Dancing Mania aka dancing plague, choreomania, St John’s Dance

This may sound like a joke, but it was deadly serious.

Dancing mania (also known as dancing plague, choreomania, St John’s Dance and, historically, St. Vitus’s Dance) was a social phenomenon that occurred primarily in mainland Europe between the 14th and 17th centuries. It involved groups of people dancing erratically, sometimes thousands at a time. The mania affected men, women, and children who danced until they collapsed from exhaustion. One of the first major outbreaks was in Aachen, in the Holy Roman Empire, in 1374, and it quickly spread throughout Europe; one particularly notable outbreak occurred in Strasbourg in 1518, also in the Holy Roman Empire.

The Strassbourg outbreak began in July 1518, when a woman, Mrs. Troffea, began to dance fervently in a street in Strasbourg. This lasted somewhere between four and six days. Within a week, 34 others had joined, and within a month, there were around 400 dancers, predominantly female. Some of these people eventually died from heart attacks, strokes, or exhaustion. One report indicates that for a period the plague killed around fifteen people per day.

Affecting thousands of people across several centuries, dancing mania was not an isolated event, and was well documented in contemporary reports. It was nevertheless poorly understood, and remedies were based on guesswork. Generally, musicians accompanied dancers, to help ward off the mania, but this tactic sometimes backfired by encouraging more to join in. There is no consensus among modern-day scholars as to the cause of dancing mania.

The several theories proposed range from religious cults being behind the processions to people dancing to relieve themselves of stress and put the poverty of the period out of their minds. It is, however, thought to have been a mass psychogenic illness in which the occurrence of similar physical symptoms, with no known physical cause, affect a large group of people as a form of social influence.

Modern theories include food-poisoning caused by the toxic and psychoactive chemical products of ergot fungi, which grows commonly on grains in the wheat family (such as rye).

Ergotamine is the main psychoactive product of ergot fungi, it is structurally related to the recreational drug lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD-25), and is the substance from which LSD-25 was originally synthesized. The same fungus has also been implicated in other major historical anomalies, including the Salem witch trials.

The Manchurian plague

Before I go into the history of the The Manchurian plague, I would like to say something about Dr. Wu Lien-teh. Google is honoring him today with a Google Doodle, it is his 142 birthday today.

Dr. Wu Lien-teh. was a Malayan physician renowned for his work in public health and particularly, the Manchurian plague of 1910–11. Scientific personal protective equipment is generally believed to have begun with the cloth facemasks promoted by Wu Lien-teh during the Manchurian pneumonic plague outbreak, although many Western medics doubted the efficacy of facemasks in preventing the spread of disease.

Long before the coronavirus pandemic which broke out in the city of Wuhan .wreaked havoc on the planet, it was the Great Manchurian Plague that brought life to a standstill in China.

Like the Covid virus ,which currently is still causing problems globally, the virus which caused the Manchurian plague was also caused by an animal.

The deadly epidemic spread through China and threatened to become a pandemic. Its origins appeared to be related to the trade in wild animals, but at the time no one was sure. In the autumn of 1910, humans encountered the bacillus that causes plague, Yersinia pestis, when markets spurred exploitation of animals on another Asian borderland, a part of northeastern China on the border with Russia and Mongolia known as Manchuria. This region is home to a burrowing groundhog-like animal, the Tarbagan marmot. which became an attractive source for furs at the turn of the 19th century. The trapping and skinning of millions of marmots resulted in the transfer of Yersinia pestis directly into the lungs of humans and gave rise to the pneumonic plague.

Trying to find the source and the initial outbreak of the plague is hard, but it was first officially noted by Russian doctors in Manzhouli, an Inner Mongolian town on the Chinese-Russian border, which had developed around the China Eastern Railway . The symptoms were alarming — fever followed by haemoptysis (the coughing up of blood). In Manzhouli, the dead were left in the street and railway freight cars were turned into quarantine wards.

The epidemic hit international headlines when it reached the northeastern city of Harbin, which was then part of the area known as Manchuria , in today’s Heilongjiang province. The majority of the territory was Chinese-governed. While Japan controlled the port area around Dalian, Russia ran Manchuria’s railways.

In 1911, scientists working in Asia had only recently identified the microorganism that caused plague (Yersinia pestis, then known as Bacillus pestis), and many unanswered questions remained about the plague’s ecology, epidemiology, and infectivity, the same questions scientists today are asking about SARS-CoV-2.

Teams of researchers from different nations came to Manchuria to study these questions through work in laboratories, clinics, and the field, as well as through investigations into the plague.

Just as viruses spread fast along airline routes today, back then the railways facilitated the spread. Fear in Manzhouli meant many people followed the routes the marmot hides had taken along the CER to the Heilongjiang city of Qiqihar, and then on to Harbin.

At the time, Doctor Wu Lien-teh, was managing to contain the outbreak. Wu began post-mortem exams of victims and crucially established that the disease was pneumonic plague and not bubonic.

Legend has it that there was a French medical professor from Peiyang Medical College in Tianjin, Dr Girard Mesny, who believed Wu’s diagnosis was incorrect and wanted to replace him as the man leading the operation against the epidemic. Believing that it was a disease of the glands, he examined four patients without a facemask. He contracted the virus and died on January 11.

Wu knew he was working towards a looming deadline l. Chinese New Year was officially January 30 and He knew that limiting travel would be almost impossible during the annual migration home for so many Chinese people.
If the infection rate wasn’t brought down, then it risked becoming a nationwide epidemic.
The response was sometimes harsh ,any lodging house where an infection appeared was burnt to the ground. But overall Wu’s anti-plague measures worked. So-called “sanitary zones,” quarantines, lockdowns, isolation, travel restrictions and face masks were all implemented. Quarantine centres were established, mostly in converted rail freight cars. If the quarantined didn’t show symptoms within five-to-ten days they were released with a wire wristband fastened with a lead seal stating they were plague free. The measures appeared to have brought the infection rate in Harbin down by the end of January.
However, unfortunately Infections had spread along the rail line. By the start of January 1911, Shenyang had over 2,571 deaths. Eventually, quarantining and travel restrictions in Shenyang began to take effect and the infection rate fell. But the rail line extended onwards and several towns close to the major port city of Dalian reported cases.

In 1911, there was no WHO. The response to the epidemic, hence, was left to individual nations.

The shutdown of Dalian port stopped the spread out from Manchuria to major destinations in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and elsewhere in Asia.

Wu’s draconian methods had also proved to be successful. The last case was recorded on March 1, 1911.

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sources

https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/full/10.2105/AJPH.2020.305960

https://www.wionews.com/world/of-the-great-manchurian-plague-of-1911-and-its-lessons-293564

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/04/18/china/great-manchurian-plague-china-hnk-intl/index.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manchurian_plague

Shakespeare’s Hamnet

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Before you all start writing to me about the obvious error in the title, let me assure you it’s not an error, neither is it one of his plays.

William Shakespeare had 3 children, 2 daughters Susanna and Judith  and one son called Hamnet.

Susanna was born in May 1583, six months after the wedding of her parents Anne Hathaway and William Shakespeare. The baptism of Susanna Shakespeare took place in Stratford Parish Church on May 26th 1583. Two years later in 1585 Anne and William’s twins, Hamnet and Judith Shakespeare, were born. The baptism of Hamnet and Judith Shakespeare took place in Stratford Parish Church on February 2nd 1585.The twins were named after two very close friends of William and Anne, the baker Hamnet Sadler and his wife, Judith. 

Little is known about the life of William Shakespeare’s son Hamnet. He was raised in his grandfather’s house predominantly by his mother Anne as his father’s work in Theatre was based in London. There are no records that show that Hamnet Shakespeare ever attended a school although it was customary for a boy from Hamnet’s background to have had an education. Neither of Hamnet’s sisters had an education and neither of them were able to read or write. There were constant outbreaks of the  Bubonic Plague, otherwise known as the Black Death or the Black Plague, during Elizabethan times and in 1596 Hamnet contracted the deadly disease and died at the age of eleven.Shakespeare’s son Hamnet was buried in Stratford on August 11, 1596.

HamnetDeath

Scholars have long speculated about the influence – if any – of Hamnet’s death upon William Shakespeare’s writing. Unlike his contemporary Ben Jonson, who wrote a lengthy piece on the death of his own son, Shakespeare, if he wrote anything in response, did so more subtly. At the time his son died, Shakespeare was writing primarily comedies, and that writing continued until a few years after Hamnet’s death, when his major tragedies were written. It is possible that his tragedies gained depth from his experience.

Many scholars argue that the pain of losing a beloved son is echoed most strongly in the words of Constance in the history play, King John:

CONSTANCE

Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form.
Then, have I reason to be fond of grief?
Fare you well: had you such a loss as I,
I could give better comfort than you do.
I will not keep this form upon my head,
When there is such disorder in my wit.
O Lord! my boy, my Arthur, my fair son!
My life, my joy, my food, my all the world!

(King John, Act III, Scene 4)

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Basel massacre

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The Basel massacre of Jews took place on 9 January 1349, as part of the Black Death persecutions of 1348–1350.

Following the spread of the Black Death through the surrounding countryside of Savoy and subsequently Basel, the Jews were accused of having poisoned the wells, because they suffered a lower mortality rate than the local gentiles from the pestilence.

The Black Death, which is estimated to have killed between 75 and 200 million people in the middle of the fourteenth century, arrived in central and western Europe in 1348. The pandemic spread through Savoy and soon began to kill people in the city of Basel.

Convinced that the Jews of the city were dying of the disease less frequently than the Christians, the local population soon began to accuse the Jews of poisoning the wells. Although accurate statistical evidence is lacking, numerous theories have been put forward to explain why Jews may have appeared to have suffered less from the disease. While one of these is based on the simple observation that Christians were less likely to see Jewish victims due to the fact they were buried in separate cemeteries, another suggests that strict Jewish dietary rituals meant that Jewish homes were much less appealing to the rats that are believed to have carried the plague.

Under pressure from the powerful guilds, many of whom had obtained confessions from local Jews under torture, the City Fathers responded with extraordinary ruthlessness. Having separated children from their parents, the adult Jews were a specially constructed wooden barn on an island in the Rhine. Here they were shackled together and the structure set on fire, leaving the victims to burn alive. The surviving children were forcefully converted to Christianity, while Jews were banned from the city for 200 years.

The Black Death itself continued to ravage Europe for around another four years, killing between 30 and 60 per cent of the entire population of the continent.

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I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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