Mass Hysteria

I news clip caught my eye yesterday about incidents of hysterical dancing that broke out in Germany in the 1300’s.  Men and women started to dance, and were unable to stop.  Others  joined them. The dancers rarely stopped to eat or sleep for days and sometimes weeks.  They did not appear happy to be dancing, but they didn’t stop. Outbreaks of this dancing continued through out the Middle Ages.  It was sometimes called St. John’s Dance, and, later, St. Vitus Dance and the Tarantella. There are theories that it was caused by ergot poisoning, but that is still up for debate. Other theories attribute it to living in stressful times. It seemed to die out with the advent  of Protestantism.

There was a modern outbreak of hysterical laughing  in 1962 in a girls’ mission school  in Tanganyika which eventually affected  around 1000 people in the surrounding community for 18 months.

Given the stressful time we are living in, I started to wonder what sort of mass hysteria might we see occurring. I thought it would be nice to see mass recycling or picking up litter and trash.  Unstoppable acts of kindness would be refreshing as well.

What mass hysteria would you like to see? Have you ever been “hysterical”?

27 thoughts on “Mass Hysteria”

        1. Well, I beg to differ. The etymology of the word notwithstanding, men are as capable of being hysterical, uterus or no. I know I’m capable of it, and I don’t have a uterus either.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Etymology aside, “hysteria” has a history of being used specifically and pejoratively against women. I don’t disagree that men can demonstrate what would be described as “hysterics” when exhibited by a woman, but when the same condition is exhibited by a man, it often as not gets described as “furious” or, as I suggested, tongue in cheek, “deeply concerned”. The difference is whether you are presumed to be in or out of control.

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        3. A little mansplaining is always good. But sure, and we all know what emotional wrecks women are. That’s why we can’t have one in the White House. You know how emotional they become when they menstruate, and heaven forbid we’d have to deal with one who was menopausal. Give me a rational male any day of the week. SMH.

          Liked by 2 people

  1. I thought the tarantella was intended to counteract the venom of a tarantula bite. I suppose a tarantula bite might make you a little hysterical.

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      1. I grew up with bats occasionally swooping in our bedroom. My older sister tended to get a bit hysterical. My younger sister and I would just pull the covers tightly over our heads and wait.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve found my book by Barbara Ehrenreich Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy and I don’t have time to find it till later, but there are a few passages that included “hysteria”. Will be back later to enlighten you all. : )

    Liked by 2 people

    1. From p. 16-17: …the focus here is on the kinds of events witnessed by Europeans in “primitive” societies and recalled in the European carnival tradition. These were not spontaneous outbreaks of “hysteria”, as some Europeans tended to imagine; nor were they occasions for the suspension of all inhibitions and a general “letting go.” The behavior that seemed so “savage” and wild to Western observers was in fact deliberately planned, organized, and at all times subject to cultural rules and expectations.

      This book is chock full of pithy stories about how Western civilization, esp. the Catholic Church, suppressed all kinds of ecstatic singing and dancing… I don’t, however, remember anything quite like what Renee describes above.

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  3. I can’t remember ever being “hysterical”, though we sometimes the word to mean “hilarious” – That’s hysterical!, and I hope I’ve been that once or twice.

    The kind of mass hysteria I would like to see is everyone singing and dancing for joy in the streets because #45 has been replaced… kind of like the end of a world war.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Tonight I’m very much part of the Danish immigrant party. Tonight is Sankt Hans Aften, the eve that Danes celebrate midsummer. Bonfires with or without straw witches, are being burned all over the country, and this is a song that every Dane knows. It’s sung as Danes gather around the blaze, and it’s pretty much the only time you’ll hear it:

    Liked by 1 person

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