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Dancing Plague of 1518

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posted on Mar, 3 2010 @ 12:59 AM

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Historical documents, including "physician notes, cathedral sermons, local and regional chronicles, and even notes issued by the Strasbourg city council" are clear that the victims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

Sounds like a fairly miserable way to die, it'd be fun for the first day, but after that...

This is one of the strangest "plagues" I've ever heard of.

Couldn't find anything about it here on ATS.


posted on Mar, 3 2010 @ 01:05 AM
That is absolutely fantastic! Never heard of it before. Makes you wonder if they were under possession. Very interesting that no one back then called them Witches considering the witch trials were going on- especially when they couldnt stop- when a normal person cannot dance 24 hours straight.

Or maybe they just got into some really good drugs- Ayahuasca, marijuana, coc aine, ergot?

posted on Mar, 3 2010 @ 01:06 AM
There was a thread a week or two ago about a Laughing Epidemic in TAnzania; I posted a link to the wikipedia article about this thing there, too.

It's pretty horrifying. All I can think when I read it, though, is "Lovecraftian horror?" Teeming chaos, pursued by music -- that's the least maddening description of Azathoth there is. Freaky-deaky cultist stuff is the most exciting explanation to me.

posted on Mar, 3 2010 @ 01:07 AM
This is fascinating...thank you for posting this.

posted on Mar, 3 2010 @ 01:16 AM
This is a very strange thing. I wonder if it was some kind of disease that no longer exists. (viruses and bacteria, like other species, can and do go exitinct).

I also wonder if the description "dancing" is accurate. We have no way of could have been something closer to convulsions, epilepsy, twitching, physical (rather than verbal) Tourettes syndrome, or even a form of extreme obsessive-compuslive syndrome. Perhaps the authorities had no other way to categorize such movements except to call them "dancing."

On the other hand it could have been some kind of bizzare social phenomenon rather than medical. Some kind of group psychosis. If Jim Jones could get a thousand people to drink poison cool-aide than maybe some charismatic local leader or "grass-roots mania" could have inspired people to "bop 'till they dropped."

Also, it seems not to have been a single occasion in the 1500s. According to this link, there were similar outbreaks across Europe between the 14th and 18th centuries, involving "thousands of people."

Either way, its a fascinating reminder of how alien medieval life and psychology can be to the modern mind.

[edit on 3/3/10 by silent thunder]

posted on Mar, 3 2010 @ 01:24 AM
The first thing that comes to mind when they speak about 'dancing' and 'hot blood', is febrile seizures.

The way it's described though sounds like they were clear about them being on their feet, which they wouldn't be if seizing, so it's very interesting.

It must have been either a type of virus or perhaps a mass hysteria, started by one truely crazy person and then encouraged by the local authorities.

posted on Mar, 3 2010 @ 01:43 AM
I don't think they're being metaphorical. How could someone have a month long seizure? Well, actually, how can someone dance for a month straight?

Anyway, digression aside, it can't be a seizure. Do you think someone would make a stage for people to lay about convulsing and frothing at the mouth? It'd be like a hardocre krumping contest, and I'm pretty certain back in the day composers weren't sampling beats and scratching vinyl.

Really weird stuff. Hilarious and depressing at the same time.

posted on Mar, 3 2010 @ 02:03 AM
Here's another link on the issue that poses a few alternative possibilities.

A few quotes from the above source:

Goethe mentions the performance of the tarantella in Naples as "...common amon the girls of the lower and middle classes. At least three of them take part in it. One of them beats on the tambourine and shakes the bells on it from time to time without beating on it, the other two, with castanets in their hands, execute the steps of the dance. As in all cruder dances, the steps are not distinctive of graceful in themselves. Rather the girls keep time with their feet while they trip around for a while in one place, then turn, change places, and so on. Then one of the dancers will exchange her castanets for the tambourine and stand still while the third begins to dance. And thus they may go on amusing themselves by the hour, without being conscious of spectators. This dance is only an amusement for girls; no boy would touch a tambourine."

Maybe the girls just wanna have fun? Not too many discos in the 1500s.

One hypothesis suggests that the dancing manias arose as a form of mass hysteria. The manic dancers are first described in the late fourteenth century, a time of beautiful art, music, and poetry, but also of tremendous social upheaval, with the spectre of the Black Death invading the normal concerns of mortality. The Black Death struck several times in the second half of the century and completely disrupted all aspects of life, and it can easily be imagined that this would give rise to massive terror and despair, engendering mass hysteria. Like the Flagellant movement, manic dancing may have been an expression of this hysteria.

That makes some kind of intuitive sense as a possibility. I mean, if everyone around you was dropping dead and it seemed like the world was falling apart, why not run out in the street and flap your arms around, doing the funky chicken?

In the late 15th C., one particular outbreak in the town of Taranto in Southern Italy gave rise to an actual dance form. Here, it was believed that the manic dancing was caused by the bite of a local spider. Again, music was employed to try to cure the dancers, and a dance that mimicked their actions was developed - possibly out of empathy for those afflicted, or out of subtle protest against the local government, or possibly through the influence of a local cult of Dionysus that may have existed there. The name of the local dancing mania became known as tarantism, after the town of Taranto, and the indigenous spider cauled the tarantula. Like other tarantulas, the Apulian tarantual is not truly poisonous, although it can give a painful bite, and could not have been responsible for the mania. But the dance developed after the outbreak of dancing mania lived on as the tarantella.

That's kind of interesting. I'm especially intreagued by the possibility of some kind of atavistic manifestation to the ancient Dionysian Mysteries, which were characterized by "female hysteria" and mass displays of "girls gone wild."

The old days were pretty repressive for the average woman. Maybe these sorts of outbreaks were simply triggered by women freaking out at the misery of their lives? And then perhaps picked up on by similarly sympathetic or harried men. Life wasn't easy back then, and even today Lady Gaga is telling us all to "just dance."

posted on Mar, 3 2010 @ 02:19 AM
reply to post by Whine Flu

I can just imagine medieval peasants sampling each other and scratching vinyl.

"My rhymes are so phat that Chaucer cannot top me, Now y'all best sit back while I invent Cockney"

Peace, yo!

posted on Mar, 3 2010 @ 02:22 AM
Could have this act/dance been the first collective push for Peace ,
A huge sacrificial dance to end War in that very region .
Collective consciousness in its earlier form ....It might be , cause look what happened 2-4 weeks later all across europe !!!!!!!!

Oct -1518 Treaty of London (Universal Peace)
A treaty was signed in London between the major European countries, England, France, Burgundy and many more. For Cardinal Wolsey this treaty was a plan to produce a peaceful Europe. The treaty stated that the countries must not attack one another and if they did the other countries would come to the aid of those being attacked. -

Hmm, maybe we need ta dance for peace , just a thought ! S& F 4 Opee!!

posted on Mar, 3 2010 @ 02:35 AM

Originally posted by Solasis
reply to post by Whine Flu

I can just imagine medieval peasants sampling each other and scratching vinyl.

"My rhymes are so phat that Chaucer cannot top me, Now y'all best sit back while I invent Cockney"

Peace, yo!

Would definitely be a spectacle. I bet the rhymes would back then would've been so ill and spread far across the land that they would be straight up Bubonic.

posted on Mar, 3 2010 @ 02:49 AM
Amazing thank you, Along with Byrds Laughing Epidemic these are two of the most personally important information ATS has had ina while.

Just amazing, what is really interesting compared with today is the fact the government in germany then actually when hearing of it paid for musicians to go and play.

How Wonderful is that, even if they died lol, Toady rafts of laws Like in the UK the Criminal Justice Act/Bill are used to ensure that in fact the governments take away any partiers music system.

Today in the UK if two people went to a street together in public and started dancing they would be breaking the law without getting police permission first.
Criminal Justice ACT 1994

It also makes you think of the modern "Mob Flash" dances organised to be like the OP and very spontaneous. I wonder if one day one of them wont stop, and others will follow.

For me in the above if one person in a "Flash Mob" event carried on and everyone went home, I would be more interested in the people who then just spontaniously joined in... Maybe one day lol.

Here is a funny one from Antwerp the sound of music lol:

Wonderful find thank you, for both my love of music and dance (an old raver here lol), and psychology and behaviour in crowds etc... wow.



posted on Mar, 3 2010 @ 05:10 AM
reply to post by Alaskan Man

I have discussed it on ATS in the past. Its a psychogenic epidemic.

These type of psychogenic plagues are an anomalous phenomena that we currently do not fully understand.

If you want to see some modern variants go visit a Pentecostal church or one of its offshoots. Or even better attend a Vodou ceremony.

The cause of the illness and how it spreads is unknown. Religious people would say its spirit or energy.

The flagellants during that time also spread by psychogenic plague, performing acts of self mutilation and baptisms of blood.

Both of these psychogenic plagues began in the 14th century, after four major events: The Mongol Conquests, the Little Ice Age that resulted in massive famine, and the Black Plague.

It was almost as if something had been unleashed or awakened upon the earth.

posted on Mar, 3 2010 @ 07:28 AM
This so makes me think of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer episode "Once More With Feeling" where everyone cant stop singing or dancing and if they run out of things to sing or dance about they die. I know Joss Whedon is into a lot of different things esp conspiracies. I wouldnt be surprised if he knew about this "Dancing Plague of 1518"

This is something I have never heard of. Thanks for posting! It's very interesting. I wonder what made them all dance like that.

posted on Mar, 3 2010 @ 07:45 AM
Come on folks. This is ATS. You just KNOW it was caused by HAARP.

Okay, seriously, great find OP. Really intriguing. S&F from me.

If you want to see some modern variants go visit a Pentecostal church or one of its offshoots. Or even better attend a Vodou ceremony

How do you reconcile the fact that Pentecostal services, while they do exhibit some of the same symptoms with regard to fervor, etc., typically do not last a month nor result in death? Is it due to a different trigger, whether virus or group psychosis? I'd like to know more about your information. Thanks!

posted on Mar, 3 2010 @ 07:49 AM

Originally posted by Alaskan Man
This is one of the strangest "plagues" I've ever heard of.

Sounds like ergot poisoning to me. '___' on rye.

posted on Mar, 3 2010 @ 08:16 AM
I wonder if this case is realted to the "convoltionaries" of France.

Simular "euphoric" symptoms. Without the ability to withstand vast ammounts of pain.


edit- related linky.

[edit on 3/3/2010 by Acidtastic]

posted on Mar, 3 2010 @ 08:19 AM

Originally posted by JohnnyCanuck

Originally posted by Alaskan Man
This is one of the strangest "plagues" I've ever heard of.

Sounds like ergot poisoning to me. '___' on rye.

Dang, you beat me to it!

google: St Vitus Dance

posted on Mar, 3 2010 @ 08:37 AM

One of the first major outbreaks was in Aachen, Germany, on June 24, 1374; the populace danced wildly through the streets, screaming of visions and hallucinations, and even continued to writhe and twist after they were too exhausted to stand

This fascinates me OP, thanks so much for bringing it to my attention. I have a new subject to obsess over^^.

posted on Mar, 3 2010 @ 08:40 AM
Chemtrails with a HAARP trigger? Acid dropping medieval style? Girls gone wild?

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