Tarantism & Pizzica (courtesy of the Wellcome Trust)

Courtesy of the Wellcome Trust

Tarantism and Pizzica in Salento

PI: Dr Jerri Daboo

Tarantism is a performance-based ritual with written records dating back to the 15th Century, which utilises a particular form of pizzica music and dance as a therapeutic means to cure the poison resulting from the bite of a tarantula spider. In the Salento region of Apulia, where my research focuses, it is also acknowledged that the bite is not necessarily ‘real’, but the condition is a result of socio-economic and psychological pressures. The ‘victims’, or tarantati, dance in response to particular melodies, often for days on end, to sweat the ‘poison’, or state, out of their bodies. The ritual no longer exists as such, however since the 1970s there has been a revival of interest in tarantism, in part fuelled by the number of researchers who have visited the region. This has resulted in the establishment of a new movement, neo-tarantism, which encompasses both a revival of traditional forms of pizzica, as well as creating new musical styles which blend forms such as reggae, hip-hop and ragamuffin.

Related grants:

  • AHRC Research Leave award
  • Wellcome Trust History of Medicine award
  • British Council small grant award
  • Arts Council award for field work in Italy


  • Monograph: 'Ritual, Rapture and Remorse: a study of tarantism and pizzica in Salento' (Peter Lang, 2010).
  • Winner of two awards: Special mention citation for the 2011 De La Torre Bueno prize, awarded by the Society of Dance History Scholars in the United States; and  runner-up prize for the Katharine Briggs Award, 2010.