Friday, June 25, 2010

Wikipedia fun: Tarantella

During ancient times in the area around the Greek colony of Taranta in southern Italy, a type of poisonous spider was so prevalent that it took the name Lycosa tarantula. Its venom caused a hysterical condition known as Tarantism, the symptoms of which were an irresistible need for a wild and rapid whirling motion bringing the victim to the point of exhaustion, also known as Tarantulism. For long time, the local population believed that the only way to suppress the symptoms and to cure the bite was by using a very rhythmic and fast music. The music played for the cure became known as Tarantella.
I love that the medieval cure for a tarantula bite was dancing. It's something, how completely and utterly stupid most antique medical practices were. Except leeches. That's the one thing we always give them credit for.
This all comes as a result of my semiannual researching of the dancing plagues and manias that cropped up all over Europe in the middle ages. I was also looking into whirling dervishes, which means I might have some sort of weird obsession with dancing going on. It's worth pointing out that I rarely dance, and when I do it probably looks a lot more like the dancing described above than the ballroom dancing I took in 6th grade.

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