Radenyi or Arks of the People of God were worship services held by the practitioners of the Khlysty sect. Grigori Rasputin attended many such services during his journeys through rural Siberian Russia at the ending of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. The participants were usually Russian peasant farmers who usually met in a home or building.
The host and hostess were usually a couple living together, since the members of the sect believed it to be a sin against the Holy Spirit to be formally married within the Orthodox Church. A marriage blessed by a priest of the Church was a sign of the Antichrist. However, many of the sect are suspected of having been married in the church, as they were encouraged to adhere to the Church’s rules in order to avoid suspicion and to kept the Khlysty sect a secret, but the sect forbade them from indulging in carnal relationships with their married partner.
These meetings occurred at night, most probably late on a Friday or Saturday night. Persons dressed in white secretly made their ways to the appointed house or building. They took seats on benches along the walls. In the room’s center was a tub of water. They knew when all of their secret sect had gathered.
The host and hostess sat in front of the gathering at a table across from each other. Many times they were considered to represent Jesus and mother Mary. They would open the service with prayers beseeching the Holy Spirit to descend upon the gathering. This initial service usually proceeded with more prayers and hymns. Frequently a communion service of bread and wine was conducted.
The spirits of all participants were usually raised to a frenzied state with chanting and shouting of the hymns. They rheumatically danced around the tub of water often claiming the water began to boil and give off a golden steam of its own accord. Others hallucinated saying they saw a raven or a mother and child in the vapors rising from the tub.
Most frequently the sect members within these states would utter or chant what would sound like gibberish to ordinary persons. Some claimed it was “Indian” or “The language of Jerusalem,” but to most it possessed a pseudo-Germanic ring to it. This spiritual language supposedly gave way to the feeling of ecstasy, accompanied by the powers of prophecy and healing.
Often the frenzied states of the celebrants increased to a stage were they became unconscious of their actions.They became lunatical by shouting hymns and dancing faster and faster while slapping each other across the shoulders with cloths. The very essence of this state of religious euphoria is what they strived for. It was in such ecstasy they believed the Holy Spirit took over and controlled them. They were no longer acting of their own volition, but the Holy Spirit was acting within them.
In many incidences the celebrants lost all self-control. Many tore off their clothes and danced naked. Their belief of spreading “the love of Christ” gave way to the indulgence in physical love making, or the “communal sin” as it was called, as the celebrants feel deliriously to the floor. A.G.H.