Culturally the belief that a sneeze is the expelling of evil spirits
or other signs that death is near comes from religious (specifically
Christian) influences rather than country or geographic regional
In many countries sneezing is seen as a necessary bodily function and
merely acknowledge the fact that you are living properly. India for
example has this view point, and respond to a sneeze by shouting
"Live!" wherein the sneezer is suppose to say in response to that,
"Live with you." Sneezing is seen in India as necessary, while the
inability to sneeze is labeled "asneezia" by Indian scientists
according to Psychology Today. Snuff has been used in India and
surrounding regions for centuries as a way of artificially inducing a
Some historic accounts show that sneezing is sometimes seen as a good
thing, a favorable sign from the gods. Xenophon, the Athenian general
for example was made a general and followed into battle against the
Persians because of a sneeze.
It might be good to note that in Hungry, God's Confirmation that a
statement someone is making is true is often based on the person
sneezing after making the statement.
Origins of the cultural beliefs among those of the Christian faith
come from the actions and directives of Popes and Saints, powerful
roll models to be sure. According to Ouen, the biographer and
companion of Saint Eligius, the Flanders ( pagans who were into
druidical practices) were warned that the Sneeze was a distraction on
the road of salvation. The quote was something like ..
"Do not observe auguries or violent sneezing or pay attention to any
little birds singing along the road. If you are distracted on the road
or at any other work, make the sign of the cross and say your Sunday
prayers with faith and devotion and nothing inimical can hurt you."
Pope Gregory The First was the one most commonly given credit for the
"God Bless You" response to a sneeze. During the plague of 590 AD
Gregory ordered unceasing prayer for God's intercession. Anyone
sneezing at that time was immediately blessed ("God bless you") to
combat the possibility of the person developing the plague.
Muslims also culturally see sneezing as something which is a sign of
possible danger. "Alhamdulillah" is their typical response to someone
sneezing, thanking God for keeping him alive and save after the
The differences in the cultural responses to the act of sneezing could
be originated from the beliefs and physical aspects of the sneeze
itself. Western beliefs that the soul is the breath could have a great
deal to do with the danger seen is such a violent involuntary
explosion of breath propelling out of the body at greater than 100
miles an hour. However, the bright lights and even orgasms experienced
by some people could produce the thinking that a good sneeze isn't all
that bad every once in a while.
Also there is Photic Sneeze Reflex, a medical condition that causes
people to involuntarily sneeze when exposed to bright light. Since
light is often seen as the symbol of God or God's presence, it could
be thought that a sneeze was the response to such a presence.
The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction
Nothing to Sneeze At
Why do we sneeze when we look at the sun
Why does bright light cause some people to sneeze?
Photic Sneeze reflex
sneeze evil spirits "bless you"