(ORDO NEWS) — Mass hysteria is a term used to describe a situation in which physical or psychological symptoms appear en masse, rapidly spreading through communities and sometimes entire cities and countries.
During an outbreak, people may experience uncontrollable laughter, fainting, seizures, dizziness, muscle weakness, or any other symptom that has no physical cause. Cases of hysteria have been recorded around the world for centuries and provide a fascinating insight into the complex nature of human psychology.
The term “hysteria” comes from the Greek word “hystera”, meaning “womb”, and is usually attributed to the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates.
However, the association with the uterus goes back to the ancient Egyptian papyrus Kahun (1900 BC), in which the cause of hysterical disorders is called the spontaneous movement of the uterus to various places in the female body.
By the Middle Ages, this was replaced by the belief in witchcraft, demonic possession, or insanity as the cause.
Although cases of mass hysteria continue to baffle the medical community, it is now generally accepted that it is associated with extreme cases of emotional or mental stress.
Here is a look at some of the famous and strange cases of mass hysteria in history.
Medieval dance mania (13th-17th centuries)
The dance mania, also known as the dancing plague, the dance of St. John, or the dance of St. Vitus, engulfed continental Europe from the 13th to the 17th century. One of the most famous major outbreaks occurred in Aachen, Germany on June 24, 1374.
During this outbreak, sick people danced hysterically in the streets for hours, days, and possibly even months, until they collapsed from exhaustion or died of a heart attack or stroke. The number of participants in one outbreak could reach a thousand people.
Dancing mania was originally thought to be a curse sent to saints, who were commonly believed to be Saint John the Baptist or Saint Vitus, hence the alternative names for this disease.
Therefore, people suffering from this condition went to places dedicated to this saint to pray for deliverance from the disease, and this “remedy” apparently returned many to full health.
Biting nuns (15th century)
In 15th century Germany, there was another outbreak of mass hysteria when a nun in a convent started biting other sisters.
This behavior soon spread throughout the monastery, and as the news spread around the world, so did the phenomenon, leading to outbreaks of biting in monasteries in Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy.
According to the description of a 15th-century doctor: “One nun in a German convent began to bite all her companions.
Within a short time, all the nuns of this monastery began to bite each other. Germany, mainly in Saxony, and then visited the nunneries of Holland, and finally the bite mania reached even Rome.
The church believed that the nuns had become possessed and tried to perform exorcisms, but this did nothing to stop their behavior.
Eventually, they resorted to flogging or water-dipping threats on any nun caught biting another. After a few instances of punishing the nuns, the behavior quickly faded away.
Salem witch trials (1692-1693)
One of the most famous cases of mass hysteria occurred in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. Dozens of young girls exhibited bouts of uncontrollable screaming and contortions that eventually led to a spate of accusations of witchcraft.
The result was a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft, known as the Salem Witch Trials, which resulted in the deaths of 25 residents of Salem and nearby towns.
The Salem witch trials, a highly influential event in US history, have been used in political rhetoric and popular literature to highlight the dangers of isolationism, religious extremism, false accusations, and violations of due process.
French meowing nuns (19th century)
Institutional institutions such as schools, prisons, and tight-knit communities were often the scene of mass hysteria, and European Christian monasteries were no exception. In Epidemics of the Middle Ages, written in 1844 by JFK Hecker, there is a story about a nun in a convent in France who began to meow like a cat.
Shortly thereafter, other nuns began exhibiting the same behavior, until the entire convent was plagued by meowing nuns.
This worried the surrounding Christians, and soldiers were eventually called in to try and contain the situation. The nuns were flogged and beaten by the soldiers until they promised to stop making shrill sounds. During this era, the belief in possession was common.
Laughter epidemic in Tanganyika (1962)
The Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic began on January 30, 1962, at the mission girls boarding school in Kashash, Tanzania.
The laughter began among the three girls, but quickly spread throughout the school, lasting for hours, days, and then weeks, leading to its closure on March 18, 1962.
But it didn’t end there. After the school closed, mass hysteria spread to other schools and eventually to nearby villages.
The epidemic has affected thousands of children and 14 schools have been forced to close. Eventually, the hysteria subsided eighteen months after it began.
Cases involving the spread of mass hysteria may seem counterintuitive to an increasingly educated public that no longer relies on wandering wombs, demonic possession, and witchcraft as an explanation.
However, cases of mass hysteria continue to occur; one recent occurred in 2012 when 1,900 children from 15 schools in Sri Lanka were treated for a range of symptoms, including skin rashes, dizziness and coughing, that had no apparent physical cause.
While it is easy to mistake hysteria for funny and bizarre behavior, research has shown that there are a number of complex factors that can contribute to the formation and spread of collective hysteria, including social anxiety, cultural pressure, rumors, fears, extreme arousal, religious beliefs, authority figures to reinforce actions. and severe stress.
Social, political and religious conditions have changed over the centuries, but human psychology has basically remained the same, and it is for this reason that we are likely to see many more cases of mass hysteria in the future.
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