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The Little Gods

The sect of the "little gods," or _bojki_, was founded about 1880 by a
peasant named Sava. Highly impressionable by nature, and influenced by
the activities of at least a dozen different sects that flourished in
his native village (Derabovka, near Volsk), Sava ended by believing
himself to be God.

Though naturally aggressive, and of an irascible temperament, he soon
became as serious as a philosopher and as gentle as a lamb. His
intelligence seemed to increase visibly. He discoursed like a man
inspired, and said to the inhabitants of Derabovka:--

"If there be a God in Heaven, there must also be one on earth. And why
not? Is not the earth a creation of Heaven, and must it not resemble
that which created it? . . . Where then is this earthly God to be
found? Where is the Virgin Mary? Where are the twelve apostles?"

The dreamer wandered about the village, uttering his thoughts aloud.
At first men shrugged their shoulders at his strange questions. But he
continued to hold forth, and in the end the peasants gathered round him.

It was the sweetest moment of his life when the villagers of Derabovka
at last found the deity who had been sought so eagerly. For whom could
it be, if not Sava himself? . . . Thus Sava proclaimed himself God;
gave to his kinsman Samouil the name of Saviour; to a peasant-woman of
a neighbouring village that of the Virgin Mary; and chose the twelve
Apostles and the Holy Ghost from among his acquaintance. The
nomination of the latter presented, however, some difficulties. The
Holy Ghost, argued the peasants, had appeared to Jesus by the river
Jordan in the form of a dove, and how could one represent it by a man?
They refused to do so, and decided that in future all birds of the dove
species should be the Holy Ghost.

The authorities began to seek out the "gods," as they were called
locally. Samouil was arrested and charged with being a false Saviour,
but defended himself with such child-like candour that the tribunal was
baffled. The movement therefore continued, and was indeed of a wholly
innocent nature, not in any way menacing the security of the
government, and filling with rapture all Sava's followers.

It was the custom of the "little gods" to gather in some forest, and
there to hide the "Virgin Mary" in a leafy glade, and await her
"apparition." Sava himself, and Samouil, the "Saviour," would be
concealed close at hand, and she would emerge from her hiding-place in
their company. The lookers-on then gave vent to loud cries of joy, and
all united in glorifying the goodness of Heaven. The "Virgin" wore on
these occasions a rich and beautiful robe in which all the colours of
the rainbow were blended. The company would gather round her, while
the "Apostles" reverently kissed her feet. Sacred hymns were then
sung, and the worshippers dispersed filled with unbounded ecstasy.

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