Record crowd at Stonhenge; sun worship is back.

Salisbury, UK - Show of hands, who even noticed that the summer solstice was this past Sunday? If you did, did you hear anything about it? Other than it's the longest day of the year and that it was hot? Lastly, did you hear about this?

When the sun rose, at 4:58am on Sunday, it was greeted by a record crowd. Aproximately, 36,000 people gathered, at Stonehenge, on the eve of the solstice for religious celebrations, partying, and some just out of curiousity. Many of the people there were dressed in the religious attire of their faiths i.e. robes. The event was described as lively, merry, and even magickal by some.

When I read about this I was surprised to say the least. Paganism doesn't often find it's way into the news, but is nonetheless on the rise. According to a survey in 2001 about 425,000 people, in the U.S alone, identified themselves as Pagan. That's pretty impressive considering the 1990 results of around 8,000, though, to be fair, that number only counted Wiccans. Many Pagans consider even the latest numbers to be on the low side as their are a number of Pagans, like myself, who practice solitary, and some practitioners do not openly claim to be Pagan for fear of persecution.

If we go by these numbers, then about one in 500 people you meet are Pagans. While that hardly means they are in competition to be the most populace religion, it does command a bit of respect. In fact, Wicca, a particular sect of Paganism, is considered to be the fastest growing religion at this time.

Contrary to popular belief Pagans do not worship Satan. Paganism refers to earth based religious groups that honor the earth and the changing seasons referred to most often as "the wheel of the year". Like Christianity, Paganism is a very diverse religion, or group of religions, and different groups, and even sects of those groups, do not necessarily agree on the same things. Usually, Pagans worship at least one god, representing the sun and/or the sky, and a goddess, representing the moon and/or the earth. Again, Paganism is very diverse so these are very general statements and may not be true for some members. In fact it necessarily isn't. Many branches use pre-christian practices, beliefs and/or traditions, though admittedly they are often modified. Some even claim pre-christian origins, and others, like the traditions of the indigenous peoples of the United States, don't need to claim those origins because they are obvious.

In any case, it's easy to see that Paganism is on the rise. Whether the large interest in this broad, and sometimes ancient, form of spirituality is a passing fad or here to stay only time will tell. Blessed be.