Thousands Celebrating Winter Solstice

The number of Pagans in England and Wales has grown by over 90% between 2001 and 2011 - with many marking the Winter Solstice.

Sky News/December 22, 2015

By Richard Suchet

Thousands of Pagans across the UK are celebrating the Winter Solstice, with hundreds gathering at the prehistoric monument of Stonehenge to watch the sunrise.

The Winter Solstice falls at the precise moment the North Pole reaches its furthest point from the sun, and therefore occurs at the same time all over the world - this year at 04.48 GMT.

More people than ever are expected to celebrate the "rebirth of the sun" across the UK, as Paganism and its subsets - such as Wicca, Shamanism and Druidism - continue to grow in popularity.

The number of Pagans in England and Wales grew by more than 90% between 2001 and 2011, from 42,533 to 80,998 and anecdotal evidence suggests those figures continue to swell.

The census of 2011 also showed the number of Christians decreased by 4.1 million between 2001 and 2011, from 72% of the population to 59%.

The medieval church proclaimed Paganism to be devil-worship and that is a myth that has been perpetuated through the centuries - most Pagans do not believe in Satan.

Sky News was invited to a Community Hall in Brixton, south London, to experience a Wicca ceremony - a modern form of Pagan witchcraft which can be traced back tens of thousands of years.

Essentially, Wicca is an appreciation of the natural world through which Gods can be experienced or felt. Magic and spells are used to channel the power of these divine spirits.

It is less prescriptive than many conventional religions and it is thriving in an age that is hostile towards authority, hierarchy and big institutions.

But many Wiccans remain fearful of discrimination and are often cautious about revealing their involvement.

"It's a counter-culture," said record label boss Caroline Robertson, who took part in the ceremony in Brixton.

"It is less of a religion and more of a current, a tradition, a movement. You get to take your clothes off, you get to dance around a bonfire in the woods, you get to get drunk, you get to drum and dance and take exotic substances.

"I can't see a problem with that and the only rule is you shall be free from slavery. Fault me on that."

Wicca appears to have particular appeal to women, most likely because modern forms of the religion are not patriarchal. Indeed, some communities give primacy to the Goddess over the male Horned God.

Religious Affairs expert Elizabeth Oldfield told Sky News: "For people who have grown up with Christianity in the atmosphere written into the scaffolding of a culture - if they're looking for something that feels a bit fresher to them and they're looking for new options - then Paganism might be something they can explore.

"It is centred on the individual, and it is very much about your own practice, your own relationship with nature and ability to make it whatever you want it to be. There aren't really many rules, very much structure, very much authority."

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.

Educational DVDs and Videos