by Jason Pitzl-Waters
The Wild Hunt
Perhaps one of most thought-provoking presentations I attended at the American Academy of Religion’s Annual Meeting in San Francisco was that by sociologist Helen A. Berger at the Contemporary Pagan Studies Group panel “Pagan Analysis and Critique of Religion.” Her talk,“Fifteen Years of Continuity and Change within the American Pagan Community,” was a flurry of statistical information gleaned from a 2009 re-visitation of the Pagan Census project. This isn’t the first time Berger, co-author of “Voices from the Pagan Census: A National Survey of Witches and Neo-Pagans in the United States,” has presented some initial finding from this new collection of data; in late 2010 she wrote an editorial for Patheos.com’s “Future of Paganism” series where she revealed where the data was leading.
“In comparing the two surveys [The Pagan Census and the Pagan Census Revisited] I found that the number of Pagans who claim to practice alone has grown from 51% to 79%. The growth of solitary practitioners has been facilitated by books and the Internet. During the 1960s and 70s when the religion was initially spreading, it was passed from person-to-person, most commonly in groups, such as covens. This has clearly changed as in the PCR only 36% state that they were trained in a group. […] Parallel to the growth of solitary practitioners is the increase in people who state that their primary form of practice is Eclectic Paganism, which is the most common designation, with 53% of the respondents claiming this designation. Additionally, 22% state that they are spiritual but dislike labels.”