Waiting to go Somewhere After Sneezing

Main Piece:

“He did tell me the other day like, [his family] have this superstition that if you sneeze, like, before you’re gonna go somewhere it means that, like, to wait a little bit so like bad things don’t happen to you.”


My informant is one of my friends, and is of Cuban and Iranian heritage. This piece comes from a superstition that her Iranian father told her about recently that he heard from his side of the family. Though he is not superstitious himself, and my informant’s family don’t follow this superstition, it seems to be prevalent in Iranian culture. My informant believes that this superstition serves as a form of protection from harm: “like if you’re gonna drive and you sneeze, wait a minute in case you crash.”


This piece came after my friend and I were talking about superstitions we’ve heard, and she told me of some Iranian ones that she heard from her father. After listening, I asked if she could elaborate more on what she meant by “bad things” happening to one who didn’t wait after sneezing, since I was a bit confused.


Along with the one my informant provided, I’ve heard a fair amount of superstitions about sneezing, including the one that goes “if you sneeze, it means someone’s talking behind your back.” I think these are interesting because of the way sneezing is perceived as either ill will or bad luck waiting to happen, and this might have to do with sneezing being a symptom of sickness. The addition of “waiting a minute” could also be a representation of being advised to rest to prevent harm, or illness. While many superstitions, or rather, folk beliefs, have negative connotations, the wariness is warranted in the case of this one. At the same time, it also has a protective element to the belief. While the sneeze comes as an omen of bad luck, it simultaneously warns the person affected by it to be careful of their surroundings and actions. It’s both a blessing and a curse, which is what I like about this belief because it shows the nuances in how people categorize superstitions as either “good” or “bad” without realizing that it’s the people that give folk beliefs their meanings, not the action itself.