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. “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.
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. Was “PaganDASH” a success in Australia? Last year I reported on efforts in Australia and Britain to encourage more accurate census counts of Pagans by asking respondents to use a uniform Pagan-[tradition/faith] format. Now, the preliminary numbers for Australia have been released, and while the total number of adherents to Pagan religions has grown, that growth rate has remained stable since the 2001 census (around 3-4 thousand new adherents every 5 years).
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.
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.
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.