1,000 years ago in the German village of Kölbigk, a priest was poised to perform Christmas Mass. Outside the chapel, an unexpected commotion materialized. 18 villagers had gathered, dancing, clapping, and chanting. Their impropriety shocked the congregation and infuriated the priest, who cursed the revelers to dance for one year as punishment.
This is among the earliest recorded cases of “Dancing Mania” (also known as St. John’s Dance or St. Vitus’ Dance), recorded by observers into the 17th century, and famously documented by artists like Pieter Brueghel the Elder.
Scholars disagree on the causes of this phenomenon, with explanations ranging from ergot poisoning, to spontaneous catharsis after natural disasters like plagues and floods. As with the Salem Witch Trials and similar instances of mass hysteria, the answer is likely multideterminant, indicating something mysterious and fascinating about how humankind copes with extreme stress.
Why are we dwelling on this esoteric footnote of medieval history? As spring dawns in the northern hemisphere, we’re sensing a spontaneous and overpowering upswell of excitement, energy, and even a bit of madness. The precise path forward remains murky, but the tender sun, singing birds, and blossoming trees are inspiring dreams of crowded dancefloors, bustling bars, and maskless museums. We hope to see you there, very soon.
Stay tuned for more editions of Miscellaneous — our no-frills round-up of the cultural items inspiring Athletics — in the coming months.
Interested in contributing? Send us an email!
Floating Point x Pharoah Sanders x London Symphony Orchestra – Deep collaboration yields deep soundscapes for deep meditation
Tina – New documentary on the extraordinary life and sounds of Tina Turner
Freak Power – Exhibition on the design behind Hunter Thompson’s legendary campaign for Aspen Sheriff