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Southern Italy’s centuries-long dancing mania

Tarantella, tarantula: one’s a lively folk dance and the other’s a fuzzy arachnid, but they are linked by a bizarre common history. Once upon a time, the lightning-fast footwork of the Italian pizzica tarantella was the symptom of a terrifying malady, supposedly caused by a spider bite. Read on to discover the dancing plague and musical cure of medieval southern Italy.

Words by Amelia Soth

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About the author

Photograph of Amelia Soth

Amelia Soth

@AmeliaSoth

Amelia lives in Chicago and writes the column ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ for JSTOR Daily.