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How many Wiccans are there?

Estimates for the U.S., Canada, etc.

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Wiccans in the U.S. back in 2001:

The massive American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) is probably the most accurate source for religious identification. 1 It was a telephone poll taken during 2001-FEB to JUN among over 50,000 people. However, even their estimates contain room for errors:

bulletSome heavily oppressed and discriminated against groups, like Wiccans and other Neopagans, often refuse to reveal their religion to a stranger over the telephone because of safety concerns. So, the actual number of Wiccans is probably much larger than the survey indicates.
 
bulletIn the ARIS study of 1990, 2.3% of those contacted refused to disclose their religion. In the 2001 survey, the number had grown to 5.4%. The latter number represents over 11 million adults. The reason for this increase in desire for secrecy is unknown.
 
bulletThe terminology is confusing. As a result of the 2001 survey, they estimate that there are 134,000 Wiccans and 140,000 other Pagans in the U.S. But many Wiccans describe themselves as Pagans. So, the number of Wiccans is probably larger than indicated.

Our best estimate of the total number of Wiccans in the U.S. during 2001 is based on the ARIS study:

Number of Wiccan found by ARIS:   134,000 adults
Number of Pagans found by ARIS: 140,000 adults
Total Wiccans and Pagans: 274,000 adults
Less estimated Pagans who are not Wiccans: - 70,000 adults
Total Wiccans: 204,000 adults
Estimated number of Wiccans who refused to disclose religion 204,000 adults
Total Wiccan adults in the U.S. 408,000 adults
Total Wiccan families (adults plus children) 750,000 people

Update using the 2008 ARIS study:

ReligionLink reports data from the 2008 ARIS survey in comparison to 2001 data. 5 They state:

"Specifically, the number of Wiccans more than doubled from 2001 to 2008, from 134,000 to 342,000, and the same held true for [other] neo-pagans, who went from 140,000 in 2001 to 340,000 in 2008."

"Experts say the growth reflects not only increasing numbers of neo-pagans, but also a rise in the social acceptability of paganism. As a result, more respondents would be willing to identify themselves as followers of some pagan tradition. They also note that identification surveys do not fully measure the influence of neo-paganism. Many people use two or more religious identifiers — calling themselves Unitarian and Druid, for example — while others might adopt certain neo-pagan practices without calling themselves neo-pagan."

"The upshot is that neo-pagans — such as Wiccans, Druids, Asatruar (from Heathenism), and various Reconstructionists — and neo-paganism have pushed further into the mainstream."

"Some scholars credit the Internet and its ability to connect pagans of different tribes who previously would have remained unknown to each other. Whatever the reason, pagans have grown increasingly more organized and more visible and today are widely recognized by religion scholars and sociologists as a group with staying power."

With 682,000 subjects admitting that they were Wiccans or other Neopagans, the true number would probably be considerably larger than this number, even though between 2001 and 2008, it has become safer for Neopagans to come out of the closet. 6

Wiccans in Canada:

If there are on the order of 750,000 Wiccans in the U.S., then one might expect about 70,000 in Canada. The Statistics Canada census estimates that there were 5,530 Canadian "Pagans" in 1991 and 21,080 in 2001 -- an increase of 381% over one decade. 2 If we assume that only about 30% of Pagans feel sufficiently safe and secure to tell their real religion to a census taker, who is a member of their community, then 70,000 Canadian Pagans might be an accurate estimate for the year 2001.

Number of Wiccans elsewhere:

An unidentified study in 1997 predicted that there were 100,000 practicing Neopagans in the United Kingdom. The Pagan Federation in the UK reported in 1999 that they were currently receiving 100 inquiries a month from potential new recruits. Kate West, vice president of the Pagan Federation and a practicing Wiccan said: "Spiritually, people want more than the paternalistic 'I will tell you what to think and what to do' attitude. As a race we are maturing. We want to make our own decisions about our own morality. We don't believe in indoctrination." 3

The Australian census reported that the number of Wiccans had grown from fewer than 2,000 in 1996, to almost 9,000 in 2001. The number of Pagans more than doubled to 10,632 in 2001. Druids, animists and pantheists also increased in numbers. 4

Wicca relative to other religions:

The 408,000 Wiccan adults in the U.S. would then represent the 7th largest organized religion, and the 10th largest religious grouping, in the United States. The adult population who identify with the largest religious classifications, according to ARIS are:

bullet Christianity: 159 million adults,
bullet"NOTAs" (None Of The Above; persons with no religious affiliation): 27.5 million
bullet Judaism: 2.8 million,
bullet Islam: 1.1 million,
bullet Buddhist: 1.1 million,
bulletAgnostics: 991,000,
bulletAtheists: 902,000,
bullet Hinduism: 766,000,
bullet Unitarian-Universalism: 620,000 adults. 1

It appears that Wiccans have already surpassed in numbers of American adult followers of such established faith groups as: the Society of Friends - Quaker (217,000), the Baha'i Faith (84,000), and Sikhism (57,000). 1

References:

  1. "American Religious Identification Survey," by The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, at: http://www.gc.cuny.edu/studies/
  2. "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/
  3. "UK Pagans celebrate as numbers soar," at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk/newsid_500000/500484.stm
  4. Jason Frenkel, "Witches win converts," Herald Sun, 2002-JUL-1, at: http://heraldsun.news.com.au/common/
  5. "Pagans go mainstream: Wiccans and Druids and goddesses — oh, my," ReligionLink, 2009-OCT-20, at: http://www.religionlink.com/
  6. Barry A. Kosmin, et al., "American Religious Identification Survey 2001," City University of New York, 2001-DEC-19, at: http://www.gc.cuny.edu/This is a PDF file.

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Copyright © 1999 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-DEC-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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