1. Hi Guest: Welcome to TRIBE, Toronto's largest and longest running online community. If you'd like to post here, or reply to existing posts on TRIBE, you first have to register on the forum. You can register with your facebook ID or with an email address. Join us!

The Dance Plague of 1518?

Discussion in 'TRIBE Main Forum' started by DaPhatConductor, Mar 4, 2010.

  1. DaPhatConductor

    DaPhatConductor TRIBE Promoter



    Anyone have any more info on this? wow...


    Dancing Plague of 1518 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The Dancing Plague (or Dance Epidemic) of 1518 was a case of dancing mania that occurred in Strasbourg, France (then part of the Holy Roman Empire) in July 1518. Numerous people took to dancing for days without rest, and over the period of about one month, most of the people died from heart attack, stroke, or exhaustion.

    The outbreak began in July 1518, when a woman, Frau Troffea, began to dance fervently in a street in Strasbourg.[1] This lasted somewhere between four to six days. Within a week, 34 others had joined, and within a month, there were around 400 dancers. Most of these people eventually died from heart attack, stroke, or exhaustion.[1]

    Historical documents, including "physician notes, cathedral sermons, local and regional chronicles, and even notes issued by the Strasbourg city council" are clear that the victims danced.[1] It is not known why these people danced to their deaths, nor is it clear that they were dancing willfully.

    As the dancing plague worsened, concerned nobles sought the advice of local physicians, who ruled out astrological and supernatural causes, instead announcing that the plague was a "natural disease" caused by "hot blood". However, instead of prescribing bleeding, authorities encouraged more dancing, in part by opening two guildhalls and a grain market, and even constructing a wooden stage. The authorities did this because they believed that the dancers would only recover if they danced continually night and day. To increase the effectiveness of the cure, authorities even paid for musicians to keep the afflicted moving.[2]

    Historian John Waller thinks that the dancing epidemic was caused by mass psychogenic illness (MPI), a manifestation of mass hysteria that is often preceded by extreme levels of psychological distress. Waller states that famine had been prevalent in the region for some time, caused by very cold winters, very hot summers, crop frosts, and violent hailstorms.[1][3] Mass deaths followed from malnutrition, and those who survived were forced to kill their farm animals, take out loans, and perhaps even beg in the streets. In addition to food shortages, diseases such as smallpox, syphilis, leprosy, and "the English sweat" (a new disease) afflicted the populace, as well as "spiritual despair on a scale unknown for generations."[3] This series of events might have triggered the MPI.


    It has been suggested that the cause of the plague was ergotism, which results from consuming ergot-laced bread. Ingestion of ergot, a psychotropic mold that grows on rye, can lead to delirium, hallucinations, and seizures, as well as other symptoms. While today this is called ergotism, contemporaneously it was known as "Saint Anthony's fire". However, another symptom of ergotism is loss of blood supply to the limbs, making coordinated movement like dancing difficult; as such, Waller considers it to be an unlikely cause of the plague.[3]


    Sociologist Robert Bartholomew of James Cook University in Australia contends that the dance was part of an "ecstatic ritual of a heretical sect".[1] This explanation is questioned by Waller, who believes "there is no evidence that the dancers wanted to dance", citing recorded evidence that the dancers showed expressions of "fear and desperation".[1]

    Saint Vitus's dance

    Saint Vitus's dance is a term used for the dancing manias of medieval times (as well as for Sydenham's chorea or chorea in general). Saint Vitus is primarily invoked to protect against epilepsy, a disorder characterized by recurrent unprovoked seizures. Chorea, which can be present in epilepsy or a variety of other nervous system disorders, can be characterised by quick, patterned muscular contractions, or sometimes slower, stormy, writhing motions (athetosis). In a 1931 Time article, it was suggested that victims of "Saint Vitus's dance" (in this context, Sydenham's chorea)—who are most often children—were brought before images of St. Vitus when they were stricken with convulsions.[4]

    Catholic legend says that invoking the wrath of St. Vitus could provoke compulsive dancing[1] (or that dancing before an image of St. Vitus would imbue good health for the following year).[4] However, this explanation does not support how so many cases of chorea could arise simultaneously in the population, nor how so many adults were affected.

    Further reading

    * Backman, Eugene Louis (1977) [First published in 1952]. Religious Dances in the Christian Church and in Popular Medicine. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0837196787.
    * Waller, John (2008). A Time to Dance, A Time to Die: The Extraordinary Story of the Dancing Plague of 1518. Thriplow: Icon Books. ISBN 978-1848310216.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2010
  2. tripleup

    tripleup TRIBE Member

    That's great man, that's really great.
  3. Musical Rush

    Musical Rush TRIBE Member

  4. Polymorph

    Polymorph TRIBE Member

    I believe Black Sabbath did a song called St-Vitus Dance.
    wow, Ozzy may have been one drug-addled m.fuck, but guy did his homework!
    without wikipeidia...

    Also, check the Werner Herzog version of "Nosferatu".
  5. possibledj

    possibledj TRIBE Promoter

  6. artemis

    artemis TRIBE Member

    wow neat - thanks - this does provide answer to a number of popular references
  7. tim patrick

    tim patrick TRIBE Member

    Toronto Blessing

    "The blessing has become known for ecstatic worship, including what is known as falling or resting in the Spirit, laughter, shaking, and crying. "Holy laughter" was a hallmark manifestation and there were also instances of participants roaring like lions and making other animal noises."
  8. R4V4G3D_SKU11S

    R4V4G3D_SKU11S TRIBE Member

    Its stuff like this that makes me wish I had a time machine
  9. graham

    graham Well-Known TRIBEr

    they had a fever of a hundred and three
  10. Sal De Ban

    Sal De Ban TRIBE Member

    guetta's ancestors?
  11. Sal De Ban

    Sal De Ban TRIBE Member

  12. Dirty Girl

    Dirty Girl TRIBE Member

    How bizarre.
    sounds like one for Dr House.
  13. graham

    graham Well-Known TRIBEr

    interesting that this mass hysteria would transpire right around the bavarian purity act
  14. R4V4G3D_SKU11S

    R4V4G3D_SKU11S TRIBE Member

  15. Sal De Ban

    Sal De Ban TRIBE Member

    yes, ravegod. yes.
  16. saskboy

    saskboy TRIBE Member

Share This Page