We all know about Sabbatai Zevi, the 17th century Turkish Jew who claimed to be the messiah, but later converted to Islam when he was given the choice of conversion or death. His antics appear in Gluckel of Hameln's memoir and in an abundance of other texts. What I didn't know, however, and I don't know that many really know, is that ... there are still followers!
Yes, there are still followers, known as Donmeh, the Turkish word for converts. Also known as the Sabbateans, the Donmeh still exist in parts of the world, including in northeast Iran. No known followers are said to exist in the Western world. These followers represent Zevi under the guise of Islam or Christianity (more often the former than the latter), and save for the observance of some Jewish rituals, are caught in this void of ... well ... I'm not sure what. One of the rituals they take to is circumcision, but get this: at age three, not eight days. Talk about the terrible threes ...
Over on this blog, there is an entire post about the Donmeh, including a listing of their commandments and bits about the different sects. It's pretty interesting stuff, I'd say. So go take a look and be mystified! And if you want to see something related, check out the Donmeh West internet collective for the "foundation for religious education in Neo-Sabbatian Kabbalah and related subjects such as comparative religion and Jungian spirituality."
The Donmeh West collective has a little biography on Zevi, which says "In 1666 the entire Jewish world -- and much of the Christian and Muslim as well -- accepted the Jewish Kabbalist, Sabbatai Zevi, as the Mystical Messiah of Israel (See Gershom Scholem, Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah, Princeton University Press, 1973.)" Now, call me crazy, but because Zevi wasn't taken seriously by the rabbis of the Holy Land, and was threatened with excommunication, something tells me that the entire Jewish world was not accepting Zevi as the messiah of Israel.
What a subject. I might have to look into a few of the books cited on the blog post about the Donmeh.