Eduardo Zugasti

Is Long Covid Just Another Example of Post-Freudian Hysteria?

by Eduardo Zugasti The symptoms attributed to tarantism, a traditional syndrome allegedly caused by tarantula bites, include 'anxieties', 'anguish', 'extreme restlessness', 'inner unease' or 'melancholy', as described by the 18th century physician Francisco Xavier Cid, but also hanging upside down from trees in imitation of spiders, lying in tombs, throwing yourself into wells, wearing red dresses, handling swords and obsessively looking at themselves in the mirror. Other common symptoms, such as loss of consciousness, convulsions, lack of control, aggression and delusions, make atarantados behave similarly to those possessed by demons or the victims of evil spells, according to witchcraft historian Maria Tausiet. The syndrome takes its name from southern Italy, probably from the city of Taranto, where the Mediterranean Tarantola (Ischcolus) is still found today, but it appears in other parts of Europe, as evidenced by the ‘Dancing Epidemic of 1518’ in Strasbourg, which affected hundreds of people, or the Spanish Tarantism itself, with its own characteristics – whose casuistry extended into Alto Aragon, as well as in southern Italy, until the twentieth century. The exuberance of the symptoms, together with the surprising effectiveness of the symbolic ‘cure’ – that is, the fact that the performance of the Italian tarantella, or the Alto Aragonese jota, often in the midst of joyful community rituals, served as musical therapy for the distress...

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June 2022
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