Pagan Abuser Arrested in Alabama

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 12, 2009 — 56 Comments

The Whidbey News Times reports on an ugly instance of Pagan religion being used and perverted as a pretext to long-term abuse and rape. According to accounts, Daniel Doherty, while a resident in Island County, Washington, allegedly raped and molested a woman from the ages of 11 to 19, excusing the horror by saying they were “pleasing the goddess”.

“The woman claimed that Doherty raped and molested her from the ages of about 11 to 19. She said the sexual assaults were frequent, usually one or more times a week. “He convinced her that she should keep their relationship a secret, and that the sexual acts were part of a Druid religion where they were pleasing the Goddess, Epona,” Price wrote. The woman claimed Doherty sexually assaulted her every Equinox and Solstice in “celebration,” the report states. He told her that the sex acts “strengthened the bond between Druid teacher and student,” the detective wrote. The woman described an incident in 2002 when she had friends sleeping over and Doherty asked her to wake them so he could sexually assault them. When she refused, he forcefully raped her on the couch, the report indicates.”

Doherty is now in custody on a $500,000 warrant, and is awaiting extradition to Island County for trial. If there is anyone in Washington state who could perhaps give us some more information, or know anything about Doherty, and connections, if any, with the local Pagan community, please drop me a note. In the meantime I’ll be monitoring this story as it develops.

I’d like to take this opportunity to send a message to all young men and women exploring modern Paganism. No real Pagan teacher or clergy will ever demand sex, especially from a minor, in exchange for initiation, or in “celebration” of anything. If you are in a situation, either with an individual, or group, that makes you feel uncomfortable, or pushes your sexual boundaries, get out, alert someone you trust (parent, relative, teacher), and if they transgressed with you sexually, alert law enforcement officials immediately. No matter how wise or powerful someone seems, there is no basis for mandatory ritualistic sex in modern Pagan rituals. Sex, when it happens in modern Paganism, should be with consenting adults, not with self-styled Druids and pre-teens. That isn’t Pagan religion, that’s abuse.

I say this, not merely as a concerned member of the Pagan community, but as a former victim of ritualized abuse within the Pagan community. It is very difficult for me to admit that in a public forum, but I want to stress that this can happen to anyone, and that no person, no matter how smart or clever they think they may be, are completely immune to the mind-games and power-trips that are often the prologue to outright sexual abuse. If you ever feel in danger, get out, get help, and call the police. Don’t let these monsters steal your power, your happiness, or mar your personal connection to the gods.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Robin Artisson

    Oh, great. Here comes the press. May this nithing fiend be swallowed by Hel's maw, never to see the light of the sun again. He didn't just defile an innocent girl, but greatly diminished himself, and (in a way) the group-force of the rest of Pagans who will be associated with him in double quick time by the public mind. Pagans cleaning up a highway or holding a raffle to raise money for some charity will be forgotten in the face of a sensational rape case that has elements of "paganism" attached to it.

    My wishes are for the young lady to recover and be happy, and for the lasting shame and oblivion of this perpetrator.

    Jason, it is brave of you to let the public see such a personal side of you, even in a few sentences, considering how big your reading public is. But it's good that you did. I myself, at age 18, met my first self-proclaimed "Druid", and he spent his time seducing the young and naive girls from the nearby university into thinking that they were "goddesses" or that he was a worshiper of a "Goddess", and had his lascivious way with more than a few of them. He was old enough to be their grandfathers, but that didn't seem to matter; he was adept at convincing them that they were psychic and special. It put a terrible disgust in me for his type, and perhaps neo-pagans like him, as I came to meet others (essentially book-taught wiccans calling themselves druids and witches) who were, in essence, sexual predators with a new line.

    In a sense, I think we owe the culture of sexual repression- and its dominant religions- a big "thanks" for creating these men. A long time ago, I read a book that described the sorts of people attracted to Wicca and Neo-Paganism; it made the somewhat controversial statement that Wicca would always attract power-hungry women and sexually immature men. At the time I just laughed it off a bit, but looking back, it was almost prophetic; Wicca and other new-age religions seem to offer a band-aid to the twin powers that have bedeviled men and women in the Christian west: repression of women under patriarchy and sexual repression and guilt/shame for both sexes.

    The title "high priestess" is quite empowering, and a focus on a Great Goddess is a natural rallying banner for the will to power in women that has been put under lockdown for so long. The acceptance of sexuality as sacred is a lure for every pervert and predator from here to the great western waters to find a new market for their alienated life-creeds. The sad part is that people who are good, who really could benefit from embracing a sacred sexuality, have to be tarred with the same brush of infamy that inevitably arises to paint us in the public eye.

    I wish I had an answer to the issue, but the only answer is vigilance.

    • Thalia

      "The title "high priestess" is quite empowering, and a focus on a Great Goddess is a natural rallying banner for the will to power in women that has been put under lockdown for so long. The acceptance of sexuality as sacred is a lure for every pervert and predator from here to the great western waters to find a new market for their alienated life-creeds."

      So very kind of you to conflate the two, Robin. Might I ask why you find that necessary?

      • Robin Artisson

        Maybe you didn't finish reading the rest of my post… and besides that, I didn't conflate anything. I pointed out that, in my experience (as in the experience of the authors of the book I was reading) Wicca certainly has an attractiveness for women whose will to power has been repressed, and to human beings whose sexuality has been made into a thing of shame or guilt. I never said that these were bad things; but it is true that with these fine attractions come some really negative people. And these negative people drag the whole thing down.

        • Thalia

          Dude, this post is about a predator who repeatedly raped and assaulted a young girl/woman over a number of years. You are the one who brought the phenomena of women being attracted to Wicca for the power into it. Nothing to do with each other as far as I can tell. So again, why even mention it? Unless to imply that it's just as bad?

          • Robin Artisson

            Actually, the book I was quoting was discussing sexually immature men being attracted to Neo-Paganism, and the quote, in full, including the "power hungry" women bit, so I included it. What's wrong? Are you a power hungry woman? Did I hit too close to home, or something? As a point in fact, I think power hungry people of either sex are annoying. So yeah, that's bad.

          • Rombald

            I think the most important take-home lesson from this is that one should be just as wary of people with whom one has religious/ideological agreement as people with whom one disagrees strongly. I DO think there are aspects to Catholicism that encouraged the child-rape scandal (celibacy, closed-door decisions, misogyny, hostility to sexuality), but, putting yourself in the shoes of faithful parishioners, the real thing was that they thought "Oh, he's a good Catholic, so he must be OK".

            On the opposite side, there was a case in England about a year ago, of a gay couple who had been systematically abusing fostered boys. All the alarm bells had been rung, but they had been ignored, by the liberal social workers, for purely ideological reasons.

            Having said all that, I am nervous of a certain type of paganism, mostly Wiccan – I do think the thing about power-tripping women and sexually peculiar men is spot on. In the same way that Asatru is not necessarily racist, but I am always aware of the possibility that it might be, I am always aware of a certain sex-and-power kick in goddess worship.

          • Lokisgodhi

            That's spot on. There's a groups that I know of called the Service of Mankind Church. They're a female supremacist Goddess worshiping group out of the San Francisco area. They're basically monotheistic, pulling Kali worship out of the Hindu pantheon.

          • Erynn

            It's really best not to feed trolls.

          • Robin Artisson

            That's really rich coming from you, Erynn.

          • Snoozepossum

            I'll second it – feeding a troll has side-effects, and we can only recycle so much methane.

          • Snoozepossum

            Yep – it produced side effects other than the usual ego-stroking, and we can only recycle so much methane.

          • Robin Artisson

            People like you and Erynn (and at least one of you should know better) never stop to realize that coming into an online forum as public as this one, and interjecting into someone elses' conversation to "not feed trolls" is actually, ironically, the thing that trolls really do. You're the ones embarrassing yourselves.

            Snooze, you're a nobody, so your behavior is "anything goes". Ms. Erynn has gained a pseudocelebrity in the new age world, and bills herself online as a great Seer, Fili, Tarot reader, counselor, advisor, wise woman, poet, Vodounista, and tons of other things- but she can't apparently find the wisdom to rise above petty, childish crap on the internet. Few things could be as petty- or unnecessary- as coming into someone elses' conversation and telling someone else not to communicate with me, and calling me "troll".

            Oddly enough, Erynn has never spoken to me, nor I to her, in a conversation. I've never done a thing to her. She doesn't know me. The great seeress only knows what her clique has told her about me, and she perpetuates childish strife on "teh internets" because of it. I hope she doesn't charge money to the people that go to her for advice and seership. They should save themselves the time (and possibly money) and go find a ninth grade girl in any high school in America and ask them instead.

          • Snoozepossum

            "Snooze, you're a nobody, so your behavior is "anything goes" . . ."

            LOL – druther be a nobody than a famous producer of waste product. I do, however, have some practical, sensible concerns about fumes and someone lighting a match in here at the wrong time . . . .

          • Robin Artisson

            Oscar Wilde said that the only thing worse than being talked about was not being talked about. And in the end, Old Oscar was right on every point. And, since you brought up waste, It bears pointing out that one entity's waste is another entity's treasure, and this extends out into the ecosystem in amazing ways. Your shite is worthless to humans, but a great treasure for certain grubs and other life forms. Max Lucado's bullshite is worthless to Pagans, but very valuable to Christians who like him. Crowley's writings are nonsensical to baptists and most Pagans, but a sacred treasure to Thelemites.

            Every writer, famous, pseudo-famous, or not famous, is producing waste from someone's perspective. Your "practical sensible concerns" mean little to me, because unlike you, I'm not afraid to say what I feel. That's my liberty as a free man. People will sometimes mistake or not understand what I said, as the person above did, before you and Erynn decided to transform this from a simple conversation into an ugly public embarrassment for yourselves.

            I don't tiptoe around these fine sensibilities that you call "fumes". All they do is maintain status quo nonsense. A free discourse- the only sort that ever accomplished anything- is not for the faint of heart.

          • Snoozepossum


            Hee hee -okay, first I'm bad for agreeing that you're a troll; now I'm afraid to say what I feel. Good grief, would you make up your mind?

          • Robin Artisson

            You never actually agreed that I was a troll.

          • Thalia

            You know, Robin, you have a whole series of these bright shiny red buttons just down the front of you, like the pompoms on Pierrot's costume. It can be awfully hard to resist pushing them all at once, like little kids do on elevators. You might want to do something about that.

            Everyone else, sorry. I'll stop poking it now.

          • Robin Artisson

            That was very mature, Thalia. I don't even know who you are, and yet, you feel like you can sit here and tell me who and what I am. You admit to starting crap, and yet, somehow, you wish to imply that you're better than me? Look around you. What do you think you look like here?

          • A.C. Fisher Aldag

            I believe that we have the obligation to make these individuals' names known to the press, to police our own, loudly and publicly. If abusers know that their names will be trumpeted on every blog, and their faces will appear in every newspaper, perhaps they will think twice before violating anyone. Better that, than shoving it under the rugs, as the Catholics did with their pedophile priests.

          • Snoozepossum

            Well, gotta love c/p – here's the whole reply. Can't edit because it got replied to within a minute or two of being posted – sport, ya might wanna consider decaf.

            "Snooze, you're a nobody, so your behavior is "anything goes" . . ."

            LOL – druther be a nobody than a famous producer of waste product. I do, however, have some practical, sensible concerns about fumes and someone lighting a match in here at the wrong time . . . .

            As for getting your knickers in a wad about someone calling you a troll, don't be silly, Robbie-boy – your resume presents it as one of your ongoing career goals.

          • Robin Artisson

            My resume presents no such thing. Some of my public writings, however, present the truth about "trolling"- the people who call other people trolls every chance they get in public, unprovoked, unconscionably, are the real trolls. It doesn't surprise me that you don't see the hypocrisy here.

          • Jason Pitzl-Waters

            OK guys, that's enough. Everyone back to your corners.

          • Calla

            Jason –
            Thank you for your personal voice to this issue. It's trite to say that it is an important issue, but it is.

            I live in a small-ish town. At that point my husband was an attorney in a law firm in town and so his preference was that I keep my religion on the down-low. Not hide it, but don't flaunt it as that could place his job in jeopardy.

            I became aware of a young man making claims of being a Pagan HP who was looking for teens for his "coven" – phrases like "skyclad" and "traditional initiation" and '"Great Rite" were used in his teen recruitment and it was implied that he would show them the Mysteries and that this was ritual sex.

            I know this because he thought I had a daughter instead of a son and sent an email. Digging a bit more, i found out that he had an unrelated to him teen girl living with him (15). Other Pagans in the area thought the man was a predator but didn't want to go to the police for various reasons. Some told me that to go to the police without being 100% sure was a betrayal of the Pagan community.

            My shame is that I hesitated a few hours in calling the police until I could talk to my husband – wondering about his job. I wanted to make sure he was OK with it. After all…that would make us a point of gossip is our town.

            He looked at me like I was nuts and asked me why I wasn't already at the police department giving them the information they needed to look into it. So I called and went down there right away.

            The Detective was very polite and apologized for asking me a ton of questions about Paganism because he didn't know much about it and was looking for our Norms and how far this person was operating outside of them.

            This was a long story, but the guy was a registered sex offender and the Pagan angle was just his latest trick. He's in jail for violating parole (contact with a minor) and the police didn't ever mention the Pagan connection because in their mind there wasn't one. The guy wasn't a Pagan, he was just a scumbag.

            I guess this long ramble is….if something is going down, you should be on the side of the victim, not the side of the abuser. Silence is not the solution.

          • Lokisgodhi

            Good Job, Calla! Don't be ashamed about waiting so you could talk with your spouse. You turned this bastard in. That's what's important. He's off the streets.

            Unfortunately that's more than a lot of people would do. I don't know why so many people manage to talk themselves out of believing what they're seeing. You never get 100% proof. What do people think? The guy's going to look at his watch while you're talking and casually announce he has to go home and molest the kid in front of you?

            People need to get it into their heads that they have a responsibility for their neighborhood and the people in it as well as themselves.

          • Erynn

            I'm so glad you did the right thing here. Thank you.

          • Lokisgodhi

            Robin, thanks for reminding us that being a sexual predator is not endemic to any one gender.

            There are far too many people who use being a high mucked y-muck in Wicca to make up for failings in other areas of their life. It's much more fun to be High Priestess XXXX and not the 'You want fries with that' girl in the silly uniform. The problem come when they use that power to further stroke their ego.

            One should always remember what Adlai Stevenson said, 'Adulation is all right, if you don't inhale.'

  • James TwoSnakes Stovall

    The amazing thing is when you attempt to warn a group or a person in the pagan community about another member of the community, often it is dismissed as politics, gossip or “witch war”. People will write things off or look the other way far too often, rather than risk confrontation. When grown men are allowed to oggle or even grope minors, much less adults under the flimsy excuse of “all acts of love and pleasure” we are a sorry bunch.

    • Svartesól

      ^This, or in the case of some groups they will try to justify it by saying it's a path of devotion to the Gods and/or is the Gods' will, and anyone who questions this behavior is not truly devoted enough to the Gods. Whistleblowers, in the Pagan community, are all too often seen as being pot-stirrers and rumormongerers when we are trying to help keep others from being hurt. I think it is symptomatic of a problem within greater Paganism that we are expected to be so open-minded our brains fall out.

      • Erynn

        Pagans are not alone in this behavior by a long shot.

    • Sarenth

      Agreed. It is tougher to raise your voice, and more brave to boot, then to stay silent.

    • Lokisgodhi

      There's an old Mongolian saying. "A man who is about to speak the truth should always keep one foot in the stirrup.'

      Truer words have never been spoken.

      Personally, I've found it's much better to tell the truth. It pisses people off far more than any lie you could have made up. 😉

  • Baruch

    Jason, I salute your courage in talking about a painful part of your past. I am reminded of two Pagan women I've met, both of whom were survivors of ritual sexual abuse and still managed to let their innate spiritualities flourish within a Pagan context. You all three are reminders that evil can be overcome.

    Baruch Dreamstalker

  • Snoozepossum

    James TwoSnakes Stovall & Svartesól:

    (bows with forehead to floor)

    If I hear one more twit tell me that I'm "too judgmental" , "a hater", or "repressed by a Puritanical standard" because I double check things out when the red flags go up, I will serve them their own spleen. No ketchup, either.

    You can investigate something without being a rampant mudslinger. If something smells, especially where a minor is concerned, stop, look, listen. Ask questions and do your homework. Blowing off a questionable situation is not "promoting community unity", it's being a trifling coward who just doesn't want to deal.

    That said, this article leaves a lot uncovered.The article doesn't mention Doherty's relationship to the victim. It also doesn't mention anything about any other adult who may have been her parent or guardian. This is an eight year span, in which it was apparently normal for this man to be in her home while everyone was asleep at least once. If he was her guardian, I wonder that it wasn't mentioned. If he wasn't, I'm questioning a situation where a 14 year old and her friends had a sleepover, and there were no other adults around, except this guy? The only thing as nasty as a dirtbag bastard who'll abuse a kid is a cheap chump of a parent who'll play ostrich, or a rotten liar who's looking for their 15 minutes any way they can get it.

  • Abhainn

    It seems there is a refreshed calling to learn from mistakes in the larger community. As most people have indicated rumours are rife all around the world of people taking advantage of their titles.

    Alex Sanders is widely thought to be bisexual/closeted gay and is reported to have had many extra-martial affairs with male members of the coven by using is influence over the High Priestess of the time to go outside for a different ritual. It isn't clear from these rumours (and I stress this is what they are) were also Alex Sanders used his higher status to influence some of the younger men.

    Gardner for that matter was also renowned for refusing women over a certain age because officially he wanted young "fertile" women to take on the role of the Goddess. Could this be age as a source of power? You're guess is as good as mine.

    Either way such "techniques" have come to light now and many Covens and working groups are availing of Child-Centred training. This means if a child tells you about abuse you report it to the authorities. Don't probe or look for details as this compromises the investigation. Its not our role as citizens to "police" ourselves and we must remember that when a child is in danger they look to us for guidance and offering it when we don't have the training for it is yet another lie in their eyes. Best to be honest.

    The same can be said for people over legal age limits they can still be the victim of sexual abuse and usually emotional as well. Silence is definitely not the solution. x

  • Apel Mjausson

    Great response to awful news. Thanks for sharing your own personal experience too.

    To anybody who thinks they may be abused: don't stop to ask for permission to tell people about what's going on. In fact, if anybody says that what's going on between you and them is a secret, that's a reason to tell other responsible adults as soon as possible. That goes doubly if you're in any way dependent on them, e.g. if they're your parent, teacher, coach, clergy, friend's parent etc.

    This doesn't just apply to kids either. It's just as important for adults, particularly with people we're in some way dependent on — employers, bosses, landlords, etc. "This will be our secret" is a signal to run fast and keep running.

  • MrsAngelD

    It's horrible when things like this happen in the name of a religion, and they do happen in many religions. Thank you for sharing your personal experience jason, I'm sorry for what you suffered. I too suffered sexual abuse as a child though religion was not involved I do understand the pain it causes.

    To anyone reading this please don't hesitate to get help when someone makes you do something you don't wish to, people will listen.

  • James TwoSnakes Stovall

    Well put Svartesól.

  • Fire Lyte

    This is absolutely the exact reason why I say time and time again that promoting the idea that being pagan somehow includes having lots of sex and attributing it to religion or religious practice is a VERY BAD THING! It just takes one nut job to take that excuse and run in a really dark direction to create news stories such as this. It is not uncommon. It is not archaic. It is happening, and it's time we wrangled in this sort of thought.

    Just my opinion, but great job reporting Jason.

    Fire Lyte

  • A.C. Fisher Aldag

    Way to go, Jason.

  • Erynn

    Phil is from Whidbey and has lived in Oak Harbor. He's out until tomorrow sometime but I'll point this out to him when he gets back. I didn't see any listing for this character on Witchvox. I haven't heard of him, but I'm mostly Seattle/Everett area and don't actually know more than a couple of people up on Whidbey.

    Thank you for being open and sharing your own past in this regard. That takes a lot of courage to do. Blessings to you as one abuse survivor to another.

  • Lori Dake

    I hope Doherty's celly Bubba has *him* "pleasing the Goddess"! >:( There is nothing more disgusting or vile as to abuse someone. Nothing.

  • Pax


    I thank you for, and salute, your courage and willingness to discuss what must be a painful memory in service to the community. Thank you.

    Blessings upon you,
    Geoffrey Stewart, aka Pax

  • Sarenth

    We do get quite a bit of help from the Abrahamic religions on this perpetuating myth. We need to police our own back yard, and not stop giving out information in the news media, in our books, conventions and so on. While I've yet to encounter a Pagan orgy or sex forced on people for initiations or celebrations, I know it exists…and it is heartbreaking no matter who is doing it or what religion they purport to be from.

  • Bookhousegal

    Well, Pagan attitudes toward sex obviously don't involve such abuse of people and the Mysteries. It profanes everything we value about it when someone acts like this.

    I think Sarenth's right, though: the more people out there who like to claim Paganism *is* merely 'permissive' or actually believes this kind of behavior is OK in Paganism… the more likely someone out there is going to believe them and decide it sounds good to them. Most often, people who do things likethis are more interested in acting out the defamations of us than in anything to do with the 'real deal. '

    It's important to have the proper information out there, so that unwitting victims won't be bamboozled into these things.

    Frankly, it's not as though treating sex as a religious 'sacrament' is the problem: in fact, that's *why* things like rape and coercion, especially in the name of religion, are beyond crimes and into *sacrilege.*

    People who treat Paganism as a mere 'excuse' to have sex, well, they aren't getting it, are they?

  • T.B. Cook

    Erynn, as you know I would have let you know if this was one of ours, but he was not.

    This man was unknown to us in either the Whidbey Island Pagan Night Out or the Whidbey Island Spiritual Explorers group.

  • Erynn

    That's pretty much what I figured.

  • @cuculatii

    I've not found any mention of him locally, either, although the P-I has picked up the story with the expected comments:

    I'm thinking of contacting island County prosecutor to see if they want "expert witnesses" to refute his claims.

  • Lokisgodhi

    Gee, I suddenly have the hankering to do some alligator hunting. Given that it's turned to so cold up here in the Northeast. If someone'll bring the boat, I'll bring the rope. I think we all know where we can get some bait.

  • Cassaundra

    I have often wondered, and will do so out loud now-provoked by Lok! up there's comment- if the mummified men who were found hogtied and thrown in the bog were perhaps put there as a community response to such acts as these. Certainly, it would give them a great opportunity to get closer to the Goddess- Meadb!

  • Anne Johnson

    That villain has angered some deities who don't mess around with scumbags.

  • Nick Ritter

    The evidence does seem to point in that direction, Cassaundra.

    From Tacitus' "Germania," ch.12 (Mattingly translation):

    "The mode of execution varies according to the offence. Traitors and deserters are hanged on trees; cowards, shirkers and sodomites are pressed down under a wicker hurdle into the slimy mud of a bog. This distinction in the punishments is based on the idea that offenders against the state should be made a public example of, whereas deeds of shame should be buried out of men's sight."

    And please, lest anyone take offense, I am not implying an association between homosexuality ("sodomy") and Daniel Doherty's crimes. That is not my position.

  • gardengatewind

    Evil has more faces than the goddess, and every religion has been used as an excuse for ritual abuse. if the abuse was 'ritual', then there was an excuse wrapped in a religion. however, we do not throw the religion out with the ritual. it is recognized by law enforcement and those that have studied the patterns of pandering, slavery and sexual abuse, there is a common phenomenon that sexual predators almost always have a group of conspirators for sharing stories, baiting victims and solidifying excuses. as a practicing pagan, i have always found it my duty to protect the sanctity of sexuality by staying ever vigilant of any group that even hints at the possibility of "never too young" or "ether bunnies", ick. we all know that when a person is born pagan the adolescent years are crucial. whether this poor girl was actually pagan or just sucked in, it is unexcusable. if the law cannot protect young persons, (do not assume it is a girl) then as a people, we must. pitchforks all around.

  • Corvinnia

    Please do! The last thing we need is people associating these kind of sick wack-jobs with Paganism. We desperately need an intelligent, well-versed, and preferably local Pagan to step up and set the story straight.

  • anonymous mother

    I am the mother of another victim of Dan Doherty(an alias). The whole story has not been told. He is wanted in 5 states for child rape. The victim mentioned was his step daughter, and he raped her from age 8-21. He also raped my daughter, repeatedly for 2 years. He threatened to murder them and their family if they told. He drugged them and photographed them. The whole story needs to be told. He needs to be put away for life. I wish I could take her pain away. I just found out.

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