- dancing mania and hallucinations
- Dancing mania is also known as dancing plague, epidemic ofdancing, epidemic chorea, and choreomania. According to historical sources, the latter term was introduced by Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, better known as Paracelsus (1493-1541). All the above terms are used to denote a complex motor phenomenon that occurred throughout Western Europe from the 14th through the 17th century. In dancing mania, groups of people would dance in the streets, displaying hallucinatory behaviour, epileptiform fits, and transient paralyses, until they collapsed from exhaustion. According to the French alienist Louis-Florentin Calmeil (17981895), the dancers often reported religious and/or terrifying "visions. The first major outbreak of dancing mania is thought to have taken place in Aachen, Germany, on June 24, 1374, after which it spread quickly through France, Italy, Belgium, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, and even Madagascar. It appears to have reached its peak in 1418 in Strasbourg. Because the religious treatment of the condition involved praying to St. Vitus (amongst many other things), the condition has been erroneously referred to as St. Vitus Dance (a term that actually refers to Sydenham's chorea). Paradoxically, dancing mania was also treated by means of music. As to the condition's etiology, no real consensus exists. Post hoc hypotheses range from mass hysteria to encephalitis, epilepsy, the bite of a Tarantula, murine typhus, and ergot poisoning. A well-known case of dancing mania in Aix-la-Chapelle, France, has been attributed to ergot poisoning (known in the Middle Ages as St. Anthony's Fire) due to the ingestion of rye infected with ergot (Claviceps purpura), a fungus that produces alkaloids with a hallucinogenic potential. The reason that the occurrence ofdanc-ing mania was restricted to this specific geographical area and time frame is unknown.ReferencesCalmeil, L.-F. (1845). De la folie. Paris: J.-B. Baillière.Donaldson, L.J., Cavanagh, J., Rankin, J. (1997). The dancing plague: A public health conundrum. Public Health, 111, 201-204.Hecker, J.F.C. (1835). The dancing mania of the middle ages. Translated by Babington, B.G. New York, NY: J. Fitzgerald.
Dictionary of Hallucinations. J.D. Blom. 2010.