Links to surveys:
Paganism, as a faith community, has been growing in stature and acceptance for some time now thanks to the dedication and hard work of the Pagan Federation(s). The Pagan Federation itself was first founded in 1971 in reply to widespread prejudice against Paganism in the our Society at that time, and as a way to combat and dispel misinformation against Paganism in the Press and media. It was created during a time when many of the freedoms we take for granted today didn’t exist, and has worked tirelessly since its formation to redress that balance. We are now only a few years away from our 50th anniversary as an organisation, and in that time, we have achieved so much in terms of rights and recognition of our faith community. In all areas of public life, from Interfaith, Celebrancy, University Chaplaincy, Education, Youth Outreach work, Disability and Inclusion, Prison Chaplaincy, and Healthcare, Pagan rights and recognition has taken massive strides forward.
In 2017 the BBC News reported that Paganism had grown to
such an extent that it is now the
second largest faith
in south-west England, which is reflected in the
Cornish education system where Paganism is now being taught
as part of the syllabus in Schools in Cornwall. However
the news also pointed out that current figures are based on
academic estimations as the vast majority of Pagans in
England and Scotland did not
declare their faith on the
census for fear of discrimination.
It’s not that difficult to see why the Pagan community remains hesitant to freely share their spiritual preference. Being openly Pagan has only been legal in the United Kingdom since 1951, with the repeal of the Witchcraft Act. Prior to that time practitioners could face imprisonment, or even death going further back. While this made it finally legal to practice Paganism once again, it was not without consequences. Throughout the 80’s and early 90’s an individual could lose their job or livelihood, be investigated by social services and even lose custody of your children if you came out as Pagan. Because of incidents like these the Pagan faith community have tended to keep their faiths and beliefs hidden from the wider world for fear of discrimination.
Though attitudes have changed in modern society, we still
have a long way to go, given that most Pagans still keep
their faith to themselves. We also have many examples where
Pagans are still being subject to prejudice in places where
they have been more open or visible about their faith,
which does not instil confidence. In 1999 Dr Ralph Morse,
the first national youth officer of the Pagan Federation
was summarily suspended from his post as Head of Drama,
Theatre Arts and Media Studies at Shenfield High School in
Essex. In 2006, members of
Youth 2000, a
conservative Catholic organisation, attacked Pagans in
Glastonbury, threw salt at them while shouting that Pagans
would burn in hell. This led to one police arrest
and a further two cautions. In 2007, a teaching assistant
in Brighton claimed she was sacked for being a Wiccan. In
the very same year a teacher at Shawlands Academy in
Glasgow was denied time off to attend Druid rites while
other faiths were granted leave for religious holidays, and
a Neo-druid group from Dorset was subjected to threats and
abuse. These are just a few examples.
A decade on from all this, we find that while attitudes
continue to soften to Pagans in the mainstream media,
discrimination still exists in pockets of society where
Pagans reveal their faiths openly. Since 2017 the Pagan
shop Spellbound in Gloucester has been a
target of a hate campaign where staff received death
threats and arson threats. The shop owner, Toni Hunt, has
been subjected to verbal abuse. She’s had her car damaged.
There has been glue put all over the frontage of the shop.
Eggs pelted at her shop window. She’s had abuse posted
through her letterbox. She’s even had Exorcisms performed
outside her shop. As recently as March of 2019, the shop
was attacked by fireworks with an explosive thrown into the
shop. So far Police have done little about this.
Professor Ronald Hutton, while asked to comment on the
issue, believes it will be
another 50 years before
Paganism is fully accepted the same way as other
faith communities of these British Isles. Because of
incidents like these the Pagan faith community have tended
to keep their faiths hidden for fear of prejudice and
We know from what our community tell us that many Pagans
keep their faiths hidden from their friends, their
workplaces, even from their own families. It is easy to
see why some people refer to the Pagan community as
invisible faith community or
a community in
hiding. We speak to people all the time who are
afraid to come out as Pagan. Pagans afraid of the
consequences if their boss or work colleagues found they
were Pagan, with a concern that it might cost them a
promotion or career elevation. Pagans afraid that their
children may be discriminated against or bullied in School
if people found out their parents were Pagan. We know that
a great many Pagans today have fake social media profiles
and several Facebook accounts with fake names to hide their
true religion from their family, friends, peers, and work
colleagues, outside of their own faith communities. At
hospital visits putting down you are Muslim and asking for
an Imam will ensure someone to talk to, however putting
down Pagan, as I found out recently, will get you strange
looks, covert whispers, and worst still: ignored. It is a
more serious issue than many realise.
It’s this fear of discrimination that means the vast majority of Pagan numbers go unreported with each decade’s Census, which is a very significant problem, as without true figures of our numbers the need for provision and inclusion in all areas of public life cannot be accurately reflected. The importance of being recognised in the census figures would go a long way to improving Pagan rights and recognition in a number of areas including in education, the NHS, local authorities. It is incredibly important for our true numbers to be captured, as it gives us a stronger case for provision. The Government and local authorities and many other agencies use the Census results when allocating provisions for the different faith communities in Scotland, so it is important that our true numbers are reflected.
The Equality Act 2010 makes it illegal for someone to discriminate against you because of your religion or beliefs. Under the Equality Act there are four kinds of religious discrimination: direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, victimisation and harassment. As an example, if you don’t feel you’re being treated the same as, say, a Christian worker would be in the same situation, you are most definitely the victim of direct religious discrimination. Many Pagans take for granted the discrimination they face because of their faith, and worse, normalise that abuse as just part of daily life. Worst still, it is believed that Pagans are less likely to report abuse than any other religious minority for fear of not being taken seriously.
To ascertain the true extent of discrimination and prejudice against Paganism and the Pagan faith communities the Scottish Pagan Federation are launching a series of Pagan Discrimination Surveys to gather information from our communities both North and South of the border, and also across Europe, so to better tackle it and identify the problem areas.
The Pagan Discrimination Survey was originally conceived by Steffy VonScott, SPF’s current Presiding Officer. It began to take form around April 2018, at the 25th anniversary of SPF’s annual Pagan Conference. After several harrowing conversations with attendees about the discrimination they were experiencing as Pagans, alongside comments that came from our Community Discussion Panels that ran throughout the day, Steffy decided to follow this up by travelling to Moots and Pagan shops across the west of Scotland, as well as to Edinburgh. His aim was to discuss the nature and extent of discrimination against Pagans and Paganism in modern Scotland. It was from these initial meetings that the questions which would eventually form the survey began to take shape.
Later in 2018, Steffy was elected as Presiding Officer of the Scottish PF, and at that point he decided to make this survey a strategic part of his Five-Year-Plan to identify key areas where discrimination against the Pagan faith community was taking place. His longer term aim was to tackle and alleviate these issues.
In early 2019, Steffy began collaborating with Social Anthropologist Aglaja Kempinski of Edinburgh University, on an initial complete draft of the survey itself, to ensure it was fit for purpose. Next, a series of in depth consultations, to discuss the nature of the survey, took place which gathered input from prominent UK Pagan organisations, including the Pagan Federation of England and Wales, the Druid Network, and the Pagan Heathen Symposium - a collective of Pagan organisations that includes Children of Artemis, Fellowship of Isis, plus many others, on their board. These consultations, together with the input from the individual organisations, influenced Steffy’s decisions when compiling and collating those questions that would eventually be included in SPF’s survey. The intention at this stage was to ensure that the final version of the survey was as robust as possible.
Early in 2020, Steffy put a case to SPF’s Council members for a financial investment from the Scottish Pagan Federation to be able to host the survey on an online platform. SPF officers had already successfully trialled a free version of Survey Monkey when collecting and analysing feedback surveys for SPF (for 2020’s on-line conference and eSPIN/SPIN). The rationale for the purchase of a subscription to Survey Monkey was that this would provide SPF with software to easily present and evaluate the information and findings from the survey. It is also SPF’s intention to analyse the survey results in order to assess the levels of discrimination our community face here in modern Scotland. Those funds were granted and Acting Deputy Presiding Officer Helen Woodsford-Dean was tasked with launching the survey.
Over the next few months Helen Woodsford-Dean, with the
support of our Community Support Officer, Jules Kelly,
worked to launch the survey itself. First the survey
questions had to be converted from their current
fill-in a paper form format to an on-line
equivalent. This involved splitting some of the original
questions into several shorter questions in order to ensure
clarity. Once this stage was complete it became apparent
that the length of the survey was too long and complex, in
its current on-line format, to be able to be launched as
one single survey. Feedback from beta testing suggested
that respondents lost motivation to complete surveys that
took too long (10 mins seemed the maximum). Helen
subsequently divided the survey into more manageable sized
parts, keeping the demographic questions at the beginning
of each, and finally settling on four individual surveys
that tackled the key themes of:
As the Pagan Federation moves towards its 50th
Anniversary this year (and the 30th anniversary
since the Scottish PF was launched in 1991), it is
important now, perhaps more than ever before, that SPF
shapes long term and robust strategies to better tackle
these issues of continuing discrimination against all who
consider themselves to be
All four surveys can be accessed anonymously via these links: