I sneeze loudly. My husband always wants a warning, but I can’t warn before I sneeze. He says, “bless you,” like some people. I was curious about the origins of the “Bless you,” when you sneeze.  I read that perhaps some evil spirit was catching a ride with me, or my spirit could be escaping every time I sneeze. Those are some of the mythic origins of blessing you when you sneeze.

Some crazy theories about sneezing and blessing:

1.  Your spirit gets sneezed right out of your body (especially with a loud and explosive sneeze)  and the “bless you” protects your spirit from getting snatched up by the devil, and helps it get back inside your body. It’s a little safety net saying that flings your spirit back into the safety of your physical body.
2.  The opposite here– an evil spirit came into your body and you expelled it with a big sneeze, now the “bless you” protects you from the evil monster coming back to take up residence inside your body.
3.  You are between heaven and hell at that moment and the blessing saves you from damnation.
4.  Your heart would stop with a big sneeze, the magical words of “bless you” ensured a good restart. (no it does not stop)
5.  Doomed with a devastating disease, like the Black Death, this is your sign, the sneeze. Soon your flesh will be rotting, dust to dust, ashes to ashes, dead and gone. The “god bless you” is a blessing as you leave this mortal life.
6.  Good luck is on its way — the sneeze is a sign of something good about to happen for you.
The earliest mention of the blessed sneeze or sneezer is 77 AD, but no mention as to why. The phrase “God bless you” is attributed to Pope Gregory the Great, who uttered it in the sixth century during the bubonic plague. But whatever, it seems to be universal:

Common sayings people say after you sneeze:

In Germany, it is “gesundheit” and it literally means “health.”
In Arabic it is “Alhamdulillah,” which means, “praise be to God.” 
Hindus say, “Live!” or “Live well!” 
In Russia,  “bud zdorov”  means “be healthy”, children are also told “rosti bolshoi” (“grow big”).
In China, a child hears “bai sui,” which means, “may you live 100 years.”

Other facts about the sneeze:

You automatically close your eyes when you sneeze. It’s a reflex. (for most people) Try to keep your eyes open when you sneeze. And don’t sneeze too much while you are driving.
The sneeze is the only bodily function that gets the blessing, kind of funny. And I’ve noticed people say “bless you” more often than”God bless you.”
Sneezing spreads germs.
Photo by Andrew Davidhazy, School of Photo Arts and Sciences/RIT.

Photo by Andrew Davidhazy, School of Photo Arts and Sciences/RIT.

Arnold BöcklinThe Plague (1898) – Kunstmuseum Basel


Burning of Jews during the Black Death epidemic, 1349
Date14th century, A History of the Jewish People by H.H. Ben-Sasson
Jews being burned during the Plague
An illustration of an undertaker during the Bubonic plague
Theodor Kittelsen – Fattigmannen, 1894-95 (The Pauper)
 Bildzyklus »Desastres de la Guerra«, Szene: Das Pestlazarett (black death)