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term which has come to connote a broad set of western spiritual or religious beliefs and practices of natural or polytheistic religions, as opposed to the Abrahamic monotheistic religions. "Pagan" is the usual translation of the Islamic term mushrik, which refers to 'one who worships something other than Allah'. Ethnologists do not use the term for these beliefs, which are not necessarily compatible with each other: more useful categories are shamanism, polytheism or animism. Often, the term has pejorative connotations, comparable to heathen, infidel and kafir (????) in Islam. Etymology Pagan The term pagan is from Latin paganus, an adjective originally meaning "rural", "rustic" or "of the country." As a noun, paganus was used to mean "country dweller, villager." In colloquial use, it would mean much the same as calling someone a 'bumpkin' or a 'hillbilly'. Paganus was almost exclusively a derogatory term. (It is from this derivation of "villager" which we have the word "villain", which the expanding Christians called the Pagans of Northern Europe/Scandinavia). From its earliest beginnings, Christianity spread much more quickly in major urban areas (like Antioch, Alexandria, Corinth, Rome) than in the countryside (in fact, the early church was almost entirely urban), and soon the word for "country dweller" became synonymous with someone who was "not a Christian," giving rise to the modern meaning of "pagan." In large part, this may have had to do with the conservative nature of rural people, who were more resistant to the new ideas of Christianity than those who lived in major urban centers. "Peasant" is a cognate, via Old French paisent. (Harry Thurston Peck, Harper's Dictionary of Classical Antiquity, 1897; "pagus"). In their distant origins, these usages derived from pagus, "province, countryside", cognate to Greek p???? "rocky hill", and, even earlier, "something stuck in the ground", as a landmark: the Proto-Indo-European root pag- means "fixed" and is also the source of the words "page", "pale" (stake), and "pole", as well as "pact" and "peace". Later, through metaphorical use, paganus came to mean 'rural district, village' and 'country dweller' and, as the Roman Empire declined into military autocracy and anarchy, in the 4th and 5th centuries it came to mean "civilian", in a sense parallel to the English usage "the locals". It was only after the Late Imperial introduction of serfdom, in which agricultural workers were legally bound to the land (see Serf), that it began to have negative connotations, and imply the simple ancient religion of country people, which Virgil had mentioned respectfully in Georgics. Like its approximate synonym heathen (see below), it was adopted by Middle English-speaking Christians as a slur to refer to those too rustic to embrace Christianity. Additionally, a lot of rural parts of Europe were the most resistant to forced Christian conversions, militarily resisted Christian Europe and stubbornly held to their natural religions reamplifying the medieval use of the term.
As mentioned previously, pagan began as a derogatory term for the rural peoples holding to conservative beliefs and through evolved colloqialism to pre-Christian/ non-Christian beliefs specifically held in the face of the new and predominantly urban Christianized Roman society. In a temporal twist of faith, the rural peoples of our western culture continue to hold the conservative traditional values (as advocated by the bible belt or red state) but these rural conservatives now face off against the post-religious secularized urban areas of the United States. While the term pagan is now firmly entrenched with the concept of pre-Christian shamanism rather than as "a rural person holding to conservative traditional beliefs and values", the rural conservative Christians of the 21st century could be argued as mirroring the same cultural traits as the pagans of the first and second millenia. Neoplatonists in the Early Christian church attempted to Christianize the values of sophisticated Pagans such as Plato and Virgil. This had some influence among the literate class, but did little to counter the more general prejudice expressed in "pagan". While pagan is attested in English from the 14th century, there is no evidence that the term paganism was in use in English before the 17th century. The OED instances Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776): "The divisions of Christianity suspended the ruin of paganism." The term was not a neologism, however, as paganismus was already used by Augustine. The urbanity of Christians is exemplified in Augustine's work, The City of God, in which Augustine consoled distressed city-dwelling Christians over the fall of Rome. He pointed out that while the great 'city of man' had fallen, Christians were ultimately citizens of the 'city of God.' Many Slavic peoples, especially Eastern Slavs, use the word "pagan" as an insult in their language; translating roughly as a "conniving brute." The etymology of this meaning lies in the fact that after their forced conversion by western Christians, much of the Slavic lands took a dim view of the remaining non-Christians in their midsts. The first person to apply the term pagan to a worshipper of a nature religion was Discordian cofounder Kerry Thornley (Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst), according to The Prankster and the Conspiracy by Adam Gorightly. Heathen Heathen is from Old English hæðen "not Christian or Jewish", (c.f. Old Norse heiðinn). Historically, the term was probably influenced by Gothic haiþi "dwelling on the heath", appearing as haiþno in Ulfilas' bible as "gentile woman," (translating the Greek in Mark 7:26). This translation probably influenced by Latin paganus, "country dweller", or it was chosen because of its similarity to the Greek ethne, "gentile". It has even been suggested that Gothic haiþi is not related to "heath" at all, but rather a loan from Armenian hethanos, itself loaned from Greek ethnos.
Terminology Common word usage Both "pagan" and "heathen" have historically been used as a pejorative by adherents of monotheistic religions (such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam) to indicate a disbeliever in their religion. In Scotland and Ireland, "heathen" is still used today by Roman Catholics as a pejorative term for non-Catholics. "Paganism" is also sometimes used to mean the lack of (an accepted monotheistic) religion, and therefore sometimes means essentially the same as atheism. "Paganism" frequently refers to the religions of classical antiquity, most notably Greek mythology or Roman religion, and can be used neutrally or admiringly by those who refer to those complexes of belief. However, until the rise of Romanticism and the general acceptance of freedom of religion in Western civilization, "paganism" was almost always used disparagingly of heterodox beliefs falling outside the established political framework of the Christian Church. It has more recently (from the 19th century) been used admiringly by those who believe monotheistic religions to be confining or colourless. Pagan also comes from the hebrew word paganini - which means "person who lives in the forest". "Pagan" came to be equated with a popular, Christianized sense of "epicurean" to signify a person who is sensual, materialistic, self-indulgent, unconcerned with the future and uninterested in sophisticated religion. The word was usually used in this worldly sense by those who were drawing attention to the limitations of paganism, as when G. K. Chesterton wrote: "The pagan set out, with admirable sense, to enjoy himself. By the end of his civilization he had discovered that a man cannot enjoy himself and continue to enjoy anything else." Heathenry "Heathen" (Old English hæðen) is a translation of paganus. The term is used for Germanic paganism, or Germanic Neopaganism, in particular. Originating with the Jastorf culture, the Germanic tribes were distributed over Eastern and Central Europe by the 5th century, and their dialects ceased to be mutually intelligible from around that time. Christianization of the Germanic peoples took place from the 4th (Goths) to the 6th (Anglo-Saxons, Alamanni) or 8th (Saxons) centuries on the continent, and from the 9th to 12th centuries in Iceland and Scandinavia.
Pagan classifications Pagan subdivisions coined by Isaac Bonewits Paleo-Paganism: A retronym coined to contrast with "neopaganism", denoting a pagan culture that has not been disrupted by other cultures. The term applies to Hinduism, Shinto, preMigration period Germanic paganism as described by Tacitus, Celtic Polytheism as described by Julius Caesar, and the Greek and Roman religion. Meso-Paganism: A group, which is, or has been, significantly influenced by monotheistic, dualistic, or nontheistic worldviews, but has been able to maintain an independence of religious practices. This group includes Native Americans and Australian Aborigine Bushmen, Viking Age Norse paganism. Influences include: Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, Theosophy, Spiritualism, as well as Sikhism, and the many Afro-Diasporatic faiths like Haitian Vodou, and Santería. Neo-Paganism: An attempt by modern people to reconnect with nature, pre-Christian religions, or other nature-based spiritual paths. This definition may include reconstructive or semireconstructive as Ásatrú and other groups, as well as New Age and non-reconstructive groups such as Neo-Druidism and Wicca. Pagan religions Ancient Greek religion Ancient Near East Paganism Ancient Paganism Celtic polytheism Discordianism Estonian paganism Finnish paganism Germanic paganism Asatru Norse paganism Paganism in the Eastern Alps Heathenry
In another sense, as used by modern practitioners, Paganism is a polytheistic, panentheistic or pantheistic often nature-based religious practice, but again can be atheism sometimes as well. This includes reconstructed religions such as revivalist Hellenic polytheism and Ásatrú, as well as more recently founded religions such as Wicca c. 1940, and these are normally categorised as "Neopaganism". Although many Neopagans often refer to themselves simply as "Pagan", for purposes of clarity this article will focus on the ancient religion, while Neopaganism is discussed in its own article. This also includes religions such as Forn Sed, Celtic Neo-druidism, Longobardic odinism, Lithuanian Romuva, and Slavic Rodoverie that claim to revive an ancient religion rather than reconstruct it, though in general the difference is not absolutely fixed. Many of these revivals, Wicca, Asatru and Neo-druidism in particular, have their roots in 19th century Romanticism and retain noticeable elements of occultism or theosophy that were current then, setting them apart from historical rural (paganus) folk religion. The Íslenska Ásatrúarfélagið is a notable exception in that it was derived more or less directly from remnants in rural folklore. Still, some practitioners even of syncretized directions tend to object to the term "Neopaganism" for their religion as they consider what they are doing not to be a new thing. It must be said, also, that since the 1990s, the number of reconstructionist movements that reject romantic or occult influences has increased, even if those Neopagans who make a conscious effort to separate preChristian from romanticism influences are still a minority. Modern nature religion Many current Pagans in industrial societies base their beliefs and practices on a connection to Nature, and a divinity within all living things, but this may not hold true for all forms of Paganism, past or present. Some believe that there are many deities, while some believe that the combined subconscious spirit of all living things forms the universal deity. Paganism predates modern monotheism, although its origins are lost in prehistory. Ancient Paganism, which tended in many cases to be a deification of the local deity, as Athena in Athens, saw each local emanation as an aspect of an Olympian deity during the Classical period and then after Alexander to syncretize the deity with the political process, with "state divinities" increasingly assigned to various localities, as Roma personified Rome. Many ancient regimes would claim to be the representative on earth of these gods, and would depend on more or less elaborate bureaucracies of state-supported priests and scribes to lend public support to their claims. This is something Paganism shares with more 'mainstream' revealed religions, as can be seen in the history of the Catholic church, the Church of England and the ancient and current trends in Islam. In one well-established sense, Paganism is the belief in any non-monotheistic religion, which would mean that the Pythagoreans of ancient Greece would not be considered Pagan in that sense, since they were monotheist, but not in the Abrahamic tradition. In an extreme sense, and like the pejorative sense below, any belief, ritual or pastime not sanctioned by a religion accepted
as orthodox by those doing the describing, such as Burning Man, Halloween, or even Christmas, can be described as Pagan by the person or people who object to them.
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