Modern Pagan Religions Now Over 80k in England and Wales

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 11, 2012 — 14 Comments

When the religion data for the 2001 census of England and Wales was released, modern Pagans made news as their combined number (around 42,000) made them the seventh largest religious group in the UK. Since then, many, including historian Ronald Hutton, maintained that the number was potentially far larger than that.

Pagans at Stonehenge.

Pagans at Stonehenge.

“Ten years ago 42,000 people declared themselves as Pagans – the seventh highest number for any UK religion – but some experts believe the true figure was nearer 250,000 – and is significantly higher now.”

So, Pagans in Britain launched the “Pagan-Dash” campaign to help unify the count in 2011, and encourage more Pagans to participate truthfully in the religion question. Now, initial 2011 religion figures for England and Wales have been released, and while the numbers haven’t exploded into the hundreds of thousands, adherents to some form of modern Paganism has nearly doubled in the last ten years. Depending on how forgiving you want to be as to which groups are “Pagan” in some form, they now number over 80,000. In addition, the base number of people identifying as “Pagan” shot up to nearly 60,000.

Here are the relevant raw numbers for England and Wales:

Animism: 541
Druid: 4,189
Heathen: 1,958
Occult: 502
Pagan: 56,620
Pantheism: 2,216
Reconstructionist: 251
Shamanism: 650
Thelemite: 184
Wicca:11,766
Witchcraft: 1,276

Bringing to just over 80,000 (or so) Pagans. That number doesn’t count how many Pagans there might be lurking within the category of “Mixed Religon” (23,566), “Own Belief System” (1,949), or “Spiritual” (13,832). Other figures of note in the “Other Religion” category include Vodoun at 208, Traditional African Religion at 588 (both numbers that I think are too low), and New Age at 698 adherents.

These figures point to some success for the Pagan Dash campaign, though they were not the far larger estimates many were hoping for. Still, this shows encouraging growth for modern Paganism in England and Wales in an increasing post-Christian Britain. According to the Office for National Statistics, Christianity in England and Wales has dropped considerably, while the number of people claiming “no religion” (the “nones”) have, just like their American cousins, grown considerably.

sctrfigure1 tcm77 290493

“Compared with the 2001 Census the most significant trends were an increase in the population reporting no religion – from 14.8 per cent  of the population in 2001 to 25.1 per cent  in 2011, a drop in the population reporting to be Christian – from 71.7 per cent  in 2001 to 59.3 per cent  in 2011, and an increase in all other main religions. The number of Muslims increased the most from 3.0 per cent  in 2001 to 4.8 per cent  in 2011.”

In short, every religion, and “no religion” are on the rise, while Christianity has dropped precipitously. At this rate, it’s very likely that Christianity could lose their majority over the next decade. What these demographic shifts mean for the UK, and for the modern Pagans living there, mean remains to be seen, but it will certainly become increasingly hard to ignore non-Christian voices if these trends continue. I hope to get comments from Pagan groups in the UK on these numbers soon.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • http://twitter.com/thelettuceman Marc

    I agree. It will be especially interesting to see how England and Wales transition to a post-Christian dominated society with the established Church in comparison to the United States’ own transition with an ostensibly “disestablished” religious outlook. Very interesting from a social-scientific point of view!

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Of course, I’m drawn immediately to the Pagan total; that’s my team. But what’s most striking for me is the net transfer of more than ten percentage points from Christian to No Religion. Potentially that’s our future in the UK.
    Does the UK keep census numbers for Scotland and Northern Ireland? That would be interesting…

    • Julie

      I can’t speak for Northern Ireland but I certainly filled out my Census form here in Scotland and am waiting impatiently for the results…

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    The figures are skewed. One, not everyone answered (I know I’m not in there).

    Two, a lot of people identify as Christian purely due to the fact they were baptised as babies.

    I think the ‘no religion’ area is the most rapidly increasing as more people are becoming apatheistic – not caring about religion.

    I have known many people who live for the weekend. These are the kind of people I see as being of ‘no religion’. Whilst being technical atheists, they don’t see the subject of theology as being relevant to their lives. Certainly not interesting enough to have an actual opinion.

  • Gareth

    In a poll conducted by YouGov when asked ‘what is your religion’ 61% of respondents ticked a religion box but when asked ‘are you religious 29% ticked yes and 65% ticked no. Interestingly when Ipsos MORI conduced poll on the practices, beliefs and attitudes of adults who say they were recorded as ‘Christian’ in the 2011 census found that people were more likely to consider themselves Christian on the grounds of having been christened (72%) or their because it was their parents’ religion (39%) then because of personal belief; only 29% listed believing in the teachings of the religion as one of their reasons.

    If anything these census results demonstrate the religious diversity of England and Wales and why it is wrong for the CofE or Catholic Church to try to block same sex marriages (or influence anything really)in wider society – interestingly the gov has announced banning same-sex marriages in the CofE witch I think would effectively cut them out of the debate.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Not really seeing the relevance of the same-sex marriage politics here.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Seventy-two percent plus 39% plus 29% equals 140%. Want to run those numbers again?

      • Northern_Light_27

        Sounds like ticky boxes rather than radio buttons to me. The numbers are fine if there are multiple selectable options. I’d really love to see a link to this study to see the methodology for myself, though, as those are some very interesting possible results.

  • http://entdinglichung.wordpress.com Entdinglichung

    the highest percentage of people identifying as “pagan” is in Mendip District/Somerset (0.4%, that’s where Glastonbury is), 0.3% identified themselves as “pagan” in Ceredigion/Wales, Hastings/East Sussex, Conwall UA and Weymouth and Portland/Dorset

    • http://twitter.com/thelettuceman Marc

      In the immortal words of Manowar:

      ‘We are the true believers

      It’s our turn to show the world

      In the fire of heavy metal we were burned

      It’s more than our religion it’s the only way to live

      But the enemies of metal we can’t forgive’

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Not really surprising that the South West of England is the ‘heartland’ of Paganism. We’ve got most of the major sites (Glastonbury, Avebury, Stonehenge, White Horses, Cerne Abbas…)

      Shame a lot of them seem to be a bunch of hippies. :s

  • Charles Cosimano

    It does not bode well for mysteries based on the crime solving skills of the local vicar.