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Superstitions About Sneezing

Although sneezing is the body’s reaction to an irritant in your nose. When your nasal membrane is irritated, your body reacts by forcing air through your nose and mouth in a sneeze – a mini-explosion. If, however, you’re continually sneezing, then you’ve probably got some other underlying condition or an allergy.

For something as simple and biologically natural as this, it’s amazing how many superstitions have sprung up. Sneezing is interpreted and symbolized in different ways in cultures across the world.

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Superstitions about sneezing are as old as time itself and can be found in every corner of the globe. Let’s take a look at some of the most common superstitions about sneezing.

Common Superstitions About Sneezing

  • While sneezing between noon and midnight is considered a sign of good luck in some parts of the world, it is considered a bad omen in others.
  • The direction in which the head is turned dictates whether the person will have resounding good luck or be struck with bad luck. If the head is turned to the right when sneezing, there will only be good luck awaiting, while to the left means that bad luck is inevitable.
  • If you sneeze while dressing, this means that something bad may happen that day.
  • If a person sneezes during a conversation, they are telling the truth.
  • In ancient times, a sneeze was a cause to be celebrated as it was believed that the person was rid of all evil spirits around them.
  • Two people sneezing simultaneously is considered a sign that the Gods are blessing them with good health.
  • Some believe that if you sneeze, it means that someone is thinking about you.
  • In some Asian cultures, one sneeze means that someone is gossiping about you, but saying nice things. Two sneezes mean they’re saying negative things, while three sneezes mean they’re really backstabbing you.
  • While it’s believed that your heart will stop when you sneeze, in reality, this doesn’t happen.

Sneezing Superstitions Across Different Cultures

Sneezing myths
  • Europeans in the Middle Ages associated life with breath and by sneezing, a lot of it was expelled. Because of this, they believed that it was a bad omen when a person sneezed, and some tragedy would occur in the days to come.
  • In Poland, a sneeze signifies that a person’s mother-in-law is talking ill of them behind their backs. If, however, the sneezer is single, the sneeze meant that they would have a rocky relationship with their in-laws.
  • Sneezing was seen as a revelation from the Gods by the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, but it could mean either good fortune or a bad omen, depending on how it was interpreted.
  • The Chinese believe that the time of day when a person sneezes holds significance when interpreting it’s meaning. If the person sneezes in the morning, it shows that there is someone who misses them. Sneezing in the afternoon meant that there was an invitation on the way. And best of all, sneezing at night was a sign that the person would soon meet a dear friend.
  • In Armenia, sneezing is said to predict the future and how likely a person is to accomplish their aims. While one sneeze signifies that the person is not very likely to achieve their goals but sneezing two times means that nothing can stop the person from being successful.
  • Indians believe that sneezing when stepping out to go somewhere is inauspicious and have made it a ritual to drink a little water to break the curse.
  • Italians on the other hand believe it to be an extremely good sign to hear a cat sneeze as it is said to expel all negativity and bad luck. A happy marriage is guaranteed to the bride who hears it on the day of her wedding. But if the cat sneezes thrice, it foretells that the whole family will soon come down with a cold.
  • In some cultures, an infant’s sneeze is interpreted in various ways. In Britain, babies are believed to be under a fairy’s spell until they sneeze for the first time, after which the fairy will not abduct them.
  • In Polynesian culture, sneezing signifies that there will be some good news. But it also means bad luck for the family according to Tongan beliefs. Māori superstitions dictate that a child sneezing meant there is going to be a visitor soon.

Blessing a Person Who Sneezes

Regardless of where in the world you are, there is almost always a phrase said to a person who has just sneezed, whether it is “bless you” or “Gesundheit.

In fact, people in the olden times believed that when a person sneezed, their soul left the body and only by saying a prayer would the soul be protected from being stolen by the devil. There are also some who believe that when a person sneezes, their heart stops for that second.

People would also bless those who sneezed because it was a symptom of the Black Death – the terrible plague that destroyed whole communities during the Middle Ages. If a person sneezed, it meant that they had likely caught the plague. They didn’t have much time left – and there was little to do but say bless you.

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In China, it was a custom for the officials to shout “Long Live” every time the Empress Dowager i.e., the emperor’s mother sneezed. This continued into modern practice where today the Chinese use the phrase as a form of blessing when someone sneezes.

Islam has its own variation of blessings for the time when a person sneezes. Every time a person sneezes, they are expected to say, “Praise be to God” to which their companions respond with “May God have mercy on you” and finally the person says, “May Allah guide you”. This elaborate ritual is also a means to protect those who sneeze.

Number of Sneezes and What It Means

Girl sneezing

There’s a popular nursery rhyme which explains what the number of sneezes signifies:

“One for sorrow

Two for joy

Three for a letter

Four for a boy.

Five for silver

Six for gold

Seven for a secret, never to be told”

In Asian countries, particularly Japan, Korea and China, the number of times someone sneezes hold different meanings. While someone sneezing itself means that there is someone talking about them, the number of times represents what they were talking about.

One sneeze is when someone says something good while sneezing two times means that someone is saying something bad.

When it comes to three times, there is no doubt that the person talking is in love with them, but four times is a sign that something catastrophic may occur to their family.

Some even say that a fifth sneeze means there is a spiritual emphasis that there is need for attention to come aspects of the person’s life and calls for introspection.

Sneezing and the Days of the Week

There are various rhymes popular with the children that gives meaning to the day on which the person sneezes, which goes like this:

“If you sneeze on a Monday, you sneeze for danger;

Sneeze on a Tuesday, kiss a 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, and the devil will have domination over you all week.”

There are many variations to the above rhyme popularized through literature that emphasizes what a sneeze on a particular day of the week means, such as the one below:

“If you sneeze on a Monday, it indicates danger;

Sneeze on Tuesday, you will meet a stranger;

Sneeze on Wednesday, you will receive a letter;

Sneeze on Thursday, you will get something better;

Sneeze on Friday, indicates sorrow:

Sneeze on Saturday, you will have a beau to-morrow;

Sneeze before you eat, you will have company before you sleep.”

Wrapping Up

Although there are several superstitions regarding sneezes, one thing is for certain that it is unfortunately almost always beyond human control. Afterall, it is a reflex of the body and a means to cleanse and clear the nasal pathways.

But don’t worry, any bad luck attracted by sneezing only once can be reversed by simply wiping the nose, politely apologizing, straitening the spine with a broad smile, and going about work as usual!

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Athira is a lawyer by day and a content writer by night. With her background in law, she has a keen interest in researching and writing about everything under the sun. The topics that interest her the most include mythology from around the world and conspiracy theories. When not lawyering or writing, you can find her learning a new language or trying out an anime theme song on her violin.