Why does sneezing elicit blessing?
I have long been puzzled by the title question, and have never come across a satisfactory answer. So, let me share the puzzle and raise a few more specific questions:
A) Ethnographic questions:
- Examples of different blessing elicited by sneezing (e.g., among the Dorze of Southern Ethiopia where I did fieldwork, “bear a son” for a woman, “kill an elephant” for a man, “grow up” for a child)
- Examples of other hard to control sudden bodily events (coughing, belching, farting, and so on) eliciting a standard reaction
- Folk interpretations of these practices
- Examples of societies without any such pairing of sneezing and blessing
B) Anthropological question:
Why should such practices be widespread? (Attributing a universal meaning to sneezing, even if it were properly argued, would at best displace the question, not answer it)
C) Primatological question:
Any evidence of sneezing in other primates eliciting a specific reaction?
Please, DO help with answers!