CROSSING ONE'S BREATH
WILLIAM JOHN POTTS
[Extracted from NQ, 5th ser., 6 (1876): 505.]
CROSSING ONE'S BREATH.—A curious custom is to be found among young boys in Pennsylvania, and possibly other parts of the Union, of solemnly making an assertion and "crossing their breath," as it is called, which consists in placing the hand on the mouth, breathing on it, and making the sign of the cross by drawing it from left to right across the heart. "If it is not so, I will cross my breath," means, among boys, an oath, one might say, equivalent to "on my life." These children, mostly descendants of the ancient Quakers, have not perhaps even seen the modern sign of the cross as used by the Roman Catholics of the present day, which differs from the above in touching the fingers to the forehead, and then lightly touching each shoulder, or drawing the hand across the breast. As these children are of families certainly not Roman Catholic for two hundred years or more, and never associated with Catholic influences, this may be the ancient form of making the sign of the cross, and is at the least of high antiquity. WILLIAM JOHN POTTS.
Camden, New Jersey.