A of M, 139-143: Dotage, Madness, Frenzy, Hydrophobia, Lycanthropia, Chorus Sancti Viti, Ecstasis

AofM 140-144

Lycanthropia, which Avicenna calls cucubuth, others lupinam insaniam, or wolf-madness, when men run howling about graves and fields in the night, and will not be persuaded but that they are wolves, or some such beasts. Aetius and Paulus call it a kind of melancholy; but I should rather refer it to madness, as most do. Some make a doubt of it whether there be any such disease. Donat ab Altomari saith, that he saw two of them in his time: Wierus tells a story of such a one at Padua 1541, that would not believe to the contrary, but that he was a wolf. He hath another instance of a Spaniard, who thought himself a bear.

Werewolves have been around a long time apparently, but I guess Spaniards who think they are bears did not take off quite as well in popular culture.

By the by, hydrophobia is an old-timey word for rabies, meaning fear of water.

There is one last very useful piece of information that I learned from this extremely topical section. St. Vitus’ dance is a kind of crazy that used to be very popular in Germany but seems to have since gone out of fashion:

Chorus sancti Viti, or St. Vitus’s dance; the lascivious dance, Paracelsus calls it, because they that are taken from it, can do nothing but dance till they be dead, or cured. It is so called, for that the parties so troubled were wont to go to St. Vitus for help, and after they
had danced there awhile, they were certainly freed. ‘Tis strange to hear how long they will dance, and in what manner, over stools, forms, tables; even great bellied women sometimes (and yet never hurt their children) will dance so long that they can stir neither hand nor foot, but seem to be quite dead. One in red clothes they cannot abide.

No doubt all the kinds of crazy that we diagnose today will seem like crazy-crazy in the future when there will be newer, more advanced kinds of crazy.


This post is part of a long, tedious, and very illustrated read-along of Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy – more info here and follow along on Facebook here. Illustrations posted via master.of.literature on Instagram.