Census 2021

Since we wrote this post, new information has come to light that tells us that we may be able to add our particular path within a certain list that is recognised by the Census office. We will update with a new blog as soon as we have that information clarified and confirmed. Watch this space!

The national census is occurring on 21st March 2021. UK national statistician, Professor Sir Ian Diamond, has stated that after 220 years of the national census, this is likely to be the last.1 Question 16 of the census relates to religion and has tick boxes for the ‘big six’ religions, as well as a box for ‘no religion’. There is then an opportunity to write a descriptor under ‘other’.2

We’re all aware of the maxim “If you ask 10 Pagans about their path, you’ll get 11 different answers”, which is entirely valid; as a faith with one of the widest umbrella titles of all, we take pride in our paths being as individual as we are.

However, having as many Pagans answer this question as a simple one-word answer of ‘Pagan’ is crucially important. There has been a massive growth in the number of Pagans in the last 10 years and it would be nice for this to be legitimately quantifiable. A larger number here opens up new opportunities for us and will give our community a bigger voice.

Whilst it is lovely to be able to write “Eclectic Gardinarian / Alexandian 3rd Degree Wiccan Druid Herbalist with Heathen / Thelamic leanings and a Shamanic Animist twist, worshipping only Egyptian Goddess pantheons”, these types of answers will result in devastatingly large numbers of potential ‘Pagan’ responses being lost to the non-itemised ‘other’ category.

We are better than ‘other’.

Besides, there’s only space for 19 letters. So, I ask of you this: for now, just this once, can we all agree to just write ‘Pagan’? The advantages to us as a community will be massive. We currently fight tirelessly to be represented professionally; from seats on Sacre educational boards and university faith panels, to government consultations and hospital and prison chaplaincies. Having a Pagan ‘Thought for the Day’ was rejected by the BBC on grounds that we don’t even total a 365th of the population; if we can demonstrate our true numbers, this could change.

With this likely to be the last national survey of its kind, it is likely that most statistics in the future will be based on projections from the final census. We are often anecdotally described as the “World’s fastest growing religion” but now is our time to be officially represented. The larger our statistical representation in 2021, the more chance we have of being heard; or as Sarah Kerr, PF President recently put it more elegantly: “As one voice we have more chance of change”. So please, in March when you answer Q16, if you feel comfortable, please just put “Pagan”.  

Written by Lee Smith,
Council Representative to Committee
and Regional Co-ordinator for Cambridgeshire

1. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-51468919

Please note, this article refers to the census in England and Wales only. The census in Scotland has been delayed until 2022 because of the Covid pandemic in which Pagans have a tick box of their own thanks to the extended efforts of our esteemed colleagues in the Scottish Pagan Federation.