Analysis: Witches and pagans

The words ‘pagan’ and ‘witch’ have meant different things to different people throughout history.

Pagan is a catch-all term for pre-Christian religions. Modern Paganism is based on a revival of some of these.

Paganism is a recognised religion and in the 2011 census 56,620 people identified themselves as Pagans, 11,766 as Wiccans (often called witches), 4,189 as Druids and 1,958 Heathens – making Paganism the largest non-mainstream religion in England and Wales.

Paganism and its association with witches has led to it wrongly being linked to black magic and devil worship, fears of which were most common in the 17th Century at the time of the Witch Trials. By contrast pagan rites are usually focused on a relationship with the natural world.