How the Pagan population is changing

Pagan survey detail

Research undertaken by the University of Tromsø has already revealed some fascinating insights into the make-up of the modern Pagan community. Now the team is after new data to take the study forward.

Researchers James R Lewis and Helen Berger at Norway’s University of Tromsø have undertaken several surveys of the Pagan community over the past half dozen years. Based largely on internet questionnaires these have asked a series of questions of the community, which in turn have helped shape academia’s knowledge of what it means to be a Pagan in the 21st Century.

They are now conducting a third survey, the Pagan III survey, which is based on a standard type of SurveyMonkey form, and which they hope will shed some more light on the evolving structure of the community.

“My primary goal in Pagan III is simply to further explore different ways of measuring changes across time,” comments Lewis. “I became particularly interested in that measure after tabulating two items — one on relationship status and the other on educational level — that had been included in the second survey.”

Indeed, the findings of the second survey, which are discussed in the research paper Processual Pagans, are pretty interesting. For a start they show the average age of people becoming practising Pagans is increasing, from approximately 16 years old in the pre-1970s to nearly 26.4 in the years 2010 to 2014. Marital status does not seem to be hugely different from the non-Pagan community and, as the paper states: “Paganism does not only attract educated participants (as a number of different observers have already pointed out), but also involvement in the movement does not appear to discourage higher education, as do some religious bodies.”

The surveys and other data have also charted the rise of the solitaries and Internet Paganism, as well as highlighting the fact that the majority of contemporary Pagans are seekers who have often explored other spiritual paths before eventually settling into Paganism.

“If we can skip over the ‘Teen Witch’ period [ the collapse of which seems to have had no effect on the overall size of the Pagan population] it’s clear that Pagans have gradually been ‘mainstreaming’ over time,” concludes Lewis. “When Paganism first became really popular in the Anglophone world back in the seventies, it attracted counter-cultural types, almost exclusively. Now the average age is increasing and, in terms of demographics, Pagans look less and less different from the general population.”