200 words about the dancing plague of 1518

Hardcore traxx of the Renaissance

The disenchantment of history is a nightmare from which we are all trying to awake. Imagine living in the days when one god could be flattered into healing an illness and another mollified to prevent a storm. When the world had an origin and a destiny that made sense, either because its architects and overseers acted like human beings or because they entirely transcended human understanding. Such is a world in which something like the dancing plague of 1518 could make sense. The facts are easily Wikiable if you’re unfamiliar with this most peculiar of outbreaks: In the middle of a particularly harsh season in what is now Strasbourg, France, a handful of people began to dance without music or apparent motivation. Soon the dancing spread to others, and before long, folks began to drop dead from fatigue, even while the rest danced on. The details hardly matter; the lingering question is, why did these people dance themselves to death? Was it the divine punishment of the stern St. Vitus, as they thought then? Or was this a mania borne of exhaustion and the suggestibility of those at effort’s end? Disenchantment be damned; I’ll take the explanation that makes sense.