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come to the Redeemer, and to be determined to keep secret from the Czar, the princes, father, mother, relations and friends, all that relates to these sacred matters, and to submit to persecution, torture, fire and death, rather than reveal their mysteries to enemies.”
Their meetings are usually held late at night, and last till day break. The localities usually are the secret prayer-rooms found in the dwellings of all Skopzi, which generally are built at as great a distance from other houses as possible. In the centre there is a courtyard, surrounded by barns, cart-sheds and living-rooms, from which, beside the main entrance, some secretly-contrived doors open on to the cattleyard, which is connected with a third enclosure, where stands a bee-house, which latter is surrounded with high palings, whence there are secret openings to the garden, from which there is an exit into the fields. During the meeting watchers are stationed at various distances, who, at the approach of any suspicious-looking stranger, warn their friends by signs, upon which the meeting breaks up, and those who are specially afraid of being discovered make their escape through the cattle-yard into the bee-house, and thence through the garden into the fields.
When engaged in their devotions the men wear long, wide, white shirts of a peculiar cut, tied round the waist with girdles, and large white trousers; the women are also dressed in white shirts; in the villages they wear blue gowns of nankeen, in the towns, of chintz; they, moreover, cover their heads with white cloths. Both sexes put on white stockings, though sometimes they are all barefooted, and carry in their hands handkerchiefs, which they call "flags." The as yet uncastrated members of the sect are called " donkeys” or "goats,” whilst those operated on are styled “white lambs,” " white doves.”
They have a kind of eucharist, at which small pieces of bread, which are consecrated by being put for a while in openings in the monument erected at Schlüsselberg to the Skopez Schiloff, are distributed. A priest, Ivan Sfergejeff
, who, by order of his superiors, insinuated himself into the confidence of a leading Skopez, and thus became cognisant of all the secrets of the sect, gives details of communion of flesh and blood,” which is nothing less than a charge of cannibalism, and of the most horrible, revolting kind, against the sect; it has not, I think, been juridically proved; but people who are mad enough to become Skopzi, are mad enough for anything. Legal documents in the archives of
the Holy Synod show that among the Flagellants such a “communion of flesh and blood” existed; the Skopzi arose among the Flagellants, so it is possible that the practice of the latter was adopted by the former. Its details are too revolting to be given here.
347. The Baptism of Fire.—As already stated, it is of two kinds, respectively called the “lesser” and the “great seal." The chief point of Christ's teaching, the Skopzi say, was that man to be saved must undergo the “baptism of fire,” that is, castrate himself by means of a red-hot iron. Christ, they say, set the example in his own person, which was followed by the apostles and the early Christian Church, including Origen and all the saints, who in the traditional painting of the Oriental Christians, are always represented without beards. Out of regard for human weakness, it was afterwards allowed to substitute a sharp knife for the hot iron. But zealous Skopzi are not particular as to the instruments they use. In 356 instances of mutilation of men, we find a knife employed 164 times, a razor 108 times, a hatchet 30 times, a scythe 23 times; pieces of iron, glass, tin, &c., 17 times. As varied are the localities where the operation has been performed. Of 620 cases, we find that 96 took place in peasants' houses, 19 in prisons, '12 in privies, 6 in cellars, 41 in baths, 32 in barns, 14 in coach-houses, 4 in kitchen gardens, 8 in yards, 136 in woods, no less than 223 on high-roads and in fields, I under a bridge, 8 in boats, I in a churchyard, &c. Though we have hitherto spoken of men only as the victims—voluntary and the contrary—of their cruel fanaticism, the other sex are sufferers from it in the proportion of about four women to ten men. With them, too, the operation is as fearful as it is revolting; the earliest records of such operations on women dates from 1815. And yet we find women among the operators. Among 43 peasant women who acted in that capacity, 5 had actually operated on men. The Skopzi, as already intimated, include men of rank and position; thus there were found among them 4 ladies and 4 gentlemen belonging to the nobility, 10 military officers, 5 naval officers, 14 officials in the civil service, 19 priests, 148 merchants, 220 citizens, 2736 peasants (including 827 women), 119 landowners, 443 soldiers and soldiers' wives and daughters: 515 men and 240 women were between the years 1847 and 1866 transported to Siberia as convicted Skopzi. Their real number in the empire cannot be ascertained on account of the secrecy of their proceedings. In 1874 it was known to be at least 5444,
inclusive of 1465 women; of these, 703 men and 160 women had performed the operation on themselves; 79 men and 1 women underwent the operation twice, first the “lesser” and then the “ great seal.”
The male members of the sect may be recognised by their puffy, corpulent exterior, and their wrinkled and beardless faces.
348. Failure of the Prosecution of the Sect.—The state is bound to prosecute and, if possible, suppress the active participators in what is an abominable crime against public policy and humanity; but experience has shown that all the measures hitherto taken have failed to put a stop to Skopziism. The very means adopted for its suppression frequently led to its extension; thus Skopzi shut up in monasteries actually converted monks to their schism. State prosecutions induced men and women to mutilate themselves to join the noble army of martyrs. Even the so-called “moral” measure, which was introduced in 1850, of dressing Skopzi in women's clothes, and putting fools' caps on their head, and thus leading them, accompanied by a policeman, about the villages, to the derision of the inhabitants, often had an effect opposite to that aimed at. The Russian clergy are too universally despised to have any influence in stemming the evil; and some of the highest placed of the hierarchy wink at it, in consideration of the large sums given by wealthy Skopzi for the erection or decoration of orthodox churches. The only direct way to arrest the progress of Skopziism is to transport all detected members to distant and thinlypopulated localities, where they must be kept under strict supervision till they die out. And indirectly their fanaticism must be extinguished by a better education of the Russian people.
One of the most recent trials, accounts of which have reached civilised Europe, is that of a banker and his niece, held with closed doors at St. Petersburg, in December 1893. The banker, a man of sixty, was condemned, as belonging to the sect of the Skopzi, to fifteen years' hard labour for self-mutilation, and his niece to ten years' hard labour for having allowed herself to be operated on, and thus conniving at a criminal offence.
THE CANTERS OR MUCKERS
349. Eva von Buttler and her Sect.—This most repulsive sect, a diseased offshoot of the Pietists, first made its appearance towards the end of the seventeenth century, though the name was not given to it then, but to the sect when revived towards the end of the eighteenth century. The German word mucker means a hypocrite, a sanctimonious, canting person. The original sect was founded by Gottfried Justus Winter, a student of theology at Marburg, who had joined various Pietistic circles then existing in Hesse and Saxony. He afterwards became acquainted and intimate with Eva, the wife of John de Vesias, of Eisenach, who, in consequence of her misconduct, obtained a divorce from her. Eva then reassumed her maiden name, von Buttler, and went to live with Winter in the institution of about twenty members, founded by him at Eschwege, for the free practice of their religion, which, however, soon drew upon itself the attention of the authorities, and the immoral practices of the sect being placed beyond doubt, the members were banished the country. But Winter and Eva were not the people to give up their object; they applied to the Duke of SaynWittgenstein, lord of a small but independent territory, forming part of the former Duchy of Nassau, who granted them the free exercise of their religion, and leased to them the estate of Sassmannshausen. Here for a time the Muckers by their outwardly holy lives deceived the public, but false brethren and apostates gradually caused rumours to arise as to what went on among the saints—debaucheries of the most revolting description—which compelled the Duke to order an inquiry ; but bribes, judiciously applied, and the legal skill of a lawyer, Dr. Vergenius, who held a high official position at the Imperial Chamber at Wetzlar, led to Winter and his followers being acquitted, the former even being appointed the Duke's private secretary. The saints being rendered over-secure by this temporary victory, indulged
their propensities to the fullest extent. Eva was a second Messalina in her excesses; in fact, her male companions were taught that perfect sanctification was only to be arrived at by carnal intercourse with herself. But the birth of a child in the community-in spite of the cruel and hideous precautions which had been taken to prevent such an occurrence, precautions we are not allowed to describeand the sudden death of the child, at last induced the Duke to have the doings of the saints watched through openings made in the walls of the rooms occupied by them, and the gross profligacy, which was then revealed, and eventually confessed by the inculpates, was such, that we cannot give the details, though they were all proved in a court of law. But most of the ringleaders made their escape from custody, and eventually settled in the small town of Luyde, the vicinity of which to Pyrmont, with its rich and aristocratic visitors to the baths, promised many proselytes, who, in fact, did not fail to present themselves, so that a new society was soon formed. But in consequence of the statements made by one Sebastian Reuter, who by revealing the practices of the sect hoped to get an appointment from the government of Paderborn, under whose jurisdiction Luyde was placed, about twenty members of the association were arrested, including Winter and Eva; but both again managed to escape.
What became of them afterwards is not precisely known. Some of the other prisoners were ordered to be publicly whipped, others acquitted.
350. Schönherr's Sect.—Another association of the same character as the above, calling itself Theosophers, but nicknamed Muckers by the public, was discovered at Königsberg in 1835. Its founder was John Henry Schönherr, born at Memel in 1771, died at Königsberg in 1826. Two of his followers, the pastors Ebel and Diestel, declared the dualistic-gnostic doctrines of Schönherr to mean that the flesh was to be sanctified by sexual intercourse, and they formed a secret association, to which women, of course, were admitted. Their practices eventually led to a judicial inquiry, which, however, was not pursued to the end, as many persons of good position were found to be implicated in the sect. But Ebel and Diestel were degraded from their official positions, and the latter was moreover sent to the house of correction. And thus another chapter, not of historical, but of hysterical theology, was closed for a time.