history of saying “bless you” after sneezing

So I went to my computer and typed “bless you sneeze” in the search bar and guess what came right up as the top two results. That’s right — Wikipedia — with the title “God bless you.” (It’s almost always Wikipedia, isn’t it?)

So Wikipedia says it started way back near Bible times, but in 590 Pope Gregory I commanded everyone to say “God bless you” after someone sneezed because there was a plague going around and sneezing was one of the first symptoms of the plague. So it made sense that a blessing from God might help you. And Wikipedia added that later on, people used to think when you sneezed, your soul would shoot out of your body and the devil could get a hold of it so “God bless you” was supposed to protect your soul.

Then I went to another favorite site of mine– Snopes.com— and looked up “God bless you” and there was a cool article with all the different theories about where people thought the expression started. The new thing I learned was that some people used to think your heart stopped when you sneezed — which isn’t really true — so the blessing was to help you recover. But then it also said in some societies, a sneeze was considered good luck so “

Bless you” was kind of like “Thank you.”
So let me get this straight. Someone sneezes on you and that’s good luck? NAnd none of the other reasons for the blessing really make sense nowadays, do they, except for my mom’s original idea. It’s to bless you because you’re a little bit “sick.” B

ut actually you could just have a piece of dust up your nose and I don’t know if you need a blessing for that. I mean it wouldn’t hurt, but we don’t get blessed for coughing, throwing up, running into a doorframe — hey, some of us aren’t that coordinated — or doing an arm fart, do we? And a good argument could be made in all those cases that you could use a little divine help, couldn’t it?
Isn’t it interesting how a custom that started hundreds of years ago for a good reason back then keeps on going and going even though we don’t really believe in the reasons for it now?


Posted on January 14, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on history of saying “bless you” after sneezing.

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