10 Shocking Cults From Ancient History

10 Shocking Cults From Ancient History


When you think of a “cult,” you may imagine
some of the modern-day groups that believe in aliens or think that their leader is the
second coming of Jesus Christ. Well, it turns out that human beings have
been joining cults and heretic religions for thousands of years. Many of them have been totally forgotten by
the average person, and you may have never been taught about these religions in history
class. Here are 10 of the most shocking cults from
ancient history. 10. The Skoptsy Nearly every Christian-based religion has
looked down upon having any kind of sex outside of marriage at some point or another, believing
we should reserve the deed for having children. After all, lust is considered to be one of
the seven deadly sins, and “thou shall not commit adultery” is one of the Ten Commandments. But one Russian cult from the 1800s called
the Skoptsy took this rule so far they believed that you should never get it on — even if
you’re married. Believe it or not, the Skoptsy is estimated
to have had up to a million followers during their heyday. They encouraged their followers to remove
any body parts that may lead them to lust. Men would castrate themselves, and women would
have mastectomies. The founder of the cult, Kondraty Selivanov,
had the audacity to approach Tsar Paul I, saying, “I am not the father of sin: Accept
my act and I will recognize you as my son.” After this incident, the Tsar had him committed
to an insane asylum, and the cult fell apart soon after. Today, there are no remaining members of the
Skoptsy, which shouldn’t come as a surprise at all, considering that they wouldn’t have
been able to have children to pass their beliefs on to. 9. Mithraism Mithraism was an ancient Roman cult that was
the so-called “sister religion” of early Christianity. Scholars believe that the Mithras were practicing
their religion at the same time that Jesus Christ was preaching that he was the son of
God. The God Mithras is shown slaying a sacred
bull, and… well, there’s not much known about their beliefs besides that. Unfortunately, there are no written records
to help scholars unravel the deeper meaning behind the religion’s beliefs, so most of
it is just theories and speculation. According to experts who have studied the
remains of Mithras, they believe that the image of the bull actually represents the
zodiac sign of Taurus. Star maps were found among the remains of
the temple, which is why they were studying the zodiac. The leading theory that historians have about
their beliefs is that by killing Taurus, they will be able to shift the equinox in order
to change the weather. Mithraism became popular among the Roman soldiers,
and it became widespread in Italy. Eventually, it disappeared completely. 8. The Cult of Athena Polias You may have heard of the Vestal Virgins in
ancient Rome. Over in Greece, they had a very similar all-female
sect called Athena Polia. These women were considered to be like the
physical incarnation of the goddess Athena, and the high priestess was one of the most
powerful positions in all of Athens. She was always descended from one of the most
powerful families in the city, and became a go-to advisor for all matters political
and religious. Every year, the city celebrated Athena’s
birthday with a festival known as the Panathenaic Procession. The priestess and her maidens were all supposed
to remain virgins throughout their lives, and dress modestly, because they were supposed
to represent purity. During the festival, the maidens carried baskets
filled with small animals, like rabbits, to be sacrificed to the goddess Athena on the
altar. Despite its popularity, the cult took a turn
for the worse when the temple was destroyed by the Persians in 480 BC. 7. The Kachina The Kachina was an ancient religion practiced
by multiple Native American tribes in the Southwestern United States, including the
Pueblo, Hopi, Zuni, Tewa, and Keresan people. The Kachina is the name of a divine entity. No one is truly sure how the religion started,
or why so many tribes had the same belief system. Some say that it came from Christian influences. However, there is significant evidence that
the religion began much earlier than the first European settlers came to North America, because
artifacts were found dating back to the 1300s. The tribes would often carve and paint Kachina
dolls to represent their god. For years, Christian scholars believed that
they had found evidence of “Satanic Dances” among Native Americans, but it was really
depictions of tribal people wearing Kachina masks while they danced. By the 1600s, the Spanish settlers truly hated
Kachina, because they assumed that it was demonic. They set out to destroy all evidence of the
religion, and began trying to convert Native Americans to Christianity instead. Today, it is incredibly rare to find original
Kachina artifacts, and they can fetch tens of thousands of dollars at antiques auctions. 6. The Khlysts If you have seen our list on Grigori Rasputin,
then you may already be familiar with the religious cult that existed in the Siberian
wilderness called the Khlysts. They were considered to be heretic offshoots
of the Russian Orthodox Church. The cult was started by a man named Danila
Filippovich in 1645. He said that God descended upon him in a fiery
chariot flanked by angels on both sides, and he was given the new Commandments. Together with a man named Ivan Suslov, they
began preaching and finding new followers. They believed that Mary was not a virgin when
she gave birth to Jesus, and that he was a normal man until he was 30-years-old, when
God decided to make him Christ. So, by that logic, any man or woman could
be the son or daughter of God. The name of their cult, “The Khlysts,”
translates to “The Christs.” One of the things they would do is dance themselves
into a frenzy, until they were ready to collapse. Many of the members would remain single their
entire lives. Instead of having one partner, they would
participate in “group marriage,” which was really a massive orgy. 5. The Cult of Jupiter Dolichenus From the second to third century AD, a cult
of Jupiter Dolichenus began praising the god Jupiter. In case you don’t know, in Greek mythology,
he was called Zeus. So he was basically the leader of all of the
other gods that you know from legends of old. At the time, there was a push in Rome to take
away all of the “foreign gods” and return to Roman traditions. Aside from the statues and plaques that have
been left over from the temple of Jupiter, there is little that is known about the beliefs
and practices of this cult. In 2018, archeologists in England found a
child-sized hand from a bronze statue that dated back to the Roman occupation. Historians believe that this hand was somehow
related to the cult of Jupiter Dolichenus, because they have discovered similar hands
in the religion’s temples in Rome. This discovery tells us that the cult was
much more popular than originally thought. 4. The Cult of Amun In ancient Egypt, the gods were considered
to be the creators of all forms of life, and everyone was expected to praise them. Amun was the “King of the Gods,” which
is why the ancient Egyptian religion is often called “The Cult of Amun.” If crops and weather were great that year,
it meant that the gods were pleased. But if there was a terrible storm or drought,
people believed that the gods were angry, and that they must do something to make them
happy. The priests were considered to be the highest
powers in Egypt, because they claimed to have direct access to the gods. The Pharaoh was considered “The First Priest”
who had the closest connection to the gods. Instead of preaching the belief system to
the people, they often kept to themselves, unless something had gone wrong. If there was a crisis, it was the priest’s
responsibility to perform rituals that supposedly pleased their gods. During a particularly good year, priests were
tax-exempt, and were often able to become incredibly wealthy. Women in the royal family were sometimes dubbed
“God’s Wife of Amun,” and they held a significant amount of power in the decision-making
over the kingdom. 3. The Goddess Fortuna During the second century BCE, the massive
Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia was built in the ancient city of Praeneste, which was
20 miles outside of Rome. They praised the goddess Fortuna, who was
the ruler of luck and destiny. She was also considered to be the mother of
the gods, and women often prayed to her for fertility. Followers would communicate with the goddess
by throwing wooden tablets into a well. Then, they instructed a child to draw lots,
so that a young and innocent soul could connect with the goddess. These fortunes would help them to make their
decisions. Eventually, a massive temple and complex was
built in Fortuna’s honor, and it became a central hub of artistic expression in the
community. For years, the city of Praesneste would remain
undefeated, and they thanked Fortuna for their good luck… at least until the fourth century,
when it was finally invaded. The temple was destroyed, and all pagan cults
were banned by Emperor Theodosius in the year 381. 2. Theosophy An occultist named Helena Blavatsky founded
a group called the Theosophy Society in 1875. They taught a blend of Buddhist, Christian,
and Pantheistic beliefs. Blavatsky taught her followers about karma,
reincarnation, and how our souls are all apart of a larger universe. These beliefs already existed, of course,
and she had a hand in introducing Eastern religious concepts to the Western world. One of the many things Theosophy taught is
that the universe contains “the Akashic Records.” This is a library that exists in a realm called
the Etheric Plane, and it contains all of the knowledge that has ever existed in the
universe. (So, like… Wikipedia?) This library also contains the records of
the events of every living person. (Oh, like the FBI. Got it.) Instead of books, all information is recorded
on “indestructible tablets of the astral light.” (Ah, we get it now: like Crazy-Pants Town. Right.) Followers of Theosophy believed that if they
meditated and performed rituals, they could access the Akashic Records to obtain information
from the universe. 1. The Cult of Pythagoras You may have already heard of the ancient
Greek mathematician Pythagoras. People were so enthralled by his intelligence
that thought that he had been sent from Heaven equipped with his equations. They began to form a cult that very literally
worshiped numbers. Each of the numbers represented a different
virtue, and 10 was the most sacred of all. Aside from maths, followers of Pythagoras
believed in the “transmigration of the soul.” They believed that human souls could exist
in the bodies of animals. (Because sure, why not.) Thanks to this belief, it was strictly forbidden
to eat meat. They became some of the first known vegetarians,
and he also encouraged all of his followers to abstain from sex in the summer, and save
themselves until winter, when everyone needed to cuddle up to someone else to stay warm
at night. New initiates to the cult had to take a vow
of silence for five years. This was all too much for the ancient Greeks. Pythagoras’ home was eventually burned down,
and many people tried to run him out of town for starting a dangerous cult. Or maybe they just hated math and felt like
sex in the summer was a good thing. Who can be sure, really?

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