Even without coronavirus, we have enough coughs and colds to generate a lot of “bless yous.” But what is the origin of this saying?
Renaissance scientists, such as the sixteenth century Flemish anatomist Vesalius, were the first to start to dissect the human body. But the brain presented a problem. There were no chemicals to preserve tissue. By the time they removed the skull the only thing they could study was akin if to a bowl of cold porridge. The one structure they could discern was the system of ventricles – the symmetrical spaces among the grey matter filled with cerebrospinal fluid.
Even today, over eight out of ten Americans still believe in a soul. In the sixteenth century everyone did. Where then in the brain did the human soul reside? The clear fluid in the ventricles seem to be the best candidate
The early anatomists also identified the cribriform plate, a boney structure at the top of the nasal cavity. We know today that the little holes giving this bone its name actually carry the olfactory nerves from the nose to the brain.
Once it was decided that the soul was the cerebrospinal fluid in the nearby ventricles then perhaps when you sneezed the droplets were tiny fragments of your soul that had been forced through the cribriform plate.
Snot and the soul were the same thing. Bless you!