’ after someone sneezes?
When I get my mind set on something, I will not let it go before I have a solid answer. So my research began and I have been reading several articles, blogs, papers, journals ,whatever I could find, to get an answer to that burning question of ours.
Here is what I got,
Unfortunately for my own satisfaction, there is not really a solid answer – or one theory – Damn it! -, but it was still very interesting to read these theories about the origin of saying ‘(God) bless you’ when someone is sharing their inner nostril fluid with the world.
THEORY ONE: Soul leaving the body
Some say that the origin of the phrase comes from the ancient time where the superstition was that your soul could be sneezed out of the body, and therefore people would say ‘God bless you‘ as protection.
Bit weird if you ask me, now I just imagine that you sneeze and the soul almost comes out of your nostril and at that moment someone says ‘ GOD BLESS YOU! ‘ and the soul is like: Oh whoops, I better get back in there! …
THEORY TWO: Evil spirits
Let’s talk about another spooky superstition from ancient times: Men used to believe that when a person sneezes, it gives the opportunity for evil spirits to enter the body and take over. And when saying ‘ God bless you ‘ will prevent them from entering. – You guessed it, I thought the same thing again as the first theory -. But also, why only evil spirits? What if a good spirit would like to enter and make your life better or just wants to find a home?
THEORY THREE: Pope Gregory
In the 6th century when the Plague was terrorising the earth, men considered that coughing and sneezing were the first symptoms of the disease. Pope Gregory told everyone to say ‘God bless you’ and making the sign of a cross over the mouth to prevent the disease, offering protection. I find this theory more believable as an origin of the phrase, but that is my opinion.
THEORY FOUR: You regenerated the heart, because your heart stopped.
I think this theory is still believed by some people, even now in 2017. The heart is about to stop, you sneeze and hallelu~! you may live another day.. Well, no..:
Most people take a deep breath before they sneeze which will increase the pressure in your chest, it will lower your blood pressure and increases the heart rate. And when you exhale the tables turn; your blood pressure increases and your heart rate lowers. A doctor called: Christopher Mavogern who is a cardio thoracic surgeon, says that coughing, gagging and other acts have the same effect as sneezing; stimulating the Vagus Nerve – A nerve the stretches from your brain to your abdomen, to keep it simple –. So it is a bit of a ‘yes’ and a bit of a ‘no’ to this theory. So yes it can feel like your heart is skipping a beat, but it actually just slowed down.
So what theory do you believe in? Maybe you believe in none of them, maybe in all of them.