Archives For PaganDASH

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.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

Preliminary Australian Census numbers. (PaganDash)

Preliminary Australian Census numbers. (PaganDash)

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Australia is having a census this year, and local activists are again encouraging Pagans of all stripes to list their religion, and to do so in a uniform manner (Australia and the UK, unlike the United States, do ask questions regarding religious affiliation).

“Mark Hepworth is a Gardnerian Wiccan with Greek Reconstructionist beliefs but the Sydney IT worker would like to be counted as a pagan first. ”A lot of other faiths see us as the people that got too much into Harry Potter and decided to call themselves a witch instead of an actual group of people who do have a serious spirituality,” he says. And it’s like other faiths that pagans would like to be treated, at least in a statistical sense. The Pagan Awareness Network, of which Mr Hepworth is vice-president, is urging its many and diverse faith paths – which include Druidism, Shamanism and Lesbian Feminist Goddess Worship – to nominate paganism as their religious category in this year’s census. Mr Hepworth hopes the weight of people nominating ”pagan” as their primary faith, followed by their variant after a dash, will prompt it to be reclassified as an umbrella term by the Australian Bureau of Statistics – the first step in consolidating pagan numbers and gaining wider recognition as a legitimate religious choice.”

For Australian advocacy groups like The Pagan Awareness Network getting the disparate and often fiercely individualist Pagan, polytheist, and Heathen religions under the same umbrella term is an important step towards fighting what the Australian Human Rights Commission calls “widespread” distrust and “hostility” toward modern Pagans and other minority faith groups in the country.

“Paganism is an umbrella term that covers a number of nature-based spiritual traditions. The consultations and submissions revealed significant areas of concern regarding paganism and pagans’ ability to practice their faith in Australia. Pagans believe that the lack of information or understanding of their faith complicates issues; many in the wider community assume that Satanism is a part of paganism, when it is separate and distinct.Recognition was raised as the biggest issue that underlies other matters. According to the Pagan Awareness Network, there are approximately 30 000 people in Australia who follow a pagan or nature-based religion, and this is confirmed by the 2006 Census, which also shows the significant, recent growth of paganism.”

Pagan groups in both Australia and the U.K. are fairly certain that there are far more Pagans living in their respective countries than are shown in previous census results, and a “Pagan-Dash” initiative has been embraced by organizers from both nations. In Britain around 40,000 individuals labeled themselves as Pagans, Wiccans, or Druids (making them the 7th largest faith grouping in the UK) during the last census. However, British scholars like Ronald Hutton think there may be more than 250,000 Pagans according to an estimate he made in 2001.

“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.”

The 2006 Australian census found that there were around 30,000 Pagans in Australia, a growth of only 3,000 individuals from 2001. The numbers made sociologist (and Pagan) Douglas Ezzy wonder if modern Paganism’s rapid growth had now slowed.

“We just heard the figures for the Australian 2006 Census. They are: Paganism 16,000 (11,000 in 2001), Witchcraft/Wicca 8,000 (9,000 in 2001), Other Nature Religion: 2,000 (3,000 in 2001). That makes a change from a total of 23,000 (0.12%) in 2001 to 26,000 (0.13%) in 2006 … so, basically, the number of Pagans recorded on the Australian Census in 2006 is around 0.13 to 0.14% of the population and has grown in size by about 13% since the 2001 Census. Not bad, but nothing like the growth the movement had earlier.”

But has growth leveled off, or were individuals reluctant to identify themselves as Pagans or Witches? Australian Witch (and former reality television star) Stacey Demarco notes that fear could be artificially suppressing an accurate count of Australia’s Pagans.

“Stacey Demarco, a witch and author from the northern beaches, says she is “obviously very much out of the broom closet” but many pagans weren’t. The fear of outing themselves affects how they treat the optional religion question on their census form.”

The British census was conducted in March and we’re still awaiting data (maybe summary findings next year), the Australian census takes place in August. While Australia organized a Pagan-Dash campaign for the 2006 census, it did not seem to be widely adopted by respondents. So results from the 2011 censuses will be the first test of how effective Pagan-Dash will be in getting an accurate count of Pagans. Whatever the results, this new data will be of huge importance for Pagan groups and the academics who study them.

For modern Pagans in both countries dramatic (or even modest) increases in numbers could mean a corresponding increase in legitimacy and political clout. This would make landmark events like The Druid Network receiving religious charity status a less publicly contentious issue in the UK, while in Australia it could mean a turnaround in the seemingly significant level of distrust and hostility described in the Human Rights Commission report. As some debate how useful or accurate the label “Pagan” is, that umbrella term, however imperfect (even with a dash), seems to be the current default for large-scale activism.

I have updates on several previously reported stories for you today.

No One Likes a Jedi at Census Time: Last week I reported on the “PaganDash” campaign, which is looking to encourage Pagans in the UK to stand up and be counted in the census, and use a uniform write-in for the census form. However, Pagans aren’t the only group looking to improve their numbers in the 2011 British census. British humanists and atheists have launched a campaign to increase the number of respondents that check “no religion”, taking aim at the Jedi census phenomenon from 2001’s census.

If your religion is of low enough importance to you to that you are willing to put in a religion from 3 good sci-fi films from years ago, and 3 more recent rubbish ones,please consider ticking “No Religion” instead. The data gathered is used to inform government policy, and was used by the last government to justify funding of religious community bodies over secular ones. For example, 2001 census data has been used repeatedly to justify an increase in the number of state maintained faith schools and the increasing level of government money spent on faith organisations. By ticking ‘No Religion’, you will ensure that the Government receives an unambiguous message about the number of non-religious people in the UK. Any other response may be manipulated into a response in favour of religion and publically funded religious organisations.”

The argument seems to have convinced  author and Boing Boing co-founder Cory Doctorow, who says “I’m convinced; we’re atheists and we will list ourselves as such.” There’s other campaigns going on as well, but I wanted to specifically mention the Jedi phenomenon, because I don’t think it just skewed atheist/agnostic numbers. I’ve long thought that those 400,000 “Jedi” also comprised a fair number of modern Pagans as well. In any case, this may be our last chance to get this right, because the UK is seriously considering removing the religion question entirely, with a spokesperson lumping Pagans in with the Jedi as “prank” responses.

Romanian Witches Win Tax Battle: It looks like all those spells and hexes worked. A controversial bill that would require psychics, fortune tellers, and practitioners of witchcraft in Romania be licensed, and tax their largely under-the-table income, has failed.

“I am very disappointed, the bill was meant to prevent people from being deceived by so-called witches,” Liberal-Democrat MP Alin Popoviciu, who initiated the bill, told AFP. Under the text, fortune-tellers and clairvoyants were to be licensed, pay taxes and set up professional associations. “The bill angered many witches who threatened to cast a spell in order to make it fail. It seems they have succeeded,” Mr Popoviciu added.

It seems many feared that instead of protected people from witches, it would instead legitimize the industry, a view shared by some Romanian witches. Popoviciu has vowed to try again, but for now that status quo remains in place.

James Arthur Ray Trial Continues: The trial of New Age self-help guru James Arthur Ray, who’s charged with manslaughter after three people died during a sweat lodge ceremony led by Ray in late 2009 continues. These initial days are seeing the prosecution’s witnesses, including a participant who says Ray “dismissed her alert about the failing condition of a fellow participant,” and an ill-trained sweat lodge volunteer, who says she was not prepared to deal with individuals who were “burned, delirious and unresponsive.” Prosecutors also played an audio recording of Kirby Brown, one of three people who died.

“When we started the (Samurai) game, I was like you,” Brown said on the recording, which was made just before she and the other attendees entered the sweat lodge. It is a segment from recordings made during four days of Ray’s October 2009 Spiritual Warrior Retreat. “I was gonna be the hero, and I died right there before it even began.” Brown, 38, went on to recount the efforts she made to try to save her teammates in the game from sharing her fate, saying that she swallowed her own vomit in an attempt to lie perfectly still. Had she moved, Ray, playing the role of God, would have sentenced another of her team to death. “As I laid there dying and everyone was working, I kept sending my energy to them,” she said.

Defense strenuously objected to the tape being played, that is was “overwhelmingly prejudicial.” You can see why they don’t want that tape played, because it paints a portrait of a man who has utter control over his subjects. Meanwhile, if the comments section of my previous James Ray post are any indication, Ray’s defenders are spinning conspiracy theories and making excuses for their guru across the Internet. After all, once you’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on his “teachings,” I can’ imagine you’d want to believe he’s a negligent egomaniac. It will be interesting to see who the defense calls in this trial, and if they have more than signed waivers and conspiracies to keep their client from prison.

Sex Cult Leader Convicted: Colin Batley, 48, of Kidwelly, west Wales, was convicted of “11 separate rapes, three indecent assaults, causing prostitution for personal gain, causing a child to have sex and inciting a child to have sex.” Batley and his alleged followers were said to wear red robes and read from the Thelemic sacred text The Book of the Law (he had laminated pages from the book at his home), penned by influential occultist Aleister Crowley at ceremonies. Other sources said that all the women in the group sported matching tattoos. As I mentioned in my previous post, Batley claims to have “given up” reading Crowley and was now a Mormon.

“A man has been found guilty of leading a “satanic” sex cult from his home in a small Welsh town. Colin Batley, 48, of Kidwelly, west Wales, presided over a group that preyed on young children and held occult rites. He was found guilty at Swansea crown court of rape and carrying out perverted sexual acts on children and adults. Batley was the self-styled high priest of the group, which operated from a series of homes in a cul-de-sac in the seaside town.”

Four other members of the alleged group were also found guilty. There seems to have been enough testimony from both victims and “customers” to prove some sort of underage sex-ring was happening, what hasn’t been established is how sincere the “occult” elements were, or if they were just trappings of control used on their “recruits”. Nor, at this point, will we ever likely know the full story.

The Further Adventures of Father Gary Thomas: CNN has decided to do profile of Father Gary Thomas, a Catholic exorcist, and inspiration for the Hollywood film “The Rite”. As I pointed out in January, Pagan media critic Peg Aloi got Father Thomas on the record about some of his many retrograde views regarding Pagan religions and “Satanic” underground cults. Despite, or perhaps because of, these views being out in the open Thomas continues to tar other religious systems as pathways to demonic possession.

“A lot of folks dabble in the occult, or they will be involved in practices that … classical Christianity at least would consider to be idolatrous.  People can get themselves involved in Wicca, or people will go see some sort of fortune-teller, or people will go to a séance, or they can go and they can learn how to channel spirits. …”

Father Thomas also mentions an ongoing exorcism case where the client is “suffering from a very unique psychological disorder,” but also, it seems, “been exposed to satanic cults.” He truly seems to think that both are true, and the question is which method to use in treating the client. What I find disappointing is that this is a man labeling an entire religion, Wicca, as a pathway to Satanic possession. Had he done so with Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, or Mormonism the reporter would have no doubt called him on his statement. Yet, reporter Tom Foreman’s response is “a vision of politician Christine O’Donnell fills my head.” Proof once again that the press just doesn’t “get religion,” it can’t even properly grapple with the topic of modern Pagan religions in a mature and level-headed manner.

That’s all I have time for today, have a great day!

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note, a series more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So lets get started!

Counting Pagans in the UK: In one month, the 2011 British census will begin. As in 2001 citizens of England and Wales will be able to mark what their religious affiliation is, a change in procedure that saw minority religions gain significant attention. For the first time, Britain was counting its Pagan citizens, and around 40,000 individuals labeled themselves as Pagans, Wiccans, or Druids (making them the 7th largest faith grouping in the UK). However, many Pagans, and the scholars who study them, believe that number is far higher (Ronald Hutton, for example, thinks there are around 250,000 Pagans, circa 2001, equivalent to the Hindu population). So this year a consortium of Pagan organizations are pushing the PaganDASH (Facebook) campaign to encourage all British Pagans to fill out the census, and to do so in a uniform manner.

“The ONS wants to count us. They have a ‘mandate of inclusion’ which means they are looking for ways to include us in their figures. Looking at the raw data that was provided last time to us gave us some startling insights. However, as mentioned, by just writing Pagan on your form, we lose the data for various paths, and our diversity — but there is a simple solution — one that’s worked elsewhere. In Australia in 2001 there were 10,000 Pagans in the census. Just 5 years later, with this initiative, their numbers are being counted as nearer 70,000. So if we can do the same here, and get more accurate numbers it will go a long way to getting the recognition we have fought for, and deserve.”

So a Wiccan would write in “Pagan – Wiccan”, a Druid “Pagan – Druid”, and so forth. This initiative is already gaining some press, and as The Druid Network points out, could result in better representation in government. This is an excellent opportunity to chart the growth of modern Paganism in the UK (one we don’t have in the United States), and I hope British Pagans of all stripes support this initiative.

Child Care at Pagan Conventions: The Pagan Newswire Collective’s Bay Area bureau has published the first installment of a multi-part series on child care and Pagan families at conventions. Focusing on the recently completed PantheaCon, Lily Shahar Kunning, looks at the options, and lack of options, families with small children have at such events.

“In fact, the ‘Con is not fully aware of how many children attend, as they are not formally registered if they are under 12. But parents attending PantheaCon agree- there are tens of dozens of children in attendance, and more come every year. Yet there is no formal “track” for children to attend, no formal childcare arrangements, and most events in the schedule are not kid-friendly.”

As our movement grows, and becomes increasingly multi-generational, issues of how we treat our youngest, and oldest, members will become increasingly pressing. We are at a point now where organizers are straining under the weight of continual growth and popularity, yet we often lack the infrastructure and capital to expand as much as we need to. How we deal with issues like child care, and the inclusion of younger Pagans, can have far-reaching ramifications in our future. Stay tuned to PNC-Bay Area for the next installment of this series where they’ll discuss family-oriented programming at PantheaCon.

Pagan Leadership Panel: One of the panels I participated in at this year’s PantheaCon, led by Modern Witch Podcast host Devin Hunter, was on Pagan leadership in the 21st century. On the panel was Hyperion of The Unnamed Path, Ms. Rabbit Matthews of CAYA, and myself. Devin has uploaded the video he took to Youtube, and is up now in seven parts.

You can find the other six parts, here. I think some very important topics were touched on, and I’m thankful that Devin was able to record his panel and share it with the world.

Cherry Hill Seminary Graduation Ceremony: Yesterday at the Sacred Space Conference in Maryland, Cherry Hill Seminary held their first graduation ceremony under their new program. Certificates were presented to six students, and PNC-Washington DC (aka Capital Witch) was there to report on the event. Below you can see some video taken during the ceremony.

PNC-Washington DC/Capital Witch will be posting photos later with exclusive interview footage of the CHS faculty and student graduates. So please stay tuned to that site for further updates, and congratulations to the six Cherry Hill Seminary graduates! To find out more about CHS’s educational offerings, please check out the web site.

A Trip to Lucky Mojo: On their way home from PantheaCon the PNC-Minnesota bureau were lucky enough to stop at the famous Lucky Mojo Curio Company, took pictures, and interviewed proprietor Cat Yronwode.

“People of a mixed back ground often find Hoodoo resonates with them because it calls to part of their cultural back ground.  It is a very vital, very American form of magic.  I love it, I was born Jewish, and then joined the Baptist church and now am a spiritualist.  I have always felt at home in Hoodoo. I would say that since the dawn of the internet age, there is more white people practicing it, but there always were. It has never been something that was exclusively Black, although black cultural nationalists have claimed so.”

For anyone who has shopped at a hoodoo store, and loved it, this article and interview should bring back many pleasant memories.

Addressing Dianic Exclusion of Transgendered Women: In a final note, I wanted to quickly point to this run-down of issues regarding the exclusion of transgendered women at Dianic events at PantheaCon.

“The debate continued. No one won, as-such, but winning wasn’t the point. Though I’m not unbiased in this matter, I doubt anyone would disagree that, at the end, the Dianic elders present were affected by the experience. I believe them when they said that they had no wish to harm transsexual and transgendered women, but they remained firm. Wendy Griffin, toward the end, got quite upset, stating that the issue is effectively one of religious freedom, and that what was being proposed effectively would prevent her from engaging in her religion. Ruth Barrett, who I must admit showed astonishing strength in retaining composure throughout the event — for her, the issue was that she wanted to continue to run events at Pantheacon, but that a non-discrimination policy would effectively mean that she could not continue to do so.”

This is a very large issue, and this link will just be the beginning of my own exploration. In the weeks to come the Bay Area PNC bureau will be posting a report, and I will be following up with my own here at The Wild Hunt. I’m hoping to include interviews with individuals on both sides of this discussion, and hopefully spark a wider discussion regarding gender identity within modern Paganism.

That’s all I have time for, have a great day!