The Dancing Mania

Justus HECKER (1795 - 1850), translated by Benjamin G. BABINGTON (1794 - 1866)

Numerous theories have been proposed for the causes of dancing mania, and it remains unclear whether it was a real illness or a social phenomenon.

One of the most prominent theories is that victims suffered from ergot poisoning, which was known as St Anthony's Fire in the Middle Ages. During floods and damp periods, ergots were able to grow and affect rye and other crops. Ergotism can cause hallucinations, but cannot account for the other strange behaviour most commonly identified with dancing mania.

Many sources discuss how dancing mania, and tarantism, may have simply been the result of stress and tension caused by natural disasters around the time, such as plagues and floods…people may have danced to relieve themselves of the stress and poverty of the day, and in doing so, attempted to become ecstatic and see visions. Sources agree that dancing mania was one of the earliest forms of mass hysteria, and describe it as a "psychic epidemic", with numerous explanations that might account for the behaviour of the dancers.

Another popular theory is that the outbreaks were all staged, and the appearance of strange behaviour was down to its unfamiliarity. Religious cults may have been acting out well-organised dances, in accordance with ancient Greek and Roman rituals. Despite being banned at the time, these rituals could be performed under the guise of uncontrollable dancing mania. (Introduction from Wikipedia, slightly adapted.)

Genre(s): *Non-fiction, History , Psychology

Language: English

Section Chapter Reader Time
Play 01 Chapter 1: The Dancing Mania in Germany and the Netherlands - Sect. 1: St John\'s Dance Martin Geeson
00:13:55
Play 02 Chapter 1: The Dancing Mania in Germany and the Netherlands - Sect. 2: St Vitus\'s Dance Martin Geeson
00:05:43
Play 03 Chapter 1: The Dancing Mania in Germany and the Netherlands - Sect. 3: Causes Martin Geeson
00:07:33
Play 04 Chapter 1: The Dancing Mania in Germany and the Netherlands - Sect. 4: More Ancient Dancing Plagues Martin Geeson
00:07:43
Play 05 Chapter 1: The Dancing Mania in Germany and the Netherlands - Sect. 5: Physicians Martin Geeson
00:09:13
Play 06 Chapter 1: The Dancing Mania in Germany and the Netherlands - Sect. 6: Decline and Termination of the Dancing Plague Martin Geeson
00:13:34
Play 07 Chapter 2: The Dancing Mania in Italy - Sect. 1: Tarantism Martin Geeson
00:03:41
Play 08 Chapter 2: The Dancing Mania in Italy - Sect. 2: More Ancient Traces - Causes Martin Geeson
00:15:49
Play 09 Chapter 2: The Dancing Mania in Italy - Sect. 3: Increase Martin Geeson
00:09:17
Play 10 Chapter 2: The Dancing Mania in Italy - Sect. 4: Idiosyncrasies - Music Martin Geeson
00:23:01
Play 11 Chapter 2: The Dancing Mania in Italy - Sect. 5: Hysteria Martin Geeson
00:07:48
Play 12 Chapter 2: The Dancing Mania in Italy - Sect. 6: Decrease Martin Geeson
00:06:06
Play 13 Chapter 3: The Dancing Mania in Abyssinia Martin Geeson
00:17:46
Play 14 Chapter 4: Sympathy - Sect 1 Martin Geeson
00:12:07
Play 15 Chapter 4: Sympathy - Sect 2 Martin Geeson
00:15:20
Play 16 Chapter 4: Sympathy - Sect 3 Martin Geeson
00:17:06