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Wicca

Estimates of the number of Wiccans in the U.S.


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Some estimates:

For what it is worth, we have collected the following guesses. It is amazing to read how confidentially some of these authors quote their numbers as if they were accurate.

  • 1972: John Godwin estimated in "Occult America" that "there were at least 20,000 organized members in this country."
  • 1980: J. Gordon Melton of the Institute for the Study of American Religion estimated 30,000 to 40,000 adherents to some form of Craft doctrine. The estimate was based on data collected at the 1979 Pan Pagan Festival. 1
  • 1982: William Petersen, author of "Those Curious New Cults in the 80s," quotes Nat Feedland, author of "The Occult Explosion." Feedland wrote: "From the visible manifestations of the witchcraft scene it's doubtful if there are more than 6 or 7 thousand really active practicing witches around today--3,000 in England... perhaps 2,000 in North America..."
  • 1986: Margot Adler, author of the book "Drawing Down the Moon" estimated that there were about 50,000 to 100,0000 active, self identified Pagans in the U.S. Of these, most would probably consider themselves Wiccans.
  • 1988: "Morwyn" estimated 75,000 members. She based this on her experience as a previous owner of a mail-order metaphysical supplies business. 2
  • 1990: The US Army published a book for the guidance of its chaplains when dealing with a soldier of a non-traditional faith: "Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups: A Handbook for Chaplains." 3 In the 1990 edition, the author comments: "MEMBERSHIP: Because of the complete autonomy of covens, this cannot be determined. There are an estimated 50,000 Wiccans in the United States."
  • 1990: The Graduate School of the City University of New York conducted a telephone survey of 113,000 people. They apparently found fewer than 10 people willing to admit that they were Wiccans. This projects to perhaps 8,000 Wiccans nation-wide. [One wonders what percentage of Wiccans would admit their religious affiliation to a stranger over the phone; it would undoubtedly be quite low.]
  • 1990: Craig S. Hawkins wrote in an article for the Christian Research Journal mentioning values between 5,000 to 50,000 Witches. He concluded that "the witchcraft community will become an increasingly significant minority -- a sobering possibility the church cannot afford to ignore." 4
  • 1991: The Canadian census recorded 5,530 Neopagans 5 which would probably imply about 55,000 Neopagans in the U.S. and perhaps 30,000 American Wiccans. But this is certainly a fraction of the true number, because few Neopagans would reveal their religion to a census enumerator, who is typically a stranger from their own community. The risk would be too great.
  • 1992: Eric Raymond author of "Frequently Asked Questions about Neopaganism" commented: "Depending on who you talk to and what definitions you use, there are between 40,000 and 200,000 neopagans in the U.S.; the true figure is probably closer to the latter than the former, and the movement is still growing rapidly following a major 'population explosion' in the late 1970s." 6
  • 1993: Jan Phillips wrote an article about Wicca in Ms magazine. She estimated that 200,000 people in the U.S. are Wiccans. 7
  • 1996: Vernieda Vergara, a University of Virginia undergraduate 8 quoted author James Lewis as estimating between 300 and 30,000 covens existed in the U.S. 9 Assuming that each coven averages 6 members, and that half of all practicing Wiccans are solitary practitioners, this would imply 3,600 to 360,000 members in the U.S.
  • 1998: Countdown to Armageddon, a conservative Christian group preaching about the end of the world,  claims that there are 200,000 practicing Witches in the U.S. Unfortunately, they do not seem to differentiate among Wiccans, other Neopagans, Witches and Satanists. 10
  • 1998: The Covenant of the Goddess' web site states that: "Conservative reckonings estimate 200,000 Witches and/or Neo-Pagans in the US alone. There could be many more, who are simply more private about their religion, for the very real fear of persecution. Witches are still working hard for our First Amendment rights." 11
  • 1999: The 700 Club, on the Christian Broadcasting Network, broadcast a series of programs titled "America's Moral Crisis." Included were: The Moral State of the Union, Materialism & Greed, Substance Abuse and Crime, Growing up Godless, and False Religion. Under the last topic, they discuss Witchcraft (i.e. Wicca) and Satanism - two religions that they present as equivalent. They also include unrelated religions and pastimes, such as New Age, materialism, the Occult, Astrology and devil worship. A graphic on their web page showed a Los Angeles Time newspaper with the heading "Today: 70,000 Witches in America." Under "Symptoms" they estimate that there are 3,000,000 "avowed witches" in the U.S. 12
  • 1999: Loren Wilkinson wrote an article on Neopaganism for Christianity Today, the leading Evangelical Christian periodical. He is a professor of interdisciplinary studies and philosophy at Regent College, a conservative Christian college in Vancouver, BC, Canada. The essay is adapted from a forthcoming book, Circles and the Cross. He states that "Supporters claim it is the fastest-growing religion in the United States, with nearly half a million adherents." He does not cite a source for this statement. 13
  • 1999: A marketing executive from Barnes and Noble, the "World's Largest Bookseller Online," estimates a  U.S. "Pagan Buying Audience" of 10 million. This number would not include those who scan the Internet or frequent the public library as their main sources of information. Of course, this number is only an estimate of the number of people who buy Pagan books -- not the number of actual Pagans. B&N allocates more space to Pagan books than the audience would indicate, because "Pagan book buyers" tend to buy more books per capita than those of all other faith groups. 14
  • 1999: Catherine Edwards, writing in Insight online magazine quotes -- misquotes Phyllis Curott as estimating that there are 3 to 5 million Wiccans in the U.S.. 15 Edwards also quotes Helen Berger and Craig Hawkins' book "Witchcraft" which estimates 150,000 to 200,000. 16
  • 1999: The Witches' Voice is one of the largest and most professional Wiccan web sites. In their press kit, they comment on the numbers of Witches, Wiccans and pagans: "No one knows for sure but we do know that the number is increasing rapidly. Our best estimate here at The Witches' Voice is about 1 million in the U.S. and 3 million worldwide." 17
  • 1999: This website conducted a poll of its visitors in late 1999. We were amazed to find that 13% of those answering our poll identified themselves as "Wiccan or other Neopagan." If this were a true sampling of the North American population, then the result would imply that about 40 million Neopagans lived in the U.S. and Canada! The poll is quite unreliable for a number of reasons:
    • Wiccans are probably more actively involved on the Internet than followers of other religions. After all, many Wiccans engage in positive magical activities. Surfing the Internet involves, at a fundamental level, the rearrangement of electrical charges on pieces of silicon; what could be more magical that that?
    • Because of the extremely high level of persecution and oppression of Wiccans, they are probably much more likely than most North Americans to visit our web site, which is devoted to the promotion of religious tolerance.
    • Being a member of a religious minority, they would probably be more likely to take part in a religious poll.
    • Only about 88% of our site visitors live in the U.S. and Canada. Responses from elsewhere in the world might have distorted the results.
  • 2000: "Guy Vestal, [is] CEO of Pagan Internet Industries Inc. His study of 'pagan demographics' indicates there are roughly 3 million Pagan Internet users. And he suspects the actual total is much higher." 18
  • 2000: The Covenant of the Goddess conducted a year-long poll of Witches and Pagans, starting 1999-JUL. They estimate that the total number of Witches and Pagans in the United States is about 768,400. Most of the demographic data is as expected:
    • There is an atypical age distribution when compared to other religions: 
      • 11% are 17 or under
      • 25% are 18 to 25
      • 40% are 26 to 39
      • 23% are 40 to 59
      • 1% are 60 or over.
    • 86% are registered to vote. This compares with about 50% among American adults generally. This puts their effective size as a voting block at about 1.3 million, approximately half that of Jews and of Muslims in America. Politicians will have to begin to take notice.
    • 71% are female; 29% male.
    • 13% have military service records. 19

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  • 2001: The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, conducted a massive survey of over 50,000 American adults between 2001-FEB and APR. It is called the ""American Religious Identification Survey." 20 They reported the following weighted estimates:
    • Wiccans: 134,000 (A rise from 8,000 in 1990!)
    • Pagans: 140,000
    • Druids: 33,000

    These estimates probably represent only a fraction of the actual number of Wiccans in the U.S. Many Neopagans are quite reluctant to admit their faith to a stranger over the telephone.

  • 2001: On MAY-13, Stats Canada reported on the religious identification of Canadians, as determined by the 2001 census. Unlike the U.S., the government of Canada asks religious questions during their census data collection. They found that Wiccans and other Neopagans showed the greatest percentage growth of any religion in the country. They totaled 21,080 members in 2001, an increase of 281% from 1991. "If we assume that Canada and the U.S. have similar cultures and thus have a similar percentage of Wiccans, then there would be on the order of 197,429 Wiccans among the estimated 277.60 million Americans, compared to the 29.64 million Canadians. " 21"

By comparison, some of the larger faith groups in the U.S. are:

  • Roman Catholics at 62 million members.
  • Southern Baptists at 15.8 million
  • Assemblies of God with 2.5 million. 23
  • 2006: The Stars and Stripes newspaper reported that: "According to 2005 Defense Department statistics, more than 1,800 active-duty service members identified themselves as Wiccans." 23
  • 2007: The Stars and Stripes' estimate is probably only a partial count, because in 2007-FEB, the Washington Post listed Pentagon data as including 1,511 Wiccans in the Air Force and 354 in the Marines -- for a total of 1,865. 1 Data for two larger branches of the military, the Army and Navy, was not included. Some Wiccans estimate that there are at least 4,000 of their members in uniform -- midway between the number of Jews and Muslims. However, many are reluctant to reveal their religion because of ridicule, harassment, discrimination or worse. 24 The Chaplain Service refuses to include Wiccan priests in its service, claiming that the number of Wiccans is too small. However, Jews and Muslims are represented by one or two dozen clergy.
  • 2008: The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life conducted a random phone survey of 35,556 adults from 2007-MAY-08 to AUG-13. They determined that 0.4% of American adults were "New Age." They subdivided that classification down into "Wica (Wiccan)," "Pagan" and "Other New Age groups." Note the rather unusual spelling of "Wica." Each of these groups totaled under 0.3% of adults. These data are not particularly helpful. 25

References:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. J.G. Melton, "Neo-Paganism: Report on the survey of an alternative religion,"  The Institute for the Study of American Religion, 1980.
  2. Morwyn, "Secrets of a Witch's Coven," Whitford Press, (1988), Page 33.
  3. Jason Frenkel, "Witches win converts," Herald Sun, 2002-JUL-1, at: http://heraldsun.news.com.au/
  4. C.S. Hawkins, "The Modern World of Witchcraft," Christian Research Journal, 1990-Winter/Spring, Page 8.
  5. "Religion (95A), Age Groups (7A) and Sex (3) for Population, for Canada, Provinces, Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas 1 and Census Agglomerations, 1991 and 2001 Censuses - 20% Sample Data," Statistics Canada, at: http://www12.statcan.ca/ This list also gives membership breakdowns by age groups."
  6. Eric Raymond, "Frequently Asked Questions about Neopaganism," at: http://people.delphi.com/
  7. Jan Phillips, "The Craft of the Wise," Ms magazine, 1993-JAN/FEB
  8. Vernieda Vergara, "Wicca," Sociology 257 class, University of Virginia, at: http://cti.itc.virginia.edu/
  9. J.R. Lewis, "Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft," State University of New York Press, (1996) 
  10. "Countdown to Armageddon," The Family, at: http://countdown.org/
  11. "Welcome members of the press," The Witches' Voice at: http://www.witchvox.com/press.html 
  12. "America's Moral Crisis," Christian Broadcasting Network, http://www.cbn.org/special/moralcrisis/day5.asp (This link is no longer active.)
  13. Loren Wilkinson, "The bewitching charms of Neopaganism," Christianity Today, 1999-NOV-15, Vol 43, #13, Page 54. Online at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/
  14. Posting to a Wiccan mailing list which included a personal interview of a B&N executive.
  15. Phyllis Curott, "Book of Shadows: A modern woman's journey into the wisdom of Witchcraft and the magic of the Goddess," Broadway Books, (1999) Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store Amazon.com's sales rank for this book was 2,356 on 1999-OCT-26. Not bad, considering that Amazon lists over 1 million books.
  16. Helen Berger and Craig Hawkins, "Witchcraft: Exploring the world of Wicca," University of South Carolina Press, (1999) Read some very positive reviews/order this book
  17. The Witches' Voice web site is at: http://www.witchvox.com/ 
  18. Michelle Finley, "Web Pagans make love and warlock," Lycos Network, at: http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,35931,00.html 
  19. "Witches Count!," press release, Covenant of the Goddess, at: http://www.cog.org/cogpoll_final.html
  20. "American Religious Identification Survey," by The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, at:" http://www.gc.cuny.edu/studies/
  21. "Religion (95A), Age Groups (7A) and Sex (3) for Population, for Canada, Provinces, Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas 1 and Census Agglomerations, 1991 and 2001 Censuses - 20% Sample Data," Statistics Canada, at: http://www12.statcan.ca/ This list also gives membership breakdowns by age groups."
  22. "Assemblies of God sees largest membership rise," CharismaNews.com at:  at: http://www.mcjonline.com/news/01a/
  23. Leo Shane III, "Wiccan widow threatens to sue over memorial plaque," Stars and Stripes, Pacific Edition, 2006-MAY-18, at: http://www.stripes.com/
  24. Alan Cooperman, "For Gods and Country: The Army Chaplain Who Wanted to Switch to Wicca? Transfer Denied," Washington Post, 2007-FEB-19, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  25. U.S. Religious Landscape Survey 2008," Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, Page 12, at: http://religions.pewforum.org/ This is a PDF file.

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Copyright � 1999 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2008-APR-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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