In Robert Services' "A History of Twentieth Century Russia" I came across a reference to a Christian cult who were "strange in the extreme" called the Khlysty who " practiced castration of their adherents."
Some additional research revealed Mr. Service had his cults co-mingled, as it was actually the Skoptsy he was referring to who "were first discovered by the Russian civil authorities in 1771 in the Oryol region. A peasant, Andrei Ivanov, was convicted of having persuaded thirteen other peasants to castrate themselves. His assistant was another peasant, known as Kondratii Selivanov. A legal investigation followed. Ivanov was sent to Siberia."
Apparently the Skoptsy felt that the forbidden fruit that Adam and Eve enjoyed in the garden had been transformed into testicles and breasts and that these sexual manifestations distracted one from a direct communication with God. Followers (whose numbers reached an all time high of about 5200) often opted to perform self administered surgery without anesthesia to rid themselves of these encumbrances. Men sometimes removed the penis as well and urinated through a bull horn while a devote female Skoptsy might perform a double mastectomy and trim away her labia.
Poignant dissertations have undoubtably been penned on the many human motivations for mutilating the sexual organs. With just a dab of compartmentalization, one can imagine how the less enlightened among us might see these parts of the body as a source of suffering as they so often seem to get us into trouble. Which brings to mind a loosely connected question: "Do hand-guns kill people or do people kill people? Some might contend that if the world were rid of hand-guns and genitals, crimes of passion would be nearly non-existent.
Although the Skoptsy flourished during the late 18th century, non-anesthesized male circumcision continues throughout the world today. Inspired by the Hebrew shepard Moses, the clipped foreskin symbolizes a heightened sensitivity to God. Shortly after birth, many Gentile babies are similarly altered as Western medicine tends to view the foreskin as unhygienic. Considered from that perspective, would not a few sealing stitches to the lint catching navel be in order?