burning eyes and alleged ability to expand and contract his pupils

Photo of the Day

Rasputin in his salon among admirers early 1914, most likely on his birthday; his father is the 4th from the right. His telephone is visible on the wall. Photo by Karl Bulla.

The Sacred Madman of Russia

The Mad Monk, Rasputin said he was ‘Purifying’ Women by Sleeping with Them

The Russian word ?rasputnik? means debauchee. This so irritated the Russian holy man, Grigory Rasputin, that he persuaded Tsar Nicholas II to let him change his name by law. Just before Christmas 1906, he became Rasputin Novy, which means ?New Rasputin.? Rasputin later claimed that this name was bestowed on him by the Tsar?s young heir, Alexis. The boy had haemophilia, and it was Rasputin?s supposedly mystical capacity to staunch its effects which gave him such a hold over the imperial couple.

Rasputin was indeed a debauchee, and remained so to his atrocious end. Shortly before his murder, for example, he had what Frances Welch calls ?a late night session more or less running into a long lunch? in which he drank 12 bottles of Madeira before passing out. Although he had mesmerising eyes, he was not physically prepossessing: ?Following years of use as a napkin, his straggling beard was festooned with decaying food.?

?There?s no remorse without sin,? professed Grigori Rasputin (1869-1916), whose mystical powers were reportedly in evidence from the age of 12. His burning eyes and alleged ability to expand and contract his pupils at will brought him dozens of followers during his pilgrimages to Greece and the Middle East. He claimed to have powers allowing him to heal the sick and predict the future, while his lack of personal hygiene and his intimidating complexion were in line with the Russian tradition that viewed?mujik?(rural peasants) as potential saints. Among many other things, Rasputin was one of the Siberian shamans that healed in the name of Christ, and that was enough to counteract the misery of the world with religious devotion.

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