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sneezed, Euphrantides, the soothsayer, presaged the victory of the Greeks and the overthrow of the Persians. See Plutarch, in his Life of Themistocles.
The Rabbinical account of sneezing is very singular. It is that, “sneezing was a mortal sign even from the first man, until it was taken off by the special supplication of Jacob. From whence, as a thankful acknowledgment, this salutation first began, and was after continued by the expression of Tobim Chaiim, or vita bona, by standers by, upon all occasions of sneezing.” Buxtorf. Lex. Chald.
The custom of blessing persons when they sneeze has without doubt been derived to the Christian world, where it generally prevails, from the time of heathenism. Carolus Sigonius, in his History of Italy, would deduce it, but most certainly erroneously, from a pestilence that happened in the time of Gregory the Great, that proved mortal to such as sneezed.
In the Gent. Mag. for April 1771, are the following remarks on sneezing, from Historical Extracts, transl. from
the New History of France, begun by Velley, continued by Villaret, and now finishing by Garnier :-* Of Sneezing. The year 750 is commonly reckoned the era of the custom of saying God bless you, to one who happens to sneeze, It is said that, in the time of the pontificate of St. Gregory the Great,
1 “Sternutamenta inter Auguria Plinius (lib. ii. cap. 7) recenset; et cur illud pro numine potiusquam tussis et gravedo habeatur, Aristotles, sectione xxxii. Problematum Quæst. 7, inquirit, addens deinceps Sternutamentum potissimum observandum esse, cum rem aliquam exordimur; igitur quia inter omina habitum, ut Dii bone verterent, sternuenti salus ab audientibus imprecata est quomodo memorat Petronius de Eumolpo quod sternutantem Gitona salvere jusserit ; et quidam apud Apuleium, Metamor. 1. 9, sonum sternutationis accipiens, solito sermone salutem ei, a quá putabat profectum imprecatur, et iterato rursum et frequentato sæpius. Traductus itaque sine dubio ab Ethnicis ad Christianos mos est ; licet velint Historici recentiores, et eos inter Sigonius Historiarum de Regno Italiæ libro primo, quod, pestilentiâ anno quingentesimo nonagesimo sæviente, cum sternutarent; Consuetudinem inductam esse, ut sternutantibus salutem precando, præsidium multi repente spiritum emitterent, cum quærerent.” Bartholini de Causis contemptæ a Danis adhuc Gentilibus Mortis, lib. iii. c. iii. p. 677.
2 This custom is universally observed in Portugal. It would be considered as a great breach of good manners to omit it. Bishop Hall, in his Characters of Vertues and Vices, speaking of the superstitious man, says, “ And when he neeseth, thinks them not his friends that uncover not.”
the air was filled with such a deleterious influence, that they who sneezed immediately expired. On this the devout pontiff appointed a form of prayer, and a wish to be said to persons sneezing, for averting them from the fatal effects of this malignancy. A fable contrived against all the rules of probability, it being certain that this custom has from time immemorial subsisted in all parts of the known world. According to mythology, the first sign of life Prometheus's artificial man gave was by sternutation. This supposed creator is said to have stolen a portion of the solar rays; and filling with them a phial, which he had made on purpose, sealed it up
hermetically. He instantly flies back to his favorite automaton, and opening the phial held it close to the statue ; the
rays, still retaining all their activity, insinuate themselves through the pores, and set the factitious man a sneezing. Prometheus, transported with the success of his machine, offers up a fervent prayer, with wishes for the preservation of so singular a being. His automaton observed him, remembering his ejaculations, was very careful, on the like occasions, to offer these wishes in behalf of his descendants, who perpetuated it from father to son in all their colonies. The Rabbies, speaking of this custom, do likewise give it a very ancient date. They say that, not long after the creation, God made a general decree that every man living should sneeze but once, and that at the very instant of his sneezing his soul should depart without any previous indisposition. Jacob by no means liked so precipitate a way of leaving the world, as being desirous of settling his family affairs, and those of his conscience; he prostrated himself before the Lord, wrestled a second time with him, and earnestly entreated the favour of being excepted from the decree. His prayer was heard, and he sneezed without dying. All the princes of the universe, being acquainted with the fact, unanimously ordered that, for the future, sneezing should be accompanied with thanksgivings for the preservation, and wishes for the prolongation, of life. We perceive, even in these fictions, the vestiges of tradition and history, which place the epocha of this civility long before that of Christianity. It was accounted very ancient even in the time of Aristotle, who, in his Problems, has endeavoured to account for it, but knew nothing of its origin. According to him, the first men, prepossessed with the ideas concerning the head, as
the principal seat of the soul, that intelligent substance governing and animating the whole human system, carried their respect to sternutation, as the most manifest and most sensible operation of the head. Hence those several forms of compliments used on similar occasions amongst Greeks and Romans : Long may you live ! May you enjoy health! Jupiter preserve you
There are some superstitions relating to sneezing mentioned in the notes to the variorum edition of Minutius Felix, p. 243. See also Chevræana, i. 170, and Beloe's Herodotus, iii. 105. Pliny, in addition to what has been already quoted, says that to sneeze to the right was deemed fortunate, to the left and near a place of burial the reverse.
The custom has an older era. Apuleius mentions it three hundred years before ; as does Plinya also in his problem,
cur sternutantes salutantur.” Petronius Arbiter too describes it.3 Cælius Rhodoginus has an example of it among
The following notes on this subject were communicated by the Rev. Stephen Weston, B.D., F.S.A.: " Ilæpi kindoviouã itapuikū, De Ominatione sternutaria.
“ Sternutationem pro Dæmonio habuit Socrates. Tòv ataquòv Dsòv ηγούμεθα, Aristot. in Problem. Πταρμός εκ δεξιών, Victoria signum. Plutarch in Themist. ut supra; unde lepide Aristophanes in Equitibus
ταύτα φροντίζοντί μοι
Ιππείς. v. 635. " Sternutantibus apprecabantur antiqui solenne illud Zev oõoov, unde Epigr. Ammiani in hominem cum pravo naso, i. e. longissimo.— When he sneezes he never cries God save, because his ear is so far from his nose that he cannot hear himself sneeze. Vid. Rhodig. de Ammiano, l. xvii. c. 11. Ουδε λέγει Ζεύ σώσον, &c. Aristot. Problem. sect. xxxiii. 9.
“ Meridianæ Sternutationes faustæ-matutinæ infelices. Plin. l. xxviii. c. 2. de Caus. Sternut.
Aureus argutum sternuit, omen amor. Propert. 2, 234. Odyss. Hom. p. v. 541.-uéy čarapevấubi vid. Schol. Catullus Epigr. 45.-Dextram sternuit ad probationem.”
? It is said that Tiberius, the emperor, otherwise a very sour man, would perform this rite most punctually to others, and expect the same from others to himself.
3 Petronius Arbiter, who lived before them both, has these words : “Gyton collectione spiritus plenus, ter continuò ita sternutavit ut grabatum concuteret, ad quem motum Eumolpus conversus, salvere Gytona jubet.”
the Greeks, in the time of Cyrus the younger;' and it occurs as an omen in the eighteenth Idyllium of Theocritus. In the Greek Anthology it is alluded to in an Epigram.3
The custom here noticed was found by our first navigators in the remotest parts of Africa and the East. When the King of Mesopotamia sneezes, acclamations are made in all parts of his dominions. The Siamese wish long life to persons sneezing; for they believe that one of the judges of hell keeps a register wherein the duration of men's lives is written, and that, when he opens this register and looks upon any particular leaf, all those whose names happen to be entered in such leaf never fail to sneeze immediately. See the Dictionn. des Origines.
Hanway, in his Travels into Persia, tells us that sneezing is held a happy omen among the Persians, especially when repeated often. There is a pretty story on this subject in Me na, tom. iii. ad finem :
“ Un petit-maitre, apres mauvaise chance,
Sortoit du jeu la tabatiére en main.
1 When consulting about their retreat, it chanced that one of them sneezed, at the noise whereof the rest of the soldiers called upon Jupiter Soter.
"Όλβιε γαμβρ, αγαθός τις επέπταρεν έρχομενο του
Ες Σπαρταν. Thus translated by Creech :
"O happy bridegroom! Thee a lucky sneeze
To Sparta welcom'd."
Σιμιχίδα μ' "Έρωτες επέκταρον
• The Loves sneezed on Smichid.”
Antholog. Gr. ex recens. Brunckii. 8vo. Lips. 1794, iï. 95.
Sir Thomas Browne, on the authority of Hippocrates, says that “sneezing cures the hiccup, is profitable to parturient women, in lethargies, apoplexies, catalepsies. It is bad and pernicious in diseases of the chest, in the beginning of catarrhs, in new and tender conceptions, for then it endangers abortion.”
Sneezing being properly a motion of the brain suddenly expelling through the nostrils what is offensive to it, it cannot but afford some evidence of its vigour, and therefore, saith Aristotle, they that hear it προσκυνσιν ως ιερον, honour it as something sacred and a sign of sanity in the diviner part, and this he illustrates from the practice of physicians, who in persons near death use sternutatories (medicines to provoke sneezing), when if the faculty arise, and sternutation ensues, they conceive hopes of life, and with gratulation receive the sign of 'safety. Thus far Sir Thomas Browne.
In Langley's Abridgment of Polydore Vergil, fol. 130, it it is said : “ There was a plague whereby many as they neezed dyed sodeynly, werof it grew into a custome that they that were present when any man neezed should say, 'God helpe you.' A like deadly plage was sometyme in yawning, wherfore menne used to fence themselves with the signe of the crosse : bothe which customes we reteyne styl at this day.”
To the inquiry, "Why people say, 'God bless you,' when any one sneezes,” the British Apollo, ii. No. 10, (fol. Lond. 1709,) answers : “ Violent sneezing was once an epidemical and mortal distemper, from whence the custom specified took its rise. In one of Martial's epigrams we find that the Romans had the same custom ; and not improbably derived from the same reason.” The same work, iii. No. 15, adds : “ But 'tis a mistake to think that sneezing is any more a sign of recovery now than formerly ; for it is still sometimes a forerunner of dangerous distempers, as catarrhs and epilepsies, which have likewise been sometimes epidemical. And this is the occasion of the custom of blessing people when they sneeze.
Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers posed and puzzel'd, p. 181, with various other vain observations and superstitious ominations thereupon, mentions “the sneezing at meat.” In Howel's Proverbs, fol. Lond. 1659, the following occurs : “He hath sneezed thrice, turn him out of the hospital ;" that