Halloween 2023: how many witches, satanists and pagans are living in Preston, Chorley and South Ribble?

The number of modern witches and satanists living in Preston, South Ribble and Chorley is on the rise according to the latest census figures.
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It’s Halloween today (Tuesday, October 31) and a a look at the most recent census figures shows there are a surprising number of folks who identify as witches, pagans, and even Satanists across England and Wales.

How many witches are there?

In Preston, 41 people selected Wicca as their religion in Census 2021 (up from 25 in the 2011 census), in South Ribble, 17 people selected Wicca as their religion (the same as in 2011) and in Chorley, 27 people selected Wicca (up from 20).

Find out how many witches, satanists and pagans are living in Preston, Chorley and South Ribble. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)Find out how many witches, satanists and pagans are living in Preston, Chorley and South Ribble. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)
Find out how many witches, satanists and pagans are living in Preston, Chorley and South Ribble. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)
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This means across the areas, there were 23 more witches in 2021 compared to the decade before.

The religion developed in England during the first half of the 20th century with its name deriving from the Old English 'wicca' and 'wicce', the masculine and feminine term for witch.

Across England and Wales, over 12,800 people opted for Wicca as their religion – a slight jump from 11,800 in 2011.

Separately, the number of people across both nations selecting Witchcraft as their religion has fallen from nearly 1,300 in 2011 to under 1,100 in the recent census.

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The figures show four people selected Witchcraft as their religion in South Ribble in 2021 and four in Chorley but no one did in Preston.

How many people are Satanists?

While the witch population has not soared nationally, Satanism has more than doubled in the past decade as nearly 5,100 people identified as Satanists in the recent census compared to 1,900 in 2011.

In Preston, 20 people said they were Satanists, 20 in South Ribble and 11 in Chorley.

Despite the name, not all Satanists believe in a literal Lucifer. Instead, it is often a metaphor for questioning authority and rejecting mainstream religion.

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How many people are pagans?

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Across England and Wales, there has also been a 30% rise in pagans- from 56,600 people in 2011 to over 73,700 two years ago.

In Preston, 209 people said they were pagan, 153 in South Ribble and 186 in Chorley.

Halloween, which has roots in paganism, originated from the Celtic celebration of Samhain that marked the end of summer and the beginning of the winter. Celts believed the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred on this night.

Celtic priests would build bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities.

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Eventually, the influence of Christianity spread into Celtic lands and All Soul's Day and All Saint's Day – or All-hallows – was created, incorporating some of the original pagan traditions. To celebrate the days, people would light bonfires, throw parades and costume as saints, angels and devils.