Neopaganism in Europe


A study by Ronald Hutton compared a number of different sources (including membership lists of major UK organizations, attendance at major events, subscriptions to magazines, etc.) and used standard models for extrapolating likely numbers. This estimate accounted for multiple membership overlaps as well as the number of adherents represented by each attendee of a Pagan gathering. Hutton estimated that there are 250,000 Neopagan adherents in the United Kingdom, roughly equivalent to the national Hindu community.

Wiccans gather for a handfasting ceremony at Avebury in England.

A smaller number is suggested by the results of the 2001 Census, in which a question about religious affiliation was asked for the first time. Respondents were able to write in an affiliation not covered by the checklist of common religions, and a total of 42,262 people from England, Scotland and Wales declared themselves to be Pagans by this method. These figures were not released as a matter of course by the Office of National Statistics, but were released after an application by the Pagan Federation of Scotland. From a British population of 59 million this gives a rough proportion of 7 Pagans per 100,000 population. This is more than many well known traditions such as RastafarianBahá’í andZoroastrian groups, but fewer than the ‘Big Six’ of ChristianityIslamHinduismSikhismJudaism and Buddhism. It is also fewer than the adherents Jediism, whose campaign made them the fourth largest religion after Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.

The UK Census figures do not allow an accurate breakdown of traditions within the Pagan heading, as a campaign by the Pagan Federationbefore the census encouraged Wiccans, Heathens, Druids and others all to use the same write-in term ‘Pagan’ in order to maximise the numbers reported. The PaganDASH campaign actively worked with the ONS to amend the rules for The 2011 UK Census, allowing pagans to write their denomination in the form “PAGAN – path”. This was to reduce problems as encountered in the 2001 Census such as a range of Neopagan paths being counted under atheist.

Census figures in Ireland do not provide a breakdown of religions outside of the major Christian denominations and other major world religions. A total of 22,497 people stated ‘Other religion’ in the 2006 census; and a rough estimate is that there are 2,000–3,000 practicing Pagans in Ireland as of 2009. Numerous Pagan groups – primarily Wiccan and Druidic – exist in Ireland though none are officially recognised by the Government. Irish Paganism is often strongly concerned with issues of place and language.

A neopagan graveyard in Iceland

Paganism in Scandinavia is dominated by Ásatrú (Forn SedFolketro). The Swedish AsatruSociety formed in 1994, and in Norway theÅsatrufellesskapet Bifrost formed in 1996 and Foreningen Forn Sed formed in 1999. They have been recognized by the Norwegian government as a religious society, allowing them to perform “legally binding civil ceremonies” (i. e. marriages). In Denmark Forn Siðr also formed in 1999, recognized in 2003 and in Sweden Nätverket Gimle formed in 2001, as an informal community for individual heathens. Nätverket Forn Sedformed in 2004, and has a network consisting of local groups (blotlag) from all over Sweden.

In German-speaking Europe, Germanic and Celtic Paganism co-exist with Wicca and Neoshamanism. Paganism in Latin Europe (France, Italy, Spain) focuses on Neo-Druidism and Esotericism based on megalith culture besides some Germanic Pagan groups in areas historically affected by Germanic migrations (Lombardy). Paganism in Eastern Europe and parts of Northern Europe is dominated by Baltic and Slavicmovements, rising to visibility after the fall of the Soviet Union (except for Latvian Dievturība which has been active since 1925). Since the 1990s, there have been organized Hellenic groups practising in Greece.

A ceremony at the annual Prometheia festival of the Greek polytheistic group Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes, June 2006.

The Church of the Guanche People is a Pagan sect founded in 2001 in the city of San Cristobal de La Laguna (TenerifeCanary Islands,Spain). According to its followers this organisation aims to revive and spread the pagan religion of the Guanche people. It was founded by a group of Canarian citizens, devotees of the goddess Chaxiraxi. The Church of the Guanche People performs baptisms and weddings according to aboriginal Guanche forms. On December 14, 2003, the first wedding for more than 500 years was held according to the aboriginal Guanche rite on the island of Tenerife. In 2008 the group had approximately 300 members.

One thought on “Neopaganism in Europe

  1. tannhauser3 says:

    Well written, just as the following entry on cultural appropriation – and the possible misappriation of different cultures, on the Internet !

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