The Dancing Plague

redshoosusingelThe most famous example of the Dancing Plague is the one of 1518 in Strasbourg, France, but it is not the most interesting case to date. No, the more interesting one is one of the earlier outbreaks, i Aachen, Germany, 1374 – not that the illness was much different, but certainly the cure.

St. John’s Dance, as the phenomenon was then called (the ‘phenomenon’ being people dancing themselves to death by stroke, heart attack, exhaution and the likes), was usually seen as some sort of possession and should therefore be treated by exorcism and prayer and so on – and as part of the exorcism, musicians were paid to play for the dancers to keep them going, believing that the only way to get the demons out was for the victims to dance and dance and dance, day and night, without end.

Anyway, what makes the Aachen outbreak special, is that it has been documented that the victims were not only dragged to the altar of St. Vitus, but also given red shoes to dance in. And why?

Nobody really knows, the reason for this particular detail is lost in history – but admit it: dancing yourself to death is much more fun in bright colours.

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