The Dancing Plague: A Mysterious Phenomenon in Medieval Europe

TLDR The Dancing Plague, also known as Dancing Mania, was a condition in which people would dance uncontrollably until they collapsed or died. It is believed to have been a case of mass hysteria, potentially triggered by stress and societal factors, although the exact cause remains unknown.

Timestamped Summary

00:00 Could there be a disease that caused people to dance until they fell from exhaustion?
01:43 Dancing Mania, also known as The Dancing Plague, Choreomania, St. John's Dance, and St. Vitus's Dance, was a condition in which people would dance until they collapsed, and these instances were well-documented between the 13th and 17th centuries in Europe.
02:53 Dancing Mania outbreaks occurred in various places and times, including a case in Birnberg, Germany in 1020 and a large outbreak in Aachen, Germany in 1374 that spread to other cities and regions.
04:00 The Dancing Plague outbreaks would often last for hours, days, or even weeks, with dancers often unable to control themselves and continuing until exhaustion or death, and the most well-known case occurred in the city of Strasbourg in 1518.
05:11 Episodes of Dancing Mania continued for several decades before disappearing in the early 17th century, and while the original explanation was supernatural, there were different beliefs about whether it was caused by demonic possession or divine intervention from saints such as St. John the Baptist or St. Vitus.
06:21 One hypothesis is that the Dancing Plague of 1518 was one of the earliest documented cases of mass hysteria, potentially stress-induced and triggered by the aftermath of the Black Death, famine, or disease, while another theory suggests that it may have been organized events, although most contemporary accounts indicate that the participants acted involuntarily; an interesting explanation is that it was due to poisoning from the ergot fungi, which contains a chemical similar to LSD.
07:33 The cause of the dancing plague of 1518 remains unknown, but a mass hysteria explanation is the most plausible, as it doesn't require a chemical or supernatural explanation and aligns with historical examples of social trends and fads.
Categories: History Education

Browse more History