Throughout the Middle Ages, Catholics saw friends and neighbors afflicted with what they believed was the irresistible desire to dance. The cure for this strange ailment, they believed, was to be found in the intercession of the saints…and more dancing.
An article on the Dancing Plague from the Discovery Channel
“Rethinking the Dancing Mania” by Robert E. Bartholomew in Skeptical Inquirer Volume 24.4, July / August 2000 – the author explains the dancing mania as an expression of prohibited heretical/pagan beliefs
“A forgotten plague: making sense of dancing mania” by John Waller in The Lancet, Volume 373, Issue 9664, Pages 624 – 625, 21 February 2009 – the author finds an explanation for dancing mania in mass psychosis – for a fuller treatment see his The Dancing Plague. The Strange, True story of an Extraordinary Illness.
“The Dancing Plague: a public health conundrum” by LJ Donaldson, J Cavanagh, and J Rankin in Public Health 1997 Issue 4, p201-204 – the authors suggest a variety of causes for the dancing mania
The painting is The Pilgrimage of the Epileptics to the Church at Molenbeeck: Three groups of Epileptics going to the left by Pieter Breughel the Elder
Be sure to check out the CUTH blog for more on the history of the Catholic Church
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