Athanasius Kircher, Magnes sive de arte magnetica opus tripartitum pg. 759
Some tarantati let themselves hang from the trees by ropes, showing great enjoyment at such suspension – those stricken with this passion are usually the ones bitten by tarantulas in the habit of hanging the strings of their webs from trees.
Giorgio Baglivi, Dissertatio de anatome, morsu et effectibus tarantulae pg. 313
Those who have been bitten by the tarantula shortly thereafter fall to the ground half-dead, with a loss of strength and senses, with difficult breathing or moaning, often immobile and lifeless. With the beginning of the music, little by little these symptoms are attenuated, and the patient begins to move his fingers, his hands and then his feet, followed by other limbs; as the melodic rhythm becomes more pressing, the movement of his limbs gradually increases. If the patient is lying on the floor, he springs up to start the dance, sighs, and begins to contort himself in very strange ways. These first dances often last two or three hours: and after having rested briefly on the bed to wipe away his perspiration and to restore his strength, the patient resumes dancing with the same vigor. This can take place as many as a dozen times per day. The dances begin around dawn and continue without pause until around one in the afternoon. Sometimes they are compelled to stop, not because of their tiredness, but because they have perceived some dissonance in the musical instruments, a dissonance which, when it is perceived, provokes deep sighs and stabs of pain in the patient’s heart. They sigh and grieve at length until they resume dancing, the harmony having been reestablished. Around midday they rest from the music and dance. They put themselves to bed until their perspiration is over and then they refresh themselves with broth or over light food, given that the very serious lack of appetite which afflicts them would not permit them to take more substantial food. Around one o’clock in the afternoon, or at the latest around 2, they resume their dances with the same vigor. These dances last until evening, whereupon they have another light meal and then finally fall asleep. These dances usually continue for four days; rarely do they go beyond the sixth day. It is uncertain when the end will occur, since many continue to dance until they feel free of the symptoms, which usually takes place after the third or fourth day.
Anna Caggiano, Folklore Italiano 6.72
All the wives offer – understood as a loan – handkerchiefs, shawls, scarves, petticoats and linens of every color, pots of basil, lemon verbona, mint and rue, mirrors and baubles, and last but not least a great tub full of water. The surroundings are decorated in this way, and when everything is ready the victim of the bite, dressed in gaudy colors, chooses as she pleases ribbons, handkerchiefs and shoes that remind her of the colors of the tarantula and she adorns herself with them while waiting for the musicians.
Nicola Caputo of Lecce, De Tarantulae anatomie et morsu pg. 201
They customarily adorn the bedroom dedicated to the dance of the tarantati with verdant branches outfitted with numerous ribbons and silken sashes in gaudy colors. They place similar drapery throughout the room; sometimes they prepare a sort of cauldron or tub full of water, decorated with vine leaves and green fronds from other trees; or they make pretty fountains of limpid water spout, capable of lifting the spirits, and it is near these that the tarantati perform the dance, seeming to draw the greatest delight from them, as well as the rest of the setting. They contemplate the drapes, the fronds, and the artificial rivulets, and they wet their hands and heads at the fountain. They also remove damp bands of vine leaves from the cauldron and strew them all over their bodies, or – when the vessel is large enough – they plunge themselves inside, and in this way they can more easily bear the fatigue of the dance. It often happens that those who go dancing through the towns and hamlets accompanied by the usual music are brought to an orchard, where, in the shade of a tree, near a pond or brook offered by nature or prepared through craft, they abandon themselves to the dance with the greatest delight, while groups of youths in search of pleasure and pranks gather near. Among the latter mingle more than a few who are approaching old age and who, contemplating with serious curiosity the melodic frolicking, seem to exhort the youths with unspoken admonishment.
Ludovico Valletta, De Phalangio Apulo 76-77
With regard to the astonishing and complex agitation of the entire body, not long ago I personally saw a woman stricken with the poison who, although prey to the delirium of a violent fever, and her mind possessed with horrible phantasms – or rather, she was assaulted by a host of insolent demons – at the sound of the musical instruments she nonethless abandoned herself to a dance that was so excited, to such a frenetic agitation of her limbs and whirling her head, that my own head and eyes, enthralled by the same agitation, suffered from dizziness. This woman had suspended a rope from the ceiling of her humble dwelling, the end of which, just touching the floor in the middle of the room, she tenaciously squeezed between her hands; throwing herself upon it, she abandoned herself with the weight of her whole body, her feet planted on the floor, turning her head to and fro, her face glowing, with a surly look. I was deeply astonished, not being able to explain why the dizziness provoked by that rapid and violent head shaking did not make her reel and fall to the ground. Due to this agitation and the incredible exertion borne, the woman’s whole body and above all her face were covered with abundant perspiration; reddened by such strenuous agitation, she ran gasping to a great tub full of water prepared at her request, and she completely submerged her head in it, whence the cold water gave her some relief from the heat with which she blazed.
The tarantati rejoice at the sight of limpid waters, of artificial springs that flow with a soft murmur into a tub prepared for this purpose, gratifying themselves with the green fronds freshly picked from the trees and strewn here and there in the space dedicated to the dance in order to represent a forest
Ludovico Valletta, De Phalangio Apulo 92
The families of the tarantati hire the musicians, to whom many gifts are given and a great deal of drink is offered in addition to the daily compensation agreed upon, so that they may take some refreshment and thus play the musical instruments with greater vigor. It follows that a man of modest conditions, who laboriously earns a living with the diligent fatigue of his arms, in order to be cured of this illness, is often forced to pawn or sell objects of fundamental necessity, even if his household furnishings are shabby, in order to pay the aforementioned payment. It must be considered that no one would want to expose himself to this misfortune if he could combat the poison in another way, or if he did not feel compelled to dance from the bottom of his heart. I will spare the details of the many other aids and expedients the poison victims use to raise and cheer their melancholy spirits during the dance, items also needed for one reason or another. For instance there are artificial springs of limpid water constructed in such a way that the water is gathered and always returns to flow anew; these springs are covered and surrounded by green fronds, flowers and trees. Further, lasses dressed in sumptuous wedding gowns have the task of dancing with the tarantati, festively singing and playing the same melody with them during the dance; then there are the weapons and the multicolored drapery hung on the walls. All of these, and many others, cannot be procured without payment.