Theaurau John Tany

A 17th-century mystical figure known for his apocalyptic prophecies and eccentric behavior.

Religion: Christian mysticism
Founder: Theaurau John Tany (also known as John Tanye)
Founded: 17th century
Location: England

Theaurau John Tany, born Thomas Totney on 21 January 1608, embarked on a remarkable transformation following a profound personal revelation that led him to assume a new identity steeped in religious conviction and millenarian prophecies. Before his transformation, Tany was known as a Puritan and a veteran of the Civil War, working as a goldsmith. His life took a dramatic turn on 23 November 1649, when, after fourteen weeks of intense fasting and prayer, he experienced a powerful spiritual awakening. This event was so profound that Tany claimed it left him overwhelmed by the divine presence, rendering him momentarily dumb, blind, and as if dead in front of numerous witnesses. It was during this spiritual encounter that he believed God renamed him Theaurau John Tany, a name he interpreted to mean “God his declarer of the morning, the peaceful tidings of good things”​​​​.

Tany’s beliefs and actions following this experience were radical and controversial. He saw himself as a messianic figure, claiming descent from Aaron and adopting the titles of High Priest and Recorder to the thirteen Tribes of the Jews. His conviction was so strong that he circumcised himself and began preaching what he saw as the everlasting gospel of God’s light and love. Tany’s message was apocalyptic, predicting the burning of the earth and the downfall of the proud and wicked. He was particularly critical of the clergy, whom he accused of exploiting the people, and his teachings included calls for social justice and reformation​​.

In his quest to enact his millenarian mission, Tany adopted a lifestyle resembling that of the biblical children of Israel, living in a tent decorated with symbols representing the tribe of Judah. He attracted a small group of followers with his public preaching in London’s parks and fields. Tany’s first significant public act of proclamation was a broadside entitled “I Proclaime From the Lord of Hosts The returne of the Jewes From their Captivity,” published on 25 April 1650, likely funded by Captain Robert Norwood, a wealthy London merchant​​.

Tany’s subsequent publications, including tracts like “Whereas Theaurau John Taiiiiijour My servant” and “THE NATIONS RIGHT in Magna Charta,” further outlined his vision for a new social order and the restitution of the Jews. These works were part of a broader effort to challenge the established religious and political structures of his time. Despite facing legal challenges, including a trial for blasphemy that resulted in a six-month imprisonment for Tany and Norwood, the movement persisted. Tany continued to publish and preach, even undergoing another purificatory ritual in early 1653 that further solidified his commitment to his divine mission​​.

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