WIDESPREAD CORRUPTION AT SACRED MISTS
I've thought long and hard about giving a report. This is very hard for me because of the way I was treated at Sacred Mists before and after I left, but I would like to share a few concerns.
I joined Sacred Mists because I could find very few neo-pagans in my area. The lessons were light, which was disappointing, but I forced myself to go above and beyond the standard curriculum. I knew, from fairly early on, that these lessons (now called the "old" lessons) were picked up from other websites and were mostly available for free, but I still wanted a chance to interact with other non-pagans.
I was with SM for about two-and-a-half years. Very early on, I began to take a leadership role. I taught classes, facilitated boards, joined the divination programs, and lead a number of rituals. I knew Lorien Carrillo (aka Lady Raven Moonshadow, president of the company and self-proclaimed "Arch Priestess") was somewhere up at the top of the hierarchy, and sometimes news of her would trickle down to people like me; still, I could never reach her, so I just kept teaching and put it out of my head.
Nonetheless, I began to see some disturbing trends. Men - and, sometimes, gods - were treated with contempt. Poor people were denigrated, especially by the wealthier members of the student council. Certain folkways and people were stereotyped and treated disrespectfully. The Sacred Mists Shoppe was mismanaged. Lorien kept giving out discount codes as prizes, but they wouldn't work, and a huge amount of the merchandise advertised wasn't actually available. The work of artists like Josephine Wall, Susan Seddons Boulet, Michael Whelan, and the Frouds (to mention but a few) was being changed and re-printed as part of the program of incentive tags for students at the school without any credit being given. A person calling herself Shauni said they had a special arrangement with a number of artists, but I never saw any indication of that.
The school purported to support the environment, but I could find no such sentiments in the lessons except one brief statement declaring that most neo-pagans care about the planet. In fact, I've never seen any effort made by the school to do anything for our environment. There was, at one point shortly after I left, a banner that advertised the SM Gifting Garden; however, when I read the fine print, I realized that there wasn't really any such program - it was just a message encouraging people to start their own gifting gardens wherever they might be while pretending the Mists was engaged in charitable activities. This is just one example of the false advertising schemes I saw throughout my time at the Mists.
I was also worried about the SM tradition itself - if one can actually call it that. I felt primarily based in my own solitary study, which had begun before I started at the Mists. But, as I completed more lessons and facilitated more events, I felt increasing pressure to join the tradition. I wouldn't do so because, when Lorien did say anything about the SM tradition, it was to present it as her "brand" - as if it were merchandise. Even though the lessons weren't hers, she insisted that she had purchased their spiritual content and that it belonged to her.
All these things troubled me, but I wanted to try to help to fix them rather than abandon the school. And, at that point, comments were being censored so effectively that I wasn't aware how often it was happening. I put my concerns aside, hoping to simply act as a free agent who cared about learning rather be a "school" official. You see, I'd never actually talked to Lorien Carrillo at that point - she wanted nothing to do with me until I got close to finishing my second degree. Then, all of a sudden, she became interested, and I could reach her any time I called or emailed. And those conversations led to her burst of temper that forced me to leave the school.
Lorien wanted me to teach a professional class (one that required people to pay a fee to attend). She kept asking me for details of the curriculum, and I gave her some general information, but she refused to answer my inquiries about a contract.
Then I got into a conversation on the boards about BDSM. I respectfully said I felt that people who engaged in such practices should talk to a counselor because sexual humiliation and the inflicting of sexual pain isn't good for the human psyche. That touched quite a chord for Lorien. She began yelling at me on the phone about how I didn't know enough about BDSM to even define it. Then, when I presented a clear definition and told her I felt my argument had been a logical one, she told me I needed to "dumb myself down" and stop being so logical before I alienated anyone else at Sacred Mists.
I was very confused. I had been preparing to enter the third degree program, but I withdrew my application. When I saw how much anger Lorien harbored about this issue, I wanted more time to consider working with her. But I wasn't only angry with her. I was angry with myself because I had, so I was told, really hurt the student who'd said she thought BDSM was ok. I wasn't sure if I would be a good leader, and I considered that I might be better off to remain a rogue agent within the group - trying to improve everyone's experience without actually becoming part of leadership. After all, I figured, leaders come in many shapes - and they aren't all pre-approved by the administration. But Lorien wasn't having any of that. She said that putting my third degree application on hold and refusing to send her a copy of my magical journal constituted an act of disloyalty. She said that, in order to punish me, she was canceling my class and making sure I was never allowed to apply for the third degree program again.
I decided, at this point, to do a little research on Lorien (something I should have done long before this). I found a resume she'd posted online. It said she'd held many very high-ranking positions working with a number of international corporations (including, but not limited to, Microsoft Business Solutions, AltaVista, Boeing, Dole, and Wells Fargo). In fact, the number of top positions she'd held was suspicious; I felt I was looking at the resume of someone who had kept having to move on because she just couldn't get along with people. What was more disturbing was the total lack of information about her magical training. All I could find was one website where Lorien herself spoke of her teacher (supposedly someone called Igraine, no last name). She said this teacher couldn't be contacted, though. I found this suspicious. It makes sense that a teacher might not want to be contacted at home, but it makes no sense to me why Lorien's teacher couldn't have even provided a letter of reference or recommendation.
I also became concerned about the direction of the program itself given what I was seeing. I knew the lessons shifted over the years - I was, in fact, asked to help re-write them before I left - but some of the dates didn't make sense. Allegedly, the Sacred Mists tradition began in 1993, but their online curriculum was purchased only about a decade ago. Did the Sacred Mists simply not have a curriculum during its early years? Or, if it did, what happened to it when Lorien switched to an online format?
Desperate for a sane voice, I turned to my SM mentor. This was Nancy Cox Fader, who likes to disguise her true identity under the name "Raushanna de Danu" and similar appellations. I told her I wanted her advice to become a better leader and a more tactful person. I wrote how I was feeling about Lorien, but I told Nancy I just wanted her advice. I made it very clear that I didn't want Lorien to read the message. In just a day or two, Lorien was emailing me; Nancy had emailed my private note to Lorien, apparently without any hesitation. Nancy profusely apologized for her misconduct, but the damage had been done. Lorien started looking for ways to get rid of me.
It wasn't hard. I'm poor. I did pay for my first and second degrees (useless as those are), but then I ran into some financial difficulties as we were moving to a new home. I joined the "tuition" program, which gave Lorien the tool she needed to expel me. She explained that I wasn't any good to the school if I wasn't in a degree program. I tried to join the adept program (since she'd forbidden me from the third degree program), but she wrote to tell me that, to her, it was obvious I was only pretending an interest so I could stay without having to pay my fees. She explained that, unless I was helping generate revenue by keeping people at the school, I'd have to go. The last straw came when I balked at leading a ritual in which Lorien herself was evoked, as if she were a goddess. I explained that this was egotistical and misleading. She didn't care for my opinions, though; she just told me that I would have to find a sense of loyalty for Sacred Mists, pay my fees, or quit. I chose the latter.
But my ordeal wasn't over. I went to a website asking for reviews of Sacred Mists and posted my story. A woman named Liesel Jameson - someone I'd never met - posted to say that she worked right next to Lorien in her office and that she'd overheard all the conversations I'd had with Lorien. I was shocked; I'd had no idea that these weren't private conversations. Jameson started leaking private information about me, but she didn't care if her details were straight. So, not only did she betray my confidence, but she also committed libel against me. To make matters worse, Liesel admitted that - even though we'd never met - she'd been keeping a file of my bad behavior at the coven for years. Someone claiming to be Lorien later posted to tell me that Liesel had been fired, but how should I believe someone with Lorien's record for manipulation and lies?
Then someone posted a quote from the Sacred Mists site in which I said positive things about the school. This was, of course, a very old post that should have been deleted; according to FTC law, you cannot quote someone to endorse a product if you are fully aware that they no longer believe in the product. I emailed SM leadership, but the woman answering (someone calling herself Lilyth) tried to bargain with me, telling me that I'd have to stop posting about SM if I wanted them to follow FTC laws about misrepresentation. I went to the BBB and filed a complaint. My quote was finally withdrawn, but Lorien and her staff refused to acknowledge wrongdoing or apologize for their misconduct.
From there on out, the board got more and more vicious. People (I can only assume they were from the Mists) began to impersonate me, trying to make me sound crazy. Then someone began to impersonate my wife. Others began to spam the board with lengthy quotes from the Bible, SM lessons, popular songs, and Psychology Today; again, I assume these were Mists students who didn't want people to be able to read the truth.
But it wasn't enough that people from the Mists were showing the worst sort of behavior on review boards. Over a year ago, council members (and some other members of the SM "elite") began to use their facebook statuses to insist I was a "cyber stalker" and a "dangerous madman". Needless to say, they were desperate that I not repeat the truth on facebook. I really got to see the SM hatred of men when a person calling herself Rowan Pendragon told me, on her profile page, that she would happily help lynch men accused of rape without any sort of trial. I found this highly disturbing. Fortunately, we moved around the time I left the Mists, so they don't know my current address. Therefore, I've decided to share my review with you. I hope it isn't censored, and I hope it prevents someone, even just one person, from having to feel the pain and dread that I've felt.
This - and many other negative reviews of the Mists - were recently removed from facebook for no apparent reason. Another former Sacred Mists student emailed me to let me know, and I decided to post here. I'm hoping you'll keep this review up.
Please understand that I found most of the people at Sacred Mists to be worthwhile. Some were very kind to me. But, so far as I can see, there exists no concern for ethics within Sacred Mists leadership.
Thank you so much for listening.
Scott (I cannot give my full name on this forum, but I encourage anyone who wishes to contact me to ask for my email address, which I freely give Ripoff Report permission to pass to anyone who asks)