What Was the Dancing Plague? Uncover the 10 Strangest Medieval Facts.

Published on June 29, 2024

Credit: Gabriel Kiener

Although the Middle Ages often have bad press, it was actually a period of vast kingdoms and significant advancements in farming and architecture. That being said, the era also witnessed some truly bizarre and inexplicable events .

From peculiar dancing diseases to accounts of green children and even instances of corpses being put on trial, here we've compiled 10 of the strangest occurrences that took place during medieval times.


The Pig Trials

Credit: Kenneth Schipper Vera

Let it not be said that the Middle Ages were lawless times. In fact, in medieval times, anyone could face the full weight of the law! And when we say anyone, we mean anyone . Animals, and particularly pigs for some reason, were occasionally put on trial for various crimes, including murder.

These trials reflected a bizarre legal belief in moral responsibility extending to all living beings , and as we'll explore in the next item, even non-living beings!


The Cadaver Courts

Credit: Sabina Music Rich

Curiously, there were recurring instances where corpses were tried posthumously for their - real or alleged - crimes. Reflecting a mix of superstition and law, these trials sought justice beyond the grave.

Even members of the Church were not exempt from this bizarre practice. In the year 897, the corpse of the not-so-recently deceased Pope Formosus was exhumed and put on trial. His remains were dressed in papal robes, found guilty of perjury, and finally desecrated. To be fair, it was a time of intense political strife within the Church, but still.


The Toadstone Cure


Believed to be found in a toad’s head, the mythical toadstone was thought to cure poison and illness. In reality, toadstones had nothing to do with toads; they were often fashioned from the button-like fossilized teeth of a Jurassic ray-finned fish.

The association stemmed from the fact that toads have poison glands in their skin, leading to the assumption that they carried an antidote within their bodies, and it was believed that it took the form of a magical stone.


The Dog Saint

Credit: Tonia Kraakman

The story of Saint Guinefort is actually quite sad. According to a popular legend, Guinefort the Greyhound belonged to a knight who lived in a castle near Lyon. One day, the knight went hunting and left his infant son in the care of the dog. Upon his return, he found the nursery in chaos, Guinefort with bloody jaws, and his son nowhere to be seen.

Assuming the worst and blinded by grief, the knight slew the poor dog, only to then hear his son crying next to the dead body of a viper, bloody from dog bites. Realizing his mistake, he buried the dog with honors and erected a shrine in its tomb. Soon, local peasants began treating the dog as a mystical healer and protector. A cult of the saint dog persisted for several centuries, despite several efforts by the Church to eradicate it.


The Children's Crusade

Credit: Jens Auer

According to traditional accounts, in 1212, thousands of children set out from Europe, believing they could peacefully convert Muslims in the Holy Land. However, most never reached their destination, succumbing to starvation, slavery, or simply abandoning the journey due to its inherent hardships.

While the story likely emerged from a blend of factual events and myth, there are credible historical accounts describing similar events, particularly movements led by children rather than solely composed of them, such as the account of twelve-year-old French shepherd boy Stephen of Cloyes.


The Formosan Scam

Credit: Angela Lo

In the 1700s, a Frenchman named G eorge Psalmanazar claimed to be the first native from the exotic island of Formosa (modern Taiwan) to reach Europe. However, since he knew close to nothing about the real inhabitants of his supposed homeland, he completely fabricated a language and an entire culture.

For some years, he managed to convince many in Britain, but when i t was eventually discovered that he was of European origin, he successfully rebranded himself as a theological essayist.


Flagellant Movements

Credit: Annie Spratt

During the times of the Great Plague, many believed that the terrible disease was a punishment from God for their sins. Following this logic, groups known as flagellants would publicly whip themselves to atone for sins and try to appease divine wrath .

Marching crowds of self-harming fanatics would wander from town to town, gathering more penitents along the way. However, the practice often had the opposite effect intended, as it led to further spread of the disease through their gatherings. Soon, some towns realized that flagellants brought the plague to areas where it had not yet surfaced and began to deny them entry, which only intensified their physical penance.


The Green Children of Woolpit

Credit: Annie Spratt

In 12th century England, during the reign of King Stephen, two children with green skin reportedly appeared in the small town of Woolpit. They spoke a language that nobody had heard before and only ate raw beans. Over time, their skin gradually returned to a normal color, but their mysterious origin remained unknown.

Historians have debated the tale's authenticity, suggesting that if it is to be taken seriously and not merely as folklore, the children could have been Flemish survivors from a recent battle near their hometown. It is also proposed that their unusual coloration could be attributed to a dietary deficiency acquired during their period of being lost and wandering for many days.


Trial by Ordeal

Credit: Elimende Inagella

As we have seen, the medieval sense of justice was often bizarre, and rather extreme. Trials by ordeal, such as walking on hot coals or retrieving objects from boiling water, were quite popular. In these cases, survival or lack of injury was considered proof of innocence.

Similar to the method of trial by combat, it was regarded as a means of achieving the "judgment of God." However, in defense of medieval people, it should be noted that the practice was much older, dating back to the Code of Hammurabi, many millennia earlier.


Dancing Plague

Credit: Ahmad Odeh

In one of history's most perplexing moments, around the year 1518, residents of the French medieval town of Strasbourg were suddenly gripped by a compulsive dancing epidemic. Dozens danced uncontrollably for days, and tragically, some even danced themselves to death.

While mass hysteria is still considered a probable cause, along with the possibility of a mass poisoning of some sort, some scientists speculate that it could have been t riggered by a nervous system disorder known as Sydenham chorea, which can result from infection with certain bacterial strains. Symptoms include rapid and often uncoordinated jerking movements, primarily affecting the face, hands, and feet of those afflicted.


The Ultimate Guide To Home Organization: Tips For A Clutter-Free Home

Published on June 29, 2024

Credit: Douglas Sheppard

We all know keeping a house organized takes time, energy, and even money at times. But none of those are enough when you don’t know how to get the organization ball rolling.

Organization, whether it is for a house or personal, can be a powerful tool to gain control over every aspect of your life. But that is not the only benefit of having an organized home, by learning some techniques, you can maximize your spaces and make them functional to your lifestyle.

Read on and see which of these tips you can put into practice today!


Declutter regularly

Credit: HiveBoxx

The first step to becoming an organization expert is to declutter. Decluttering means removing everything you don’t need or use , or everything that is broken or is no longer functional to you or your family.

To declutter successfully you have to be honest with yourself about those things you keep out of attachment, for example. Assess your home, and everything you own, and get rid of everything that no longer serves you any purpose to create new free space.

Consider selling or donating the things you don’t use but keep in a good state!


Create zones

Credit: Bench Accounting

After assessing your space and removing everything you don’t use or need, start creating zones in your home. This will allow you to allocate specific areas for different activities or moments of your everyday life. For example, if you work from home, consider having a separate working space, and set up a desk with everything you need.

Establishing clear zones will make it easier to keep track of your belongings and create a more functional living space. Not to mention having specific zones for each activity will strengthen your routine and habits.


Assign spaces for your belongings

Credit: Jarek Ceborski

After you have created different zones, assign specific homes for each item. For example, you may place a container for the keys by the main door; or a rack for the shoes you use frequently. Having a designated area and a specific home for each of your belongings will help you keep your home organized at all times.

Moreover, you will avoid losing objects and, every time you need something, you will know exactly where to go look for it. The only thing you have to work on after doing this is taking a moment every day to put things back where they belong after you have used them.


Invest in storage solutions

Credit: Annie Spratt

Once you have taken the previous steps, you are ready to invest in storage solutions and this will feel like a pivotal step towards organization. Storage solutions will make your house both functional and visually appealing. The right containers and organizers not only help you declutter (because the space is limited), but they will also help you ensure everything has a designated spot and maintain order.

Look for available options within your area, but consider using baskets, bins, plastic containers, or any other storage item that works for you. If you still haven’t got the budget for this, use plastic containers you already have, you can always go back on this step to prioritize aesthetics.


Use labels

Credit: Tamara Malaniy

If you choose to use colored containers, labels come in quite handy. Even with clear containers, labels will help you quickly locate items. Moreover, if there are small children in the house, labels can help them find the right container for their stuff easily which will, ultimately, strengthen their own organizational habits and independence.

Labels give uniformity and coherence to a space and you can either make them yourself or use an electronic label maker.


Rotate seasonal items

Credit: Myriam Zilles

This is a smart strategy to maintain your space clutter-free and well-organized throughout the year. Seasonal items such as clothes, decorations, sports equipment, and more specific items like suitcases can be kept in special areas like the garage or on the highest shelves of a closet.

As you can imagine, the first step to do this is to assess your belongings and categorize them by season.

As you pack away off-season items, take the opportunity to assess their condition and decide whether anything needs to be repaired or replaced before the next season.

Consider using hard-material containers to keep your belongings well protected and avoid any possible damages unforeseen events may cause.


Take advantage of vertical space and dead spaces

Credit: vadim kaipov

When you don’t have much space for furniture or your furniture is full of stuff (if they are, you should go back to the first tip!) vertical and dead spaces are a great solution to maximize space and create alternative areas.

You can install shelves or hanging organizers to keep your belongings off the floor and on common surfaces like the dining table. On a similar note, you can take advantage of areas such as under the bed, and behind the doors to keep appropriate stuff.

This not only creates additional storage space but also adds visual focus points to your home decor.


Prioritize accessibility

Credit: Pierre Bamin

When defining specific areas and homes for your belongings prioritize two things: quick location and easy accessibility. Vertical space can only be used so much, that is, there is no point in having a shelf for mugs if you have to get a ladder to reach one every morning for breakfast. The same goes for kids’ wardrobes, they will never be able to hang their own clothes if they can’t reach the hangers or the rail.

Prioritize placing items in the space you most frequently use them and within reach so you don’t have to move things around, hence, creating a mess around one single item. Keep essentials accessible and less frequently objects higher up or in less accessible places.


Streamline paperwork

Credit: Anete Lusina

Regardless of how digital our lives can be, a house is always full of important items, especially paperwork. Developing and working on a system for managing it will foster organization in the house, but also your personal life and finances.

Consider investing in a filing cabinet or organizer and set aside a time and day each week to sort out paperwork. Create folders for different types of documents and label them accordingly to make it easier to find what you need when you need it. And never forget the first step, declutter when necessary, and get rid of old bills or documents that are irrelevant to your present life.


Work on your organizational habits

Credit: Paico Oficial

Rome wasn’t built in a day, organizational habits weren’t either, so, be patient and find ways to foster your habits. Create routines for tidying up and maintaining organization. For example, divide the chores within the week. That way, you will ensure everything gets done at least once a week. Laundry on Saturdays, bathroom cleaning on Sundays and Thursdays, and so on.

Now, within a day, create small routines that guarantee everything is in its place before you go to sleep. There is nothing like waking up to a clean and organized home every day, this will boost your inspiration and productivity.

Looking for an extra scoop of literary fun?

Learn more with our Word of the day