Sunday, January 24, 2016

Plague of dancing

Known as choreomania (from Greek "choros" which means dance, and "mania" - madness), Dancing St. John or Dance of St. Vitus, this strange epidemic has been recorded numerous times during the Middle Ages in Europe (especially in period XIV – XVII century). Symptoms of this disease presented in these written sources were unable to provide a clear, contemporary researchers, from poverty to detail, but also because the authors inability to understand disease from the perspective of modern medicine. Most accepted doubts about this dance craze were assigned amid mass hysteria or nerve diseases, such as epilepsy. Unfortunately, this argument can not be considered because epilepsy is not a contagious disease. As such, we can not accept reasonable motivation that those who joined the craze were only comprised of the people already affected by epilepsy.

After studying various medieval sources about this disease, it has seen a pattern which met at all. Thus, most
"dance epidemics" were characterized by collective manifestations in groups that varied in number from a few to several hundred people. During dances, participants sang, screamed and laughed frantically. Hours dance
continue to induce a trance participants and ecstasy, followed by a faint, or even their death. It managed to identify specific medical conditions such as seizures, chest pain, hyperventilation, hallucinations and attacks with symptoms similar to epilepsy.

It was also observed that most of those who participated in these dances were foreigners zones, often erupted during a pilgrimage and attracting even some of the locals. These events collectively could break out and gather participants during their deployment or from one sufferer may collect dozens if not hundreds of other dancers around him.

According to sources, those affected by these epidemics dance would have reacted violently to any observer refusal to join them, which explains why healthy people participating in these epidemics purely recreational reasons. Dances were condemned by religious authorities of that time because participants often eliminate the clothing accessory, made obscene gestures and carried out acts of a sexual nature. Clerics describes how chaotic and savage behaves, like that of animals, attributing blame Satan's evil actions.

Other features typical of those participants were intolerance for red and pointy shoes with a masochistic pleasure to hit the legs. The descriptions displayed on this medieval dancers wearing colorful clothing and having strange wooden sticks.

The most important dance epidemics

The first record of such an epidemic was in century X. A report from 1021 tells how Kolbig 12 peasants in Germany today would have danced around a church for months, after being cursed by a priest to lament for a whole year for Christmas service interruption. During the dance, 4 of the 12 peasants died, being stopped only with the help of two local bishops and prayers. The fact that these people needed time to feed and satisfy their, at least, physiological needs, there is no information. Because regardless of their physical and mental capabilities of these men could not last more than 2 days without food and water. But it was a huge effort to dance for hours and all energy resources are quickly exhausted.

In 1278, in Utrecht, a group of 200 people danced across the river Meuse bridge, causing its collapse and death of many of those dancers. A century later, in 1374, it held the largest outbreak of this kind, the disease called St. John, because it was held the feast of this saint. Thus, Aix-la-Chapelles (Aachen) gathered the crowd of people outside the city, led by a certain visual illusion (according to sources). This heretical dance, some being under the influence of hallucinations, so faint, finally, because of exhaustion. In the coming years, epidemics have spread outside the German area, it is set in France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Belgium. Priests and clerics appeal to service of exorcism to treat patients who thought they were possessed. Ordinary people attempt to appease patients that turned violent applying them hard blows to the abdomen, but often, the dancers like to be hit. Tried and bringing musicians to accompany the sick, but this method attracts, even more, participants to dance, worsening the situation.

Later, it began in a seemingly ordinary summer day in mid-July, the year 1518. Then more than astonished eyes of its neighbors, Mrs. Troffea, a middle-aged woman, started dancing convulsively and without controlling the narrow streets of the city Strasbourg, France (then the settlement was part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation). It could hear no music, and grimaces, his gaze fixed and facial expression, shows no sign of joy or happiness. Thoughts that flared in the heads of the crowd that gathered more frightened and suspicious revolves around suspicions of insanity or demonic possession, the only explanation of the time for such a bizarre how she Mrs. Troffea output. The woman did not seem able to stop dancing, or what seemed to dance and began to frighten more and more viewers.

The first week it came with 34 people, and three weeks after 400 people gathered the crowd. Most dancers fainted after a few days due to exhaustion. Things went from bad to worse, for a period of one month, the number who had started from nowhere to dance, hop and jump instantly to falling killed by exhaustion,
exceeded 400 people. Doctors in those days were all declared powerless, for unfortunates were dancing as if in another world, no longer able to communicate with others. A priest came shortly turn to state inefficiency after jobs and exorcism sessions proved equally ineffective. And some, and others, like the nobles and the
common people, they soon realized that unwittingly dancers do not dance on their own initiative, which has fueled aimed opinion namely that Satan is involved in everything that happens. Were recorded deaths caused dance without stopping, heart attacks and fatigue are the main culprits. Concerned by this event, local nobles, clerics, and scholars were polled to find out the cause of these strange events. Upon learning that the disease had been caused by "hot blood", the authorities decided to let people dance day and night, hoping they would eventually get tired and stop. The central city has been released and a wooden stage was built in the middle of them to facilitate the dances. The authorities have decided to employ to musicians, dancers hope that helps.

Sufferers of this disease in the city of Strasbourg went on the pilgrimage to the relics of St. Vitus, the rumors saying that they had the miraculous power to treat this disease. Thus, St. Vitus became attached to John the Baptist, patron sufferers dancers. In the seventeenth century, Professor of Medicine Gregor Horst observe an event held each year at the chapel of St. Vitus in Drefelhausen: "Every year, the day of St. Vitus, women who come on pilgrimage dancing day and night until captured by ecstasy and faints. They then return to their normal lives to resume next year habit. "

Dance Mania seems to have disappeared somewhere in the middle of the seventeenth century. A specific phenomenon called tarantism and Italian space strikingly resembles the disease described above. Tarantism habit would be started in the thirteenth century, the Italian space when it was thought that the antidote to scorpion bites and tarantulas was tarantella dance. One of these dances is found today in Italian folklore. The dance is called "pizzicarella" and the video Alla Bua is an edificatory band.

With time, Tarantism has become a local tradition, accompanied by dances being sprayed with red wine parties. The phenomenon stopped abruptly in 1959, no longer practiced since.

Possible explanations
The explanations of this phenomenon have been hard to find, the answers to which data from multiple perspectives, especially in the medico-psychological and sociological. The most plausible explanation may be the boundary between these areas. Analyzing the periods in which these outbreaks occurred, the researchers found that they were held in intense periods of famine and poverty in the peasantry. Hunger, poor health and psychological stress affecting ordinary people would be produced mental instability, causing them to burst into fits of dancing, often violent.
The famine that bears peasants would be forced to consume and broken grains, which sometimes were infected mushroom hallucinogen effect. They were infecting them, in turn, consumers, and those under the symptom of mania dance.

Other explanations that do not belong to the scientific, presents these epidemics as some secret religious cults ceremony. Although in those days to be a heretic was a crime that was punishable by death, it is believed that these ceremonies pagan Greco-Roman inspiration and would have kept the guise of "plague of dance" to avoid repressive actions of the Catholic Church.

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