An occult devotee celebrates the Walpurgisnacht pagan festival
An occult devotee celebrates the Walpurgisnacht pagan festival Reuters

Hundreds of witches, pagans and Druids have signed up to join the UK armed forces, according to the latest official figures.

All three services have taken on people whose religious beliefs involve pagan rituals and casting spells.

MPs fear that military top brass have been forced to hire members of alternative faiths and beliefs to halt the recruitment crisis.

Recent attempts to boost regular and reserve units have had disappointing results, according to a report in the Mirror.

Another explanation is a fear of discrimination if applicants are rejected on grounds of faith.

A source told the Mirror: "They're obliged to accept any religion, however inappropriate.

"Do we really want soldiers who believe they can cast spells on the enemy? This is about being 'on ­message' and has nothing to do with being combat-effective."

There are nearly 1,000 followers of minority religious sects serving in the UK's military personnel.

The breakdown also shows that there are 600 Muslims and 70 Jews in the ranks.

Ministry of Defence figures obtained via the Freedom of Information Act show 60 members of the Wicca sect signed up.

The figures also reveal more than 360 pagans, devotees of ancient gods, and 160 spiritualists, who believe they can communicate with the dead.

Other faiths include Druid, Zoroastrian, Baha'I, Spiritualist and Rastafarian.

Not everyone has taken the statistics seriously. "I can't help thinking that perhaps one or two may have been having a little joke by putting themselves down as witches," Conservative MP and former colonel Bob Stewart told the Sun.

However, Julian Brazier, a member of the Commons defence committee said: "We want to create a workforce drawn from the breadth of the society we defend and that gains strength from that society's range of knowledge, experience and talent."

In the 2001 UK government census, 0.8% of the population of England and Wales declared their religion as "Jedi", making Star Wars knighthood the fourth largest reported national religion.