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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


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A sect which was instituted about the year 1774, in America. Anna Leese, whom they style the Elect Lady, is the head of this party. They assert that she is the woman spoken of in the 12th chap. of Revelations, and that she speaks seventy-two tongues, and though those tongues are unintelligible to the living, she converses with the dead, who understand her language. They add farther, that she is the mother of all the elect, and that she travails for the whole world; that, in fine, no blessing can descend to any person but only by and through her, and that in the way of her being possessed of their sins by their confessing and repenting of them, one by one, according to her direction. they vary in their exercises: their heavy dancing, as it is called, is performed by a perpetual springing from the house floor, about four inches up and down, both in the men's and women's apartment, moving about with extraordinary transport, singing sometimes one at a time, and sometimes more. This elevation affects the nerves, so that they have intervals of shuddering, as if they were in a violent fit of the ague.

They sumetimes clap their hands, and leap so high as to strike the joists above their heads. They throw off their outside garment in these exercises, and spend their strength very cheerfully this way: their chief speaker often calls for their attention, when they all stop and hear some harangue, and then begin dancing again. The assert that their dancing is the token of the great joy and happiness of the Jerusalem state, and denotes the victory over sin. One of their most favourite exertions is turning round very swiftly for an hour or two. This, they say, is to show the great power of God. Such is the account which different writers have given us of this sect; but others observe, that though, at first, they used these violent gesticulations, now they have "a regular, solemn, uniform dance, or genuflection, to a regular, solemn hymn which is sung by the elders, and as regularly conducted as a proper band of music."

See New York Theol. Mag. for Nov. and Dec. 1795.

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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Shakers'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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