Old Teen Essays
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Article ID: 4505
Age Group: Adult
Posted: April 2nd. 2001
Superstition: It's Nothing To Sneeze At!
When the Spring and Falltide seasons come around, often there is plenty to tickle the nose: Yep! It's allergy time, again. The humble act of sneezing has acquired its own fair share of folklore and superstition. Most of us are aware that in this part of the world and in Europe, when someone sneezes, the 'proper' response is to say, "God bless you!" Pagans-feeling a little uncomfortable with that-might say, 'Gods bless you' or 'Goddess bless you' instead. But why we do feel that we have to say anything at all? Wren has tried to ignore it. If Fritz sneezes once or twice in the other room, she just turns the volume up on the television and gets on with her life. But when he continues to blow air out of his nostrils, she begins to feel a bit of tension build. Achoo! Achoo! Achoo! Not being able to drown out the sounds- nor having the intestinal fortitude to ignore them any longer- she'll usually break down into a (somewhat testy), "Well, Gods bless you, honey!" Wren has no idea why. Maybe it's a compulsion learned from my family. Maybe it just seems plain rude not to acknowledge those explosive nasal events somehow. Maybe it simply (and strongly) illustrates the power of superstition and folks ways to fashion some of the social behaviors of our lives. And one of the reasons that they have endured even into the modern and scientific era.
The urge/need/impulse/social pressure to respond verbally when someone sneezes seems to be almost universal. Many classical writers, such as Aubrey and Claxton, have reported on the practice. While some attempt to tie the art of 'blessing' to a story of a Roman emperor driving his chariot around the townsand blessing sneezers (I'd be thinking that an apology for kicking up the dust that probably made them sneeze in the first place might be more appropriate!), the silence on the practice in the years between the Roman Empire's rule and the coming of the Black Plague seem to point to the fact that the practice, while old, was not established as a 'superstition' until much later. Certainly during plagues and outbreaks of influenza and tuberculosis (consumption) anyone seen sneezing was probably considered contaminated already and in grave danger (no pun) of becoming deceased in the near future. 'Blessing' them was a nice gesture toward insuring some sort of spiritual comfort before running home and praying for the continuing protection of one's own mortal body.
The notion of 'sneezing the soul out' could be linked with not much difficulty to the fact that in previous ages a lot of what we consider everyday ailments were often fatal. Anyone sneezing could be checking out at any time. In any case, there are numerous 'ways' to interpret a sneeze. Certainly knowing the current pollen count might make such divination a little easier. And if your cat sneezes, "they" say, it's going to rain. Of course, if your cat sneezes after he/she just got finished rolling in your latest gift-pile of catnip, it is more likely that he/she is saying, "I really, really, really love you right now!" Don't feel too badly about the fact that your cat probably also loves every-other-one and every-other-thing right now as well. You've got more self-esteem than that! You know you're special to your cat. You ARE the only one in the house with the opposable thumb who can open up the can of 'Fancy Feast', right? Job security is a wonderful thing.
Herbal Remedies Are Not Superstition.
"Herbal medicine is as old as the human race and has historically been nurtured by shamans, wise-women and healers. A tremendous amount of empirical information has accumulated to form a nebulous system of "herbal medicine." Two of the most extensively developed are traditional Chinese medicine and the Indian system of Ayurvedic medicine." However, herbal remedies should be approached with caution and used only after doing the proper research. Herbals are widely available now in most pharmacies. Checking labels and going with a brand that does not add other ingredients or pesticides is preferable. Many U.S. citizens distrust the FDA's (Federal Drug Administration) stance on natural or herbal remedies and view it as one of hostility toward cheap natural (and therefore substances that cannot be patented) sources in favor of big pharmaceutical companies who enjoy large profits on chemical -based treatments. The proper stance, in our humble opinion, is to enter cautiously into the realm of herbal treatments and medicines by taking time to research independent studies (independent of both the FDA and the herbal companies) and by consulting with trained and/or knowledgeable traditional herbalists.
Some Herbal Remedies that may ease specific allergy symptoms have been scientifically looked at. Licorice and slippery elm "are what herbalists call "demulcents." They stimulate mucous membrane tissues -- such as those lining the throat -- to produce a protective coating of mucus. In the throat, a demulcent protects against the friction caused by coughing. That prevents further irritation, which in turn reduces inflammation. This should make the throat feel better, as well as make it harder for infectious bacteria such as Streptococcus to penetrate the tissues. Although very little research has been published on slippery elm, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies it as an effective demulcent. Licorice, on the other hand, hasn't been approved by the FDA. But researchers have documented its demulcent effects in the stomach and intestines and found evidence that it fights viruses and bacteria, reduces inflammation and allergies, and stimulates the immune system." For more information on the ongoing research into herbal alternative treatments, check out The American Botanical Council -especially the free articles online- and the Herb Research Foundation. Browse the Herbnews section for lots of good articles on the most current research. Blessed Be Well! Your health is nothing to sneeze at!
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