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The Dancing Plague

The Dancing Plague

When a Mysterious Dance Epidemic Swept Through History

Overview

The Dance Epidemic of 1518 occurred in Strasbourg, Germany, in July 1518, spreading to other parts of Europe. Characterized by uncontrollable dancing lasting hours and causing injuries, the exact cause remains unknown. Some attribute it to ergot poisoning from a fungus on grains, while others suggest St. Vitus’s Dance, a psychotic disorder. The outbreak began with Frau Troffea dancing in the streets, influencing hundreds to join. The epidemic spread across Europe, possibly fueled by social and psychological factors during a time of famine and disease. Predominantly affecting young women, the outbreak ended within weeks, leaving behind a mysterious event that influenced religious and social structures. “Dance doctors” were appointed to calm and treat the affected, and the epidemic led to increased church efforts to control religious feelings.

Dance Epidemic of 1518

The Dance Epidemic of 1518 was an epidemic that occurred in Strasbourg, Germany, in July 1518 and quickly spread to other parts of Europe.
People caught in the outbreak would start dancing uncontrollably, and this dance would often last for hours. During the dance, people could make violent movements that could injure or kill themselves.

Ergot poisoning or hallucinations

The exact cause of the epidemic is not known, but some scientists think it may have been caused by ergot poisoning. Ergot is a type of fungus that grows on grains and can cause hallucinations, muscle cramps and other physical ailments when consumed.

Another possible cause of the outbreak is the St. Vitus’s Dance, a psychotic disorder. People suffering from this disorder may feel an uncontrollable urge to dance.

Frau Troffea

The outbreak began in July 1518, when a woman named Frau Troffea started dancing in the streets. Troffea continued dancing for days and eventually collapsed from exhaustion.
Troffea’s dancing soon influenced other people. Within a few days, hundreds of people were dancing uncontrollably in the streets.

Spreading the epidemic and end

The epidemic soon spread to other parts of Europe. Similar events occurred in France, the Netherlands, England and Italy. Although the reasons for the spread of the epidemic are not known exactly, some scientists believe that social and psychological factors played a role in the spread of the epidemic.
For example, at the time, Europe was experiencing a major famine and disease outbreak. This may have increased people’s stress and anxiety levels.

The epidemic ended within a few weeks. But it remains one of the most mysterious events in European history. Most of the people caught in the outbreak were young women. This suggests that the outbreak may have been caused by hormonal factors.

During the epidemic, people called “dance doctors” were assigned to help the dancing people. Dance Doctors used various methods to calm and treat the dancing people.
The Dancing Epidemic of 1518 caused great turmoil in Europe. People believed that it was some kind of punishment or a divine sign.

The epidemic also affected the religious and social structure of the time. After this event, the church started to make more efforts to control people’s religious feelings.

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