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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 continuously night and day. To increase the effectiveness of the cure, authorities even paid for musicians to keep the afflicted moving. Some of the dancers were taken to a shrine, where they sought a cure for their affliction.
Ergot or ergot fungi refers to a group of fungi of the genus Claviceps. The most prominent member of this group is Claviceps purpurea. This fungus grows on rye and related plants, and produces alkaloids that can cause ergotism in humans and other mammals who consume grains contaminated with its fruiting structure (called ergot sclerotium)
Salem witchcraft accusations
The convulsive symptoms that can be a result of consuming ergot-tainted rye have also been said to be the cause of accusations of “bewitchment” that spurred the Salem witch trials. This medical explanation for the theory of “bewitchment” is one first propounded by Linnda R. Caporael in 1976 in an article in Science. In her article, Caporael points out that the convulsive symptoms, such as crawling sensations in the skin, tingling in the fingers, vertigo, tinnitus aurium, headaches, disturbances in sensation, hallucination, painful muscular contractions, vomiting and diarrhea, as well as psychological symptoms, such as mania, melancholia, psychosis and delirium, were all symptoms reported in the Salem witchcraft records. Caporael also notes the abundance of rye in the region as well as perfect climate conditions for the tainting of rye
Ergotism is the effect of long-term ergot poisoning, traditionally due to the ingestion of the alkaloids produced by the Claviceps purpurea fungus which infects rye and other cereals, and more recently by the action of a number of ergoline-based drugs. It is also known as ergotoxicosis, ergot poisoning and Saint Anthony's Fire. Ergot poisoning is a proposed explanation of bewitchment.
In those years where the winters were cooler, Rye would be more likely to survive than wheat. This made it more likely that Rye would be consumed, and while the Rye survived the cold temperatures, the plants were traumatized and were more susceptible to infections by Ergot. Evidence that Ergot poisoning was occurring was based on reports of nervous system disorders. In summer of 1355, there was an epidemic of “madness” in England. People believed that they saw demons. In 1374, a wet year, marked by a lack of food, there was an outbreak of hallucinations, convulsions and compulsive dancing in the Rhineland.
ERGOT.... ’Claviceps purpurea‘, a fungus that affects cereals, especially RYE. It is a toxic alkaloid that causes convulsions and hallucinations.
It is believed to be the cause of the illnesses ‘St. Vitus Dance’ and ‘St. Anthony’s Fire’.
An idication of ergot poisoning also known as chours sancti viti , lascivious dance. Most commonly called dancing madness sign
Dancing mania was a social phenomenon that occurred primarily in mainland Europe between the 14th and 18th centuries; it involved groups of people, sometimes thousands at a time, who danced uncontrollably and bizarrely. Men, women, and children would dance through the streets of towns or cities, sometimes foaming at the mouth until they collapsed from fatigue.
Although no real consensus exists as to what caused the mania, some cases, especially the one in Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle), may have had an explicable physical cause. Some of the symptoms of the sufferers can be attributed to Ergot poisoning, or ergotism, known in the Middle Ages as "St. Anthony's Fire". It is caused by eating rye infected with Claviceps purpurea, a small fungus that contains toxic and psychoactive chemicals (alkaloids), including lysergic acid and ergotamine (used in modern times as a precursor in the synthesis of '___'). Symptoms of ergot poisoning include nervous spasms, psychotic delusions, spontaneous abortion and convulsions and gangrene caused by severe vasoconstriction; some dancers claimed to have experienced visions of a religious nature.
Neurosci Lett. 2006 Feb 6;394(1):69-73. Epub 2005 Oct 25.
Increased severity of chemically induced seizures in mice with partially deleted Vitamin D receptor gene.
Kalueff AV, Minasyan A, Keisala T, Kuuslahti M, Miettinen S, Tuohimaa P.
SourceDepartment of Anatomy, Medical School, University of Tampere, Tampere 33014, Finland. firstname.lastname@example.org
Vitamin D is a neuroactive steroid hormone with multiple functions in the brain. Numerous clinical and experimental data link various Vitamin D-related dysfunctions to epilepsy. Here, we study the role of Vitamin D receptors (VDRs) in experimental epilepsy in mice. To examine this problem, we assessed the seizure profiles in VDR knockout mice following a systemic injection of pentylenetetrazole (70 mg/kg). Overall, compared to the wild-type (WT) 129S1 mice (n=10 in each group), the VDR knockout group significantly demonstrated shorter latencies to the onset, higher Racine scores and increased mortality rates. Our findings suggest that VDRs modulate seizure susceptibility in mice, and that the Vitamin D/VDR endocrine system may be involved in the pathogenesis of epilepsy.
Convulsive ergotism is characterized by nervous dysfunction, where the victim is twisting and contorting their body in pain, trembling and shaking, and wryneck, a more or less fixed twisting of the neck, which seems to simulate convulsions or fits. In some cases, this is accompanied by muscle spasms, confusions, delusions and hallucinations, as well as a number of other symptoms.
In gangrenous ergotism, the victim may lose parts of their extremities, such as toes, fingers, ear lobes or in more serious cases, arms and legs may be lost. This type of ergotism causes gangrene to occur by constricting the blood vessels leading to the extremities. Because of the decrease in blood flow.