They were once caricatured as be-robed bearded druids with an odd Victorian  belief in the spirits of nature, but paganism – especially in the West – is  fast-growing and almost mainstream now.

The number of pagans has doubled in the past decade and with Glastonbury TorAvebury and Stonehenge, the West is leading a religious revival in our  pre-Christian beliefs. Yesterday, pagans said they hoped to have finally  convinced the public at large they are peace-loving nature  devotees, and called  for greater recognition of paganism and pagans, after figures showed it was  probably the fastest growing religion in the country

Pans and Druids at StonehengeProfessor Ronald Hutton, from Bristol University, reckons there could be as  many as a quarter of a million pagans in Britain – probably the highest number  since Roman times – and now boosted by the results emerging from the recent  census, they are getting firmer in asserting their beliefs in a largely secular  or Christian country.

Pagan leaders have highlighted the numbers of people who declared themselves  to be pagans in the 2011 census, which reveal that 79,473 people said they were  in England and Wales, compared with 42,262 in the whole of Britain back in  2001.

Chris Crowley, the president of the Pagan Federation, said that figure was  important because pagans were not awarded their own tick box on the census  forms, and to declare their religion as ‘pagan’, people had to tick the box  marked ‘other’ and specifically write ‘pagan’ next to it.

Emboldened by the rise in numbers to make paganism the seventh biggest  religion in this country, Mr Crowley said he was pleased people were more  accepting than previously. “We take issue with people using our beliefs in  tawdry and cavalier fashion,” he said.

“When we first approached the Charity Commission for Wales and England in  1997 seeking charity status, one of its officials asked us if we sacrifice  humans. I think we’ve come an awful long way in public understanding since  then,” he added.

Pagans have long been drawn to the West with sites like ancient Pre-Christian  sites like Glastonbury, Avebury and Stonehenge as important symbols of their  beliefs.

“We are far from an amusing curiosity. Pagans are a serious and growing  religious group and these latest census figures reflect that,” added Mr  Crowley.

The British Isles perhaps are best known as the home of the Druids, but those  are only a small number of modern pagans, explained Prof Hutton, a leading  expert in pre-Christian Britain.

Pagans celebrate events such as the summer and winter solstice by gathering  before sunrise in gardens, forests, hilltops or beaches for organised rituals or  their own personal reflection.

Read more (Western Daily Press) : http://www.thisisbath.co.uk/Paganism-longer-cloaked-mystery/story-18889957-detail/story.html#ixzz2SOxVqVem

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