The Skoptsy were a Christian Cult that mixed mysticism and other religious elements in Russia. But first and foremost they became known for castrating themselves to receive God’s blessing.
They are said to have been founded by members of Khlysty, a people’s religion, a kind of straight edge sect that didn’t like alcohol, fighting and sex. They practiced castration for men and the cutting off of breasts for women.
Building on this Cult, the Skoptsy took Matthew’s Gospel a tad too literally, when he wrote: “There are castrates who were castrated by others and there are castrates who castrated themselves for the Kingdom of God.” Ritual genital mutilation was then introduced and became a hallmark of their faith. They wanted to be “Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake” (Laura Engelstein, Castration and the Heavenly Kingdom: A Russian Folktale)
The Skoptsy turned into quite the phenomenon in Russia during the 19th century. They accumulated wealth and proselytized. And they even made it into Dostoyevsky’s book The Idiot.
The movement came to an end during Stalin’s regime. According to this thrilling account, there are still a bunch of believers around today, and some still practice self-castration.