From certain ancient Welsh poems, it appears that sneezing was considered unlucky in Wales in the twelfth century; but in Europe generally, in mediaeval times, the sneeze of a cat on the eve of a wedding was reckoned auspicious. In the writings of the French poet, Pierre de Ronsard (1524-85), the opinion is expressed that not to sneeze while regarding the sun is a sign of ill-luck; and from Doctor Hartlieb's "Book of all Forbidden Arts, Unbelief, and Sorcery," 1455, we learn that in Germany there was a popular belief that three sneezes indicated the presence of four thieves around the house.
Jerome Cardan, the noted Italian philosopher and physician (1501-76), in speaking of genii or familiar spirits, remarked that, in his opinion, sneezing was a supernatural phenomenon, and, like the sound of ringing in the ears, was premonitory of some event of importance.
Some idea of the credulous notions on the subject of sneezing which were prevalent in England during Queen Elizabeth's reign may be obtained from the following extracts from the "Burghley Papers," Lansdowne MSS. (No. 121) in the British Museum.
1. If that any man talk with another about any matter and snese twise or iiij tymes, let him by and by arise, yf he sett, or yf he be stand, let him move hymself and go straightway without any stays about his business, for he shall prosper.
2. Yf he snese more than iiij tymes, let him staye, for it is doubtful how he shall spede.
3. Yf a man snese one or iij tymes, let him proceed no further in any matter, but let all alone, for it shall com to nought.
4. Yf two men do snese bothe at one instant, yt is a good syne, and let them go about their purpose, yf that it be either by water or land, and they shall prosper.
5. To snese twise is a good syne, but to snese once or iij times is an yll syne. If one come suddenly into an house and snese one tyme, yt is a good token.
6. One snese in the night season made by any of the household betokenyth good luck to the house, but yf he make two sneses, yt signifieth domage.
7. Trewe yt is that he who snesith takit pte (part) of the signification in this condition, that he pte some pte with other.
8. Yf that any man snese twyse iij nightes together, it is a tokyn that one of the house shall dye, or else some greatt goodness or badness shall happon in the house.
9. Yf a man go to dwell in an house and snese one tyme, lett him dwell there, but yf be snese twyse, lett him not tarry, neither let him dwell therein.
10. Yf a man lye awake in his bedd and snese one tyme, it is a syne of some great sickness or hyndraunce.
11. Yf a man sleape in his bedde and snese one tyme, it betokenyth greatt trouble, the death of some person or extreme hyndraunce in the loss of substaunce.
12. Yf a man lye in his bedde and make a snese one tyme, it is a good syne both of health and lucre, but if he sleape it is moche better.
13. Yf a man snese twyse three nights together, it is a good syne, whatsoever he go aboutt.
14. Yf a man traver by the ways and come into an Inne and snese twyse, let him departe out of the house and go to another or else he shall not prosper.
15. Yf a man go forthe to seke worke and laye hands of it and then snese one tyme, let hym departe, leaving his worke behind hym, and seke worke elsewhere, and so shall do well; but yf he snese twyse let hym take his worke and go no further.
16. If any man, after he haue made a bargayne with another for any thing and then snese one tyme, it signifieth that his bargayne will not continue.
17. Yf a man rise betymes on a Monday mornyng out of his bedd and snese one tyme, yt is a token that he shall prosper and gayne all that week, or haue some other joye and comoditie.
18. But yf he snese twyse, yt is cleane contrary.
19. Yf a man lose a horse or anything els, and is stopping (sic) out of his dore to seke it, do snese one tyme, yt is a token he shall haue it agayne, but yf he snese twyse he shall never haue it agayne.
20. Yf a man ryse betyme on a Sonday and snese ii tymes, yt is a good tokyn, but if he snese one tyme, it is an yll tokyn.
21. Yf a man at the very beginning of dinner or supper be minded to eat, and snese twyse, yt is a good tokyn, but yf he snese one time, yt is an yll syne.
22. Yf a man lye sicke in bed and mystrusts himselfe, and snese one tyme, yt is a tokyn of deathe, but if he snese twyse he shall escape.
23. A woman being very sicke, yf she snese one tyme, yt is a syne of health, but if she snese twyse, she shall dye.