'Tis a Good Time to Be a Witch and Pagan; Popularity of Beliefs Growing Fast
Yes, according to the American Religious Identification Survey, the number of people identifying as "other religion" or "new religious movements" grew from 1.8 million in 2001 to 2.8 million in 2008.
During that same time period the number of Americans who say they're Wiccan (the religion to which many -- but not all -- witches subscribe) more than doubled from 134,000 in 2001 to 342,000 in '08. The same held true for pagans, whose numbers grew from 140,000 in 2001 to 340,000 in 2008.
Some experts credit the growing numbers of pagan or neo-pagan religions to the Internet, which allows followers to become more connected. Others just say its just a matter of society becoming more tolerant. (When was the last time you heard about a witch being burned at the stake?)
Regardless, here's some interesting factoids on the popularity of these beliefs, courtesy of ReligionLink.com...
- In 2007, the U.S. military approved the pagan pentacle as one of 39 religious symbols veterans may request for their tombstones. Pagan groups say there are more pagans serving in the military than ever before.
- A group of Canadian pagans has written a Paganism 101 for Unitarians who wish to explore contemporary pagan rituals and practices.
- Many contemporary pagan groups have begun formal clergy training programs, some with certification programs. Asatru Folk Assembly, Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship, New Aeon College and WHO are among the groups with clergy certification programs. Some groups have founded seminaries - St. Brigid's Academy and Seminary in Fresno, Calif., New Aeon College and Seminary in Albany, N.Y., and Cherry Hill Seminary in South Carolina all ordain pagan clergy.
- Publications aimed at the contemporary pagan are growing, and many have an emphasis on green living. Recent launches include Crone magazine for the aging female pagan, Thorn and Modern Witch Magazine.
- The National Pagan Leadership Skills Conference about has been held in Richmond, Va., annually since 2004, attracting pagans from across the country who wish to learn skills that will promote acceptance and education about paganism in their communities.