Southern Traditions, Mrs. Randall and Folklore

Growing up in the little community of Sulphur Bluff was very special to me. It was like a world by itself. So much so that I’ve had a hard time realizing my kids will be Wildcats instead of Bears. I’m slowly accepting that fact and have even become excited about it, but that’s a different post for a different day.

Today is about Southern Traditions, Mrs. Randall and Folklore. Mrs. Randall was a lady who substitute taught at The Bluff regularly. So much so that we (the students) all thought of her as another grandmother. She had a true presence about her and never seemed to age a day. She was tough as nails and kind as everything. She was also a God-fearing and God-loving woman who never hid the fact despite it being a public school. She didn’t have to talk about God non-stop for us to know her love of Him. She simply was who she was, and we saw it in her love of the students.

Now, I read a book once that said, “Nearly everyone in the South is Christian. However, we also have a few superstitions we hold on to, too.” That about sums it up. Heaven forbid you don’t eat black eyed peas and greens on New Year’s Day, open an umbrella instead of the house or don’t say, “Bless you,” to someone who sneezed. Not as familiar with the last one? Because of Mrs. Randall, even if I don’t know the person standing behind me at Walmart, I say, “Bless you,” to them. And to be 100% honest, it’s not completely done out of kindness.

I was in middle school the first time someone sneezed and someone did not bless said person, Mrs. Randall nearly jumped out of her skin crying, “Stars and stripes, child (another favorite saying of hers), bless them before the devil gets their soul.” It’s stuck with me, needless to say. Of course, it is good manners, which is also why I’m writing about it on my etiquette blog. But it doesn’t stop at just that.

There are a few different tall tales as to why we bless someone when they sneeze, beyond etiquette. A common thought as to why we bless someone who sneezes dates back to the days of the Great Plague. However, Southern folklore has said that when someone sneezes, their soul separates from their body, and without being blessed, the devil can snatch it. Now, I believe this simply because when I sneeze, I’m pretty sure my eyes separate, too. Ok, ok. I don’t really believe it…or do I?

Folklore becomes engrained in us, and I’m actually proud it does. In a monogamous world, I wish we could find ways to celebrate our uniqueness without tearing down someone else’s uniqueness in the process. We should love the things that make us, us. I also love these traditions being passed down from generation to generation, as well as passing on the “why.” For this simple reason I will fondly think of Mrs. Randall when I say, “Bless you,” to someone after they sneeze….and hope the devil didn’t steal their soul.  🙂