storm clouds

The Storm Clouds

Please be mindful that this page focuses on disturbing parts of Aristasia’s history, including ties to fascist groups, abuse, and cult-like behavior. It will remain unfinished for quite some time. You are welcome to provide your own insights by contacting the webmistresses through one of the many methods here.

As a former (online) outer-circle participant, I do feel the impetus to dive deeper into what was wrong with Aristasia, even if it was hidden from me and many of us for utter decades. This is part of a larger attempt to make sense of my whole experience with Aristasia.

This page attempts to do just that, or at least some of it. It begins with the most obvious and general question, and then focuses on different issues that have become associated with the movement, in no particular order. Aside from the section I’ll eventually add at the bottom, these are all focused on confirmed aspects of Aristasia, splinter, and precursor groups.

These aren’t things that journalists made up. They may have been presented to me as such initially by some within the movement, and it is hard to say whether they believed it or not. These storms include connections to some extremely sketchy people and things, including the British National Party, as well as a court case involving abuse at St. Bride’s School for Adult Girls in the 1980s that ended in a conviction.

I will include instances where these issues intersected with my own experiences within Aristasia (circa 2000-2010, and online only) as much as I'm able given privacy (and legal) considerations. I'll often be contrasting my own experiences in Aristasia through venues such as Second Life with earlier on-the-ground Aristasian experiences, and giving a few thoughts on why things seemed to differ so much.

Please realize that this page is subject to (possibly, at this point, quite extreme) expansions as I learn more about Aristasia’s controversial past. I am also seeking more perspectives on these issues, particularly from people they affect more than me. If you're interested in helping, contact me.

Fun Facts!

You (if you so choose) can celebrate femininity, enjoy vintage clothing, develop (your own, one would hope) complex worldbuilding, and even cultivate a rich spiritual life based around the concept of God as a Mother without falling into any of the toxic traps discussed here, all on your own. Though I've no desire to participate now, those who feel the impetus to resurrect or remake Aristasia should be attempting to do it that way, if anything...

Upcoming pages still to be completed include one called “But I Wanted to Aristasia…”. This will cover my brief and tentative thoughts on present-day Aristasian “subversive revival” attempts and noises about them - is that worth doing? Is it productive and safe?

Aristasia: A Cult?

Aristasia as a movement was way too dispersed and out of control to really be called a cult as such. Too many people, too many splinter groups, etc... Cults typically exert quite an extreme degree of control over members, and it’s usually much more uniform, I personally think. Certain people and groups within the movement had proven themselves quite toxic and untrustworthy, though. There were heavy cult-like aspects to certain eras of Aristasia that cannot be ignored, too. I can't say for sure if, for example St. Bride's School was a cult, since I wasn't there, but it is a definite possibility given what we nowadays know about it

On Tumblr, @Tellurian-in-Aristasia’s evaluation of Aristasia from a distance is worth looking at. While @Tellurian-in-Aristasia never participated in Aristasia directly, she’s putting on an intense display of research skills over there.

As someone who was somewhat closer to the movement in terms of participation, I’ll do my own evaluation here using the same scale. Keep in mind, I know far less about the history of the movement than @Tellurian-in-Aristasia. I was also only ever an online participant in the 2000s, when a lot of information about the movement's history was heavily distorted.

You might scoff and say “Hah! It’s utterly impossible to be in an online cult.” Well, it isn’t. Plenty of other groups have proven this, especially recently. Even most online cults will have an offline core, of course. This tends to give them at least some teeth in the real world, so to speak. And often, it can be hard for online participants to discern what’s going on offline, and vice versa.

The Twin Flames movement, things like Qanon… Heck, there’s even a whole completely unrelated online cult also using the name “Mother God;” apparently a documentary is being made about it on Netflix or something like that. I’ve seen minor cults pop up on Skype and Discord, and had friends get sucked into that kind of thing.

It was just as true in the 2000s as it is now. When you’re a person like me who had to escape into the internet at a young age, you are vulnerable to that kind of thing. I had many brushes with real internet cults. Many of the actual cults that tried to recruit me back then were specifically preying on minors, and using things like fandoms, roleplay, and neopaganism as a way of drawing kids in.

It’s hard to see Aristasia as quite so awful by comparison. We must, still, remind ourselves that my experiences were online, though. The tenor of it may have been markedly different than it was at, for example, the London Embassy. I definitely know my experiences were different than those experienced by girls involved in some Aristasian precursor groups like the Rhennish commune in Burtonport, and, of course, St. Bride’s School. Those, of course, were offline experiences.

This is a confusing subject, but I will explore it through the same lens that @Tellurian-in-Aristasia uses: the BITE model. This is an evaluation technique for groups in general, designed to identify cults and manipulation. Naturally, I won’t fully go through the entire scale, but will follow the “Cult Bingo” format she gave, with my own impressions. I will address those, as well as hers.

Before you read on, do note that my own perspective was never typical, and perhaps I have a different definition of “cult” than most, or am more tolerant of certain practices. I’m admittedly an occult practitioner. That kind of belief system has been part of my life in various ways since before I even found out about Aristasia, so it definitely colors my perspective on all this. As you’ll see, I judge things differently because of this.

This reflects what I saw through online Aristasia circa 2000-2010, primarily, and does not address the Rhennes, St. Bride’s, Romantia, or Chelouranya, none of which I had any direct involvement in. There’s evidence some of those were very cult-like.

My own version on the left, and @Tellurian-in-Aristasia’s version on the right.
My own version on the left, and @Tellurian-in-Aristasia’s version on the right.


Chanting may have been part of Aristasia offline. I have no way of knowing. It was not practiced in any group setting online (ie, voice chats,) nor encouraged or even discussed much. Sometimes someone would post a link to a mantra. That was really all, so I can’t really say that chanting gets a mark on my bingo card.

Instill Guilt

I never felt guilty in Aristasia for not being racinated enough. This wasn’t pushed, at least not outside of existing Aristasian spaces. I wasn’t expected, for example, to have worn gloves and a hat to the dining hall at my university. I was most definitely expected to show up at the Embassy in Second Life (Virtualia) in Aristasian garb (vintage clothing or an approximation of it). Racination was not pressured, at least not for us visitors to the Embassy, the forums, and other parts of Aristasian elektraspace. That may have changed in the Chelouranyan era, but I wasn’t present for that.

No Happiness Outside of Group

I definitely agree with @Tellurian-in-Aristasia’s summation of this one. Aristasians, their precursor and successor groups, did strongly push the idea that the world outside of the racination that could be provided by them was misery. They called it the Pit (or, at times, Babylon) for a reason.

They described it in horrible terms. The book Children of the Void is called that because of this. The titular “Void” is the absence of nourishing culture due to the “collapse” of the 1960s. Aristasians, rejecting the poisonous culture of the post-1960s Pit, are children of this Void rather than of the Pit itself. That was the idea, in any case.

Early on, there were many Aristasia fanfics and short stories (wish-fulfillment fantasies, perhaps?) that I saw that played with this idea. In particular, many stories loved the trope of a girl who “escapes from the Pit” into Aristasia or some convenient Aristasia-like equivalent space.

In some stories, this isn’t a fun experience, but it’s always portrayed as magical and ultimately positive. For examples of this, see The Feminine Regime or A Maid's Duty in the Fiction section. This is extremely creepy and worrisome. In most of these stories, the transformation is only semi-consensual, sometimes involves smacks (that are supposedly for actual punishment, not sex play), and comes close to romanticizing brainwashing.

Forbid Critical Questions About Leader

I agree with this one, for the reasons @Tellurian-in-Aristasia has stated. I will say that it was much less an issue than I saw in other, comparable online groups, though. In some of the online groups I’ve seen (and even dallied in), a remark towards the leader would’ve prompted rounds of vicious bullying from everyone.

In Aristasia, a cross question at a leader-figure (or anyone, really, even me - you simply did not ask about people like that) would’ve felt more like the “does anyone think about dying?” scene in the Barbie movie - just mortifying enough to shut someone up, but not a prompt for abuse.

You probably wouldn’t have gotten an answer, and any answer you got would’ve been a form of “life theatre” anyways. When it came to matters of theology and Déanism itself, it was much easier to ask questions, even critical ones, but you wouldn’t, for example, ask someone for sources or where they’d learned what they were teaching - again, that information was not made readily available.

Whereas in other (online and offline) toxic group settings (cults, one might say, or just very bad), I saw verbal abuse, here, it was almost a sort of gaslighting. @Tellurian-in-Aristasia notes that "It’s very possible that whole people have been invented, for the purpose of deflecting questions about who really founded Aristasia." During my time in Aristasia, the usage of multiple personae by leadership (by everyone, really, including me), was so common, I can believe this completely. My research into the supposed "Oxford" era of Aristasia suggests this, as well.

It's one thing to invent a cute character for a video game like Second Life where girls are (told that they are) doing "life theatre"; it's quite another to engage in decades-long efforts clearly designed to create confusion as was clearly done.

Information Deliberately Withheld

@Tellurian-in-Aristasia probably doesn’t tick this box because she began researching the movement later on. In the early 2000s and throughout that decade, information was deliberately withheld.

We had no idea who had even actually founded this movement, nor hardly anything about the precursor organizations. This was, I’ll admit, in part because a lot of records hadn’t been digitized yet, but… the same people who had been there were still around and could easily have been clear with us.

I realize that “naming names” and invading the privacy of those involved early on is a no-go, and respect that. I do think that if one founds something like this, there’s a responsibility to at least be honest about how it all happened, and oftentimes, they were not. It was difficult for me to track down resources from precursor groups once they were digitized because we got very little accurate information about the history of the movement, and whole moments were erased from that.

I’ve mentioned several times on these pages that, when I was fourteen-ish, I chatted with some Aristasians (they thought I was twenty-five). They alluded to “bits of the old Aristasian language floating around,” but didn’t elaborate and acted as if they just didn't know.

Now, of course, as I’ve documented here, I’m sure said language comes from the Rhennish commune, a precursor group they never mentioned. Pretty sure the person I was speaking with knew that too, or at least had spoken to someone who did… but the information was withheld in favor of a more mysterious narrative.

Something like that (a conlang??) might seem a silly thing of me to fixate on for this particular section. It’s just one example, and the easiest one I can think of to explain.

Sexual Relationships Dictated

I never saw this in Aristasia. Older Aristasian material from the 1990s was drenched in stockings and upskirts, of course. Websites featuring these pushed the idea that they were “erotic,” but not overtly sexual, and meant to be subtle on purpose. Implied to be superior to vulgar pornography from “the Pit,” of course. They were judgmental about that sort of thing.

Later on, when I became more heavily involved, these things began to vanish. There were tensions whenever sex got mentioned in Aristasian spaces, which were supposed to be free from all but the mildest of eroticism by that point. Discourse did happen over this, particularly about posting some of the older stories and whether they were no longer appropriate for Aristasia. You can see an archived thread on Reddit where some “normal” folk are snarking at the Aristasians from afar over that.

This doesn’t, to me, qualify as sexual relationships dictated though, any more so than (for example) your average TTRPG banning sexual content. It was always implied that a pette might do what she wanted, but sexual matters ought be left at the door of the Aristasian Embassy, so to speak, whether they might be with mascûli (men) or other ladies. I do strongly remember that people who refused to do that, made sexual jokes or just talked about sex were ultimately asked to leave. I guess that’s comparable to banning someone from a forum?

Maisappho, in “My Issues with Aristasia,” does say that sex, and talk of it, and the concept in general, had become increasingly taboo in Aristasia prior to it becoming Chelouranya. At that point, I can’t say for sure if this box did deserve to be ticked, but here, I can only speak of my own experiences with Aristasia specifically, not the later Chelouranyan era.

I’ve heard it said that many of the Chelouranyans were, in fact, asexual. This isn’t something I’m interested in looking into or confirming. It is not my business. I just mention it because, if that’s the case, asexuals might indeed want a completely sexually-desaturated space for themselves to chill for a bit. Not all asexuals are sex-repulsed as I understand it, but some people are. I see nothing wrong with wanting that, too. Just some thoughts.

Toxic Positivity

I combine “Encourage only good and proper thoughts” and “Some emotions deemed evil” under this heading for convenience, and I tick both boxes personally, as does @Tellurian-in-Aristasia. I tick both for the same reasons she does. As she says, a lot of this wasn’t a huge facet until the late Aristasian era. Honestly, prior to maybe 2008, I maybe wouldn’t tick these boxes at all.

Prior to that, certain emotions (and emotional responses) were heavily discouraged in Aristasian spaces, but having those feelings in general wasn’t implied to be evil or wrong. Obviously, nobody likes things like hatred, jealousy, fear, etc, but they didn’t portray feeling them as wrong. You just didn’t bring them into Aristasia, and if you did, you were circumspect about admitting to them. This made direct communication difficult. I almost wouldn’t call it toxic positivity, bit I don’t have any other word for it?

It was utterly a unique experience. From the archives, I know that this aspect got emphasized much more later, by the time Aristasia had become Chelouranya and I had bounced. I still felt the beginnings of it, and it was part of why I slowly faded out of the group.

Instill Fear of Outside World

Fear of outside world? I surely understand why it might appear that this applies to Aristasia. I, however, disagree. The outside world was the Pit, and the Pit was a clownish place of yellow tennis balls and bifurcated garments. Something you pity, not fear, exactly. Something disgusting, but not scary.

Sure, it may occasionally include the “Forces of Darkness,” or “Foddies,” as they jokingly called them when they stole the Embassy car in London. But that didn’t make it any less ridiculous from an Aristasian perspective. When Miss Martindale said “there’s a war on,” it was in the same breath as complaining about tracksuits. Believe me, only a minority of Aristasians ever feared “the Pit” on more than an aesthetic level.

Don’t get me wrong. They (we?) did genuinely believe a metaphysical war was taking place, and that certain unrelated events might’ve been part of that. The idea, though, was that folks like the car thieves were hapless pawns in this, though - clowns, again, not the real threat, which was hidden in some otherworldly fashion.

Outsider vs. Insider Doctrines

This is a mild feature of many esoteric and occult circles I’ve been in, who will joke about “freaking the mundanes,” as will friends who are in the furry fandom, deep into other such games, etc.

The thing is, the Aristasians took it much further, and there was always the intimation that not only were we (well, when in our Aristasian personae) were better than them on a philosophical level, but also that they were pitiable.

We also regularly used the term bongo to describe these so-called “Pit-dwellers” who hadn’t escaped the horrors of modernity. This term sounds extremely racially-charged in some contexts, and once that clicked a bit, it felt weird, too. I really do doubt it was chosen for that reason, though.

It got applied to everyone outside of Aristasia, implicitly at the very least. One of the earliest posts about Second Life in Aristasia was talk about the “bongos” living near the Aristasian Embassy in the game itself, for example.

Furthermore, bongos or pit-dwellers got divided into three categories. That’s right. As bizarre and (yes) cult-like as it sounds, they divided those who were outside of (not simply merely opposed to the group into categories.

If you’d like to read (in fictional dialogue form, no less) a description of this, an excerpt from the book Children of the Void titled Bongo Typology: Or, It Takes All Types To Break a World got archived. I’ll give a short summary, though.

Because they’re warped by the very metaphysical nature of the late Age of Iron and post-1960s, modern lifestyle, non-Aristasians (again, called “bongos”) got called mutants. There existed three types of mutation, though:

  • Type One mutants, who, usually older, lived as if the “Cultural Collapse” of the 1960s had never occurred. They generally absorbed some “Pit propaganda” and had enough of a modern mindset to survive in the post-1960s world, but weren’t overly-affected by it.
  • Type Two mutants, who are what we’d consider normal, ordinary people for the latter-half of the twentieth century. They consume the proper amount of propaganda and entertainment and have, allegedly, bought into the “nihilism” and “individualism” etc of modernity.
  • Type Three mutants, who tend to rebel against “The Pit” itself by becoming punks, alternative types, who did things like “piercing their eyelids” and other apparently awful trends. I suppose I fit well and truly into here if one must go by this typology, and I rather don’t mind it nowadays.

I guess this is hardly as dehumanizing as the way groups like (for example) the Church of Scientology or even (heck) some churches treat outsiders.

Still, it is dehumanizing in a way that a furry going around in a suit and talking about how he’s out to “freak the mundanes” wouldn’t be, and in my opinion, is definitely cult-like in that respect.

Control of Information

@Tellurian-in-Aristasia argues that, despite the Concentric Circles aspect of Aristasia, this wasn’t really part of it. That’s simply not true. People who were closer to the inner circles of Aristasia certainly knew much more than me about Aristasia’s origins, beliefs, trajectory, etc.

I know it’s on the cult bingo, but as someone who’s taken oaths and joined secret societies before, I can’t say I see “withholding information from low-level members” as a sign of a cult at all.

In Western esotericism, it’s common practice. For example, if you had been initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn alongside Aleister Crowley in Victorian London, you simply wouldn’t have been given certain study material before, say, reaching the grade of Adeptus Exemptus.

Nowadays, with the internet being what it is, many secret societies (including the aforementioned Golden Dawn, and Aleister Crowley’s own projects) have had their teachings leaked, but initiation often still involves an oath of secrecy from the uninitiated. Some still manage to protect their secrets, too.

The Aristasians may not have had formal initiations, but they did this, and not (just) in the normal way. Unfortunately, they did it with information that I’d expect to have seen upfront (such as where things like Déanism and the mythos originated to begin with). I now, having investigated the history of the precursor groups, can only assume this was intentional.

In the mid-20th century, many burgeoning occult groups and secret societies would claim an (usually only half-true, if that) mythic history and feed it to new initiates (even Wiccans did this). The Aristasians did something similar, despite their lack of complex structure. That’s not good nor justifiable.

Thus, I definitely tick this box, even if I don’t think information control in general is necessarily cult-like. It’s just that some information shouldn’t be subject to that kind of control. Aristasia definitely did that, sadly. It would’ve been one thing if they were to hide theological matters or other subjects of initiatory knowledge, but hiding the actual history of the group and often times very major details like that? Not good.

New Name and Identity

I tick this for the exact same reason @Tellurian-in-Aristasia does. I will simply quote, verbatim, her rationale, because mine’s exactly the same.

Creating a new identity was a central core of being Aristasian. If you decided to use your Tellurian name, you were at the very least encouraged to choose if you were a Blonde or a Brunette. Many Aristasians had many different names, identities, and even sexes.


That said… just as was the case with the previous box… I don’t find this necessarily problematic. Most occult groups encourage new members to pick a name or “motto” as they join. Wiccan covens do this, as do groups like the aforementioned Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. It’s just considered normal. I’m not, admittedly, part of many of these sorts of groups these days. I do know that a lot of them will turn Mike Johnstone into Ravenfyre Wolfwind or transform Karen Perry into Soror Lilith Asmodeous, though.

The Aristasians transforming girls into Miss Abigail Corinthian or whomever didn’t seem that weird in comparison, especially given the cute Second Life names. I wanted the name Corinthian so bad. It’s also worth noting that this personae concept was actually used to keep Aristasia separate from a girl’s outside life. You’re one person in Aristasia, yet someone else outside of it, and one won’t be judged for the actions of the other. That, at least, held back a lot of potential nastiness.

Still, is that a healthy solution to the problem? I haven’t got an answer for that. I tick this box, because it is, technically, true. Aristasia invited you to be someone else, and that was precisely the draw for many of us.

Distort Information to Make it Acceptable

There was a lot of information bending within Aristasia. Reading Aristasian musings often feels like it’s very obvious that they’re working backwards from whatever point they’re trying to make to make it fit around their world views. This ranges greatly from science denial (for there’s no belief in evolution in Aristasia) to their own history revision (They only ever got involved with all that Silly Monkey stuff to make money to fund their embassies, but also what they did wasn’t Silly Monkey stuff anyways, because, remember, what they did wasn’t sexual)

Ticking this one for the same reason as @Tellurian-in-Aristasia.

I agree here, immensely. The science denial wasn’t pushed quite as much as it might’ve appeared to an outsider, but their own personal historical revisionism was extreme, and it was only very recently that I’ve been able to sort out some very pertinent loose ends regarding what was really going on in the 1980s and 1990s.

Suffice to say, some of us were played from the beginning.

The real story of the movement’s past was just much stranger and more disturbing than what we were led to believe, obviously. I can’t say what I would’ve done back at the turn of the millennium had I known all the details, though. I would hope I’d have had sense enough to avoid the milieu entirely.

Now, historical revisionism is not unusual in esotericism or new religious movements. That’s not throwing shade on esotericism. It’s just that those kinds of confusing lies and gaslighting tend to be the typical form toxic behavior takes in those movements, at least on a large scale. This doesn’t make the Aristasian version of it typical though - they, of course, took things further than you’d think.

In the section about the Rhennish commune in Burtonport, I write about how they were, in a way, comparable to earlier neopagan groups like Wicca who had a sort of “fabricated backstory.” The Rhennes claimed to be an ancient, secret matriarchal tradition carried down privately in the British Isles. Wiccans, similarly, originally had a bizarre backstory about being a hidden tradition of Celtic pagans from ancient times.

From the beginning as Rhennes, this movement, like the earliest Wiccans, was telling an elaborate history that most must’ve known to be false, and continued to do so for decades. The Aristasians, though, unlike the Wiccans, tended to rewrite this history in order to erase whole (quite recent) eras (many of which painted them in a negative light). We thus see a motive beyond the typical “occult legitimacy” of established tradition sought by Wiccans and other alternative spiritual groups.

It’d have been one thing if their information distortion had been limited to revising ancient history with tales of Amazonian warriors. Still a problem, but not quite so bad comparably. It did, though, go much further.

Buddy System

This simply was not part of Aristasia as I experienced it. Romantic relationships, or pairings of that sort, were rare (or at least rarely apparent) amongst online Aristasians. As a blonde (mostly) I wasn’t expected to have “my brunette” or anyone of the sort. I really didn’t encounter any (publicly, acknowledged) couples at all in Aristasian spaces online, at least...

Platonic bonds were awfully strong in many instances. Girls formed makeshift families in elektraspace, and there were even rituals for those who wanted to formalize close friendships. To me, this seemed sweet, not creepy or anything. I think that when the BITE system refers to the “Buddy System,” it means something much different, a mechanism of emotional and social surveillance. We see this in fictional representations like television’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and in real-life cults, too, of course.

Communal households are a fixture of a lot of small spiritual communities and even just younger groups sharing similar ideologies. I don’t see that, by itself, as cult-like. The communal households formed by a lot of Aristasian precursor groups I would consider cult-like. I have no evidence either way regarding the nature of the Aristasian households themselves during the time I had contact with them. They, of course, posted mostly positive things, but that could mean anything, and I know that.

(Quite a) few more sections to follow...

This page will, as noted at the beginning, remain unfinished for quite some time. Future topics it will address include expansion on the above. I'll discuss orientalism within the movement which, unlike the right-wing stuff, seemed tenacious. I'll also look into the fascist ties of some Aristasian precursor groups. There'll be a section on escapism and how that relates to things like building/believing in imaginary worlds - is it ever healthy? Thank you for perusing this page, which addresses such a difficult topic. Consider contacting me via any number of these methods if you've respectful comments.

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