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Paganism (from
classical Latin Classical Latin is the form of Latin, Latin language recognized as a Literary language, literary standard language, standard by writers of the late Roman Republic and early Roman Empire. It was used from 75 BC to the 3rd century AD, when it deve ...
''pāgānus'' "rural", "rustic", later "civilian") is a term first used in the fourth century by
early Christians The history of Christianity concerns the Christian religion Christianity is an Abrahamic The Abrahamic religions, also referred to collectively as the world of Abrahamism and Semitic religions, are a group of Semitic-originated religio ...
for people in the
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Roman Republic, Republican period of ancient Rome. As a polity it included large territorial holdings aro ...

Roman Empire
who practiced
polytheism Polytheism is the worship of or belief in multiple deities A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena that are not subject to the laws of nature.https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/supernatura ...
or
ethnic religion In religious studies, an ethnic religion is a religion or Belief#Religion, belief associated with a particular ethnic group. Ethnic religions are often distinguished from universalizing religion, universal religions, such as Christianity or Isla ...
s other than
Judaism Judaism is an Abrahamic The Abrahamic religions, also referred to collectively as the world of Abrahamism and Semitic religions, are a group of Semitic-originated religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of de ...
. In the time of the Roman empire, individuals fell into the pagan class either because they were increasingly rural and provincial relative to the Christian population, or because they were not '' milites Christi'' (soldiers of Christ).J. J. O'Donnell (1977)
''Paganus'': Evolution and Use
''Classical Folia'', 31: 163–69.
Alternative terms in Christian texts were ''
hellene
hellene
'', ''
gentile Gentile () is a word that usually means "someone who is not a Jews, Jew". Other groups claiming affiliation with Israelites, groups that claim Israelite heritage sometimes use the term ''gentile'' to describe outsiders, notably Mormons. More ...

gentile
'', and ''heathen''. Ritual sacrifice was an integral part of ancient Graeco-Roman religion and was regarded as an indication of whether a person was pagan or Christian. Paganism has broadly connoted the "religion of the peasantry". During and after the
Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the 5th to the late 15th centuries, similarly to the Post-classical, Post-classical period of global history. It began with the fall of the Western Roma ...
, the term ''paganism'' was applied to any non-Christian
religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and whether the exchange is voluntary/involuntary. Etymology ...

religion
, and the term presumed a belief in
false god The term ''false god'' is used in some monotheistic Monotheism is the belief in one god. A narrower definition of monotheism is the belief in the existence of only one god God, in monotheistic thought, is conceived of as the supreme being, ...
(s). The origin of the application of the term ''pagan'' to polytheism is debated.Davies, Owen (2011). ''Paganism: A Very Short Introduction''. New York: Oxford University Press. . In the 19th century, paganism was adopted as a self-descriptor by members of various artistic groups inspired by the
ancient world Ancient history is the aggregate of past eventsWordNet Search – 3.0
"History"
from t ...
. In the 20th century, it came to be applied as a self-descriptor by practitioners of
Modern Paganism Modern Paganism, also known as Contemporary Paganism and Neopaganism, is a collective term for religious movements influenced by or derived from the various Paganism, historical pagan beliefs of History of the world#Ancient history, pre-modern pe ...
, Neopagan movements and Polytheistic reconstructionists. Modern pagan traditions often incorporate beliefs or practices, such as nature worship, that are different from those in the largest world religions. Contemporary knowledge of old pagan religions and beliefs comes from several sources, including
anthropological Anthropology is the scientific study of human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality, opposable thumbs, hairlessness, and intelligence allowing the use of culture, ...
field research Field research, field studies, or fieldwork is the collection of raw data outside a laboratory A laboratory (, ; colloquially lab) is a facility that provides controlled conditions in which science, scientific or technological researc ...

field research
records, the evidence of
archaeological artifacts An artifact, or artefact (see American and British English spelling differences#Miscellaneous spelling differences, American and British English spelling differences), is a general term for an item made or given shape by humans, such as a tool o ...
, and the historical accounts of ancient writers regarding cultures known to
Classical antiquity Classical antiquity (also the classical era, classical period or classical age) is the period of cultural history between the 8th century BC and the 6th century AD centred on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ...
. Most modern pagan religions existing today (Modern or
Neopaganism Modern Paganism, also known as Contemporary Paganism and Neopaganism, is a collective term for new religious movements influenced by or derived from the various historical pagan beliefs of pre-modern peoples. Although they share similarities, ...
) express a
world view upright=1.8, Religious practices will tie closely to a religion's worldview. A worldview or world-view is the fundamental cognitive Cognition () refers to "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thoug ...
that is
pantheistic Pantheism is the belief that reality Reality is the sum or aggregate of all that is real or existent within a system, as opposed to that which is only Object of the mind, imaginary. The term is also used to refer to the ontological status o ...

pantheistic
,
panentheistic Panentheism ("all in God”), from the Greek ''pân'', "all", ''en'', "in" and ''Theós'', "God") is the belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is truth, t ...
, polytheistic or
animistic Animism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman R ...
, but some are
monotheistic Monotheism is the belief in one god. A narrower definition of monotheism is the belief in the existence of only one god God, in monotheistic thought, is conceived of as the supreme being, creator, and principal object of faith Faith, der ...
.


Nomenclature and etymology


Pagan

The term ''pagan'' is derived from
Late Latin Late Latin ( la, Latinitas serior) is the scholarly name for the written Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area ar ...
, revived during the
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in m ...
. Itself deriving from
classical Latin Classical Latin is the form of Latin, Latin language recognized as a Literary language, literary standard language, standard by writers of the late Roman Republic and early Roman Empire. It was used from 75 BC to the 3rd century AD, when it deve ...
which originally meant 'region delimited by markers', had also come to mean 'of or relating to the countryside', 'country dweller', 'villager'; by extension, ' rustic', 'unlearned', '
yokel Yokel is one of several derogatory terms referring to the stereotype Police officers buying doughnuts and coffee, an example of perceived stereotypical behavior in North America. In social psychology Social psychology is the Science, ...
', ' bumpkin'; in
Roman military The military of ancient Rome, according to Titus Livius, one of the more illustrious historians of Rome over the centuries, was a key element in the rise of Rome over “above seven hundred years” from a small settlement in Latium to the capital ...
jargon Jargon is the specialized terminology Terminology is a general word for the group of specialized words or meanings relating to a particular field, and also the study of such terms and their use. This is also known as terminology science. Terms a ...
, 'non-combatant', 'civilian', 'unskilled soldier'. It is related to ('to fasten', 'to fix or affix') and ultimately comes from
Proto-Indo-European Proto-Indo-European (PIE) is the theorized common ancestor of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( s ...
''*pag-'' ('to fix' in the same sense).
Medieval In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of w ...

Medieval
writers often assumed that ''paganus'' as a religious term was a result of the conversion patterns during the Christianization of Europe, where people in towns and cities were converted more easily than those in remote regions, where old ways tended to remain. However, this idea has multiple problems. First, the word's usage as a reference to non-Christians pre-dates that period in history. Second, paganism within the Roman Empire centred on cities. The concept of an urban Christianity as opposed to a rural paganism would not have occurred to Romans during
Early Christianity The history of Christianity concerns the Christianity, Christian religion, Christendom, Christian countries, and the Christian Church, Church with its various Christian denomination, denominations, from the Christianity in the 1st century, 1st ...
. Third, unlike words such as ''rusticitas'', ''paganus'' had not yet fully acquired the meanings (of uncultured backwardness) used to explain why it would have been applied to pagans. ''Paganus'' more likely acquired its meaning in Christian nomenclature via Roman military jargon (see above). Early Christians adopted military motifs and saw themselves as '' Milites Christi'' (soldiers of Christ). A good example of Christians still using ''paganus'' in a military context rather than religious is in
Tertullian Tertullian (; la, Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus; 155 AD – 220 AD) was a prolific early Christian The history of Christianity concerns the Christianity, Christian religion, Christendom, Christian countries, and the Chr ...

Tertullian
's ''De Corona Militis'' XI.V, where the Christian is referred to as ''paganus'' (''civilian''): ''Paganus'' acquired its religious connotations by the mid-4th century. As early as the 5th century, ''paganos'' was metaphorically used to denote persons outside the bounds of the Christian community. Following the sack of Rome by the
Visigoths The Visigoths (; la, Visigothi, Wisigothi, Vesi, Visi, Wesi, Wisi) were an early Germanic people Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples The historical Germanic peoples (from lat, Germani) are a category of ancient northern European tr ...
just over fifteen years after the
Christian persecution of paganism under Theodosius I The Persecution of pagans under Theodosius I Theodosius I ( grc-gre, Θεοδόσιος; 11 January 347 – 17 January 395), also called Theodosius the Great, was Roman emperor from 379 to 395. He is best known for making Christianity th ...
, murmurs began to spread that the old gods had taken greater care of the city than the Christian God. In response, wrote ''De Civitate Dei Contra Paganos'' ('The City of God against the Pagans'). In it, he contrasted the fallen "city of Man" to the "city of God" of which all Christians were ultimately citizens. Hence, the foreign invaders were "not of the city" or "rural". The term pagan is not attested in the English language until the 17th century. In addition to ''
infidel ''Infidel'' (literally "unfaithful") is a term used in certain religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality, morals, beliefs, worldviews, religious text, ...
'' and ''
heretic Heresy is any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs, in particular the accepted beliefs of a church or religious organization. The term is usually used in reference to violations of important religi ...
'', it was used as one of several
pejorative A pejorative or slur is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. ...
Christian counterparts to ''
gentile Gentile () is a word that usually means "someone who is not a Jews, Jew". Other groups claiming affiliation with Israelites, groups that claim Israelite heritage sometimes use the term ''gentile'' to describe outsiders, notably Mormons. More ...
'' ( / ) as used in Judaism, and to ''
kafir Kafir ( ar, كافر '; plural ', ' or '; feminine '; feminine plural ' or ') is an Arabic term which, in the Islamic tradition, refers to a person who disbelieves in God as per Islam, or denies his authority, or rejects the tenets of I ...

kafir
'' (, 'unbeliever') and ''
mushrik In Islam, ''shirk'' ( ar, شرك ''širk'') is the sin of idolatry in Islam, idolatry or polytheism (''i.e.'', the deification or worship of anyone or anything besides Allah). Islam teaches that God in Islam, God does not share His divine attribut ...
'' (, 'idolater') as in Islam.


Hellene

In the Latin-speaking
Western Roman Empire The Western Roman Empire comprises the western provinces of the Roman Empire at any time during which they were administered by a separate independent Imperial court; in particular, this term is used in historiography to describe the period from ...

Western Roman Empire
of the newly Christianizing Roman Empire,
Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. "Common Greek"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek, was the koiné language, common supra-regional form of Greek language, Greek spoken and written d ...
became associated with the traditional polytheistic religion of
Ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a civilization belonging to a period of History of Greece, Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of Classical Antiquity, antiquity ( AD 600). This era was ...
, and regarded as a foreign language (''lingua peregrina'') in the west. By the latter half of the 4th century in the Greek-speaking
Eastern Empire The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages ...

Eastern Empire
, pagans were—paradoxically—most commonly called ''Hellenes'' (, lit. 'Greeks'). The word almost entirely ceased being used in a cultural sense. It retained that meaning for roughly the first millennium of Christianity. This was influenced by Christianity's early members, who were
Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and nation originating from the Israelites Israelite origins and kingdom: "The first act in the long drama of Jewish history is t ...
. The Jews of the time distinguished themselves from foreigners according to religion rather than -
cultural Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and Norm (social), norms found in human Society, societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, Social norm, customs, capabilities, and habits of the individuals in ...

cultural
standards, and early Jewish Christians would have done the same. Since Hellenic culture was the dominant pagan culture in the Roman east, they referred to pagans as Hellenes. Christianity inherited Jewish terminology for non-Jews and adapted it in order to refer to non-Christians with whom they were in contact. This usage is recorded in the
New Testament The New Testament grc, Ἡ Καινὴ Διαθήκη, Transliteration, transl. ; la, Novum Testamentum. (NT) is the second division of the Christian biblical canon. It discusses the teachings and person of Jesus in Christianity, Jesus, as w ...

New Testament
. In the
Pauline epistles The Pauline epistles, also known as Epistles of Paul or Letters of Paul, are the thirteen books of the New Testament attributed to Paul the Apostle, although the authorship of some is in dispute. Among these epistles are some of the earliest extant ...
, ''Hellene'' is almost always juxtaposed with ''Hebrew'' regardless of actual ethnicities. The usage of Hellene as a religious term was initially part of an exclusively Christian nomenclature, but some Pagans began to defiantly call themselves Hellenes. Other pagans even preferred the narrow meaning of the word from a broad cultural sphere to a more specific religious grouping. However, there were many Christians and pagans alike who strongly objected to the evolution of the terminology. The influential
Archbishop of Constantinople The ecumenical patriarch ( el, Οἰκουμενικός Πατριάρχης, translit=Oikoumenikós Patriárchis; tr, Konstantinopolis ekümenik patriği) is the archbishop of Constantinople la, Constantinopolis , alternate_name = Byzant ...
Gregory of Nazianzus Gregory of Nazianzus ( el, Γρηγόριος ὁ Ναζιανζηνός, ''Grēgorios ho Nazianzēnos''; c. 329''Liturgy of the Hours'' Volume I, Proper of Saints, 2 January. – 25 January 390), also known as Gregory the Theologian or Grego ...

Gregory of Nazianzus
, for example, took offence at imperial efforts to suppress Hellenic culture (especially concerning spoken and written Greek) and he openly criticized the emperor. The growing religious stigmatization of Hellenism had a
chilling effect In a legal context, a chilling effect is the inhibition or discouragement of the legitimate exercise of natural and legal rights by the threat of legal sanction. A chilling effect may be caused by legal actions such as the passing of a law, th ...
on Hellenic culture by the late 4th century. By late antiquity, however, it was possible to speak Greek as a primary language while not conceiving of oneself as a Hellene. The long-established use of Greek both in and around the
Eastern Roman Empire The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn R ...

Eastern Roman Empire
as a
lingua franca A lingua franca (; ; for plurals see ), also known as a bridge language, common language, trade language, auxiliary language, vehicular language, or link language, is a language or dialect The term dialect (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a ...
ironically allowed it to instead become central in enabling the spread of Christianity—as indicated for example by the use of Greek for the Epistles of Paul. In the first half of the 5th century, Greek was the standard language in which bishops communicated, and the ''Acta Conciliorum'' ("Acts of the Church Councils") were recorded originally in Greek and then translated into other languages.


Heathen

Heathen__NOTOC__ Heathen or Heathens may refer to: Religion *Heathen, another name for a pagan Paganism (from classical Latin ''pāgānus'' "rural", "rustic", later "civilian") is a term first used pejoratively in the fourth century by early Christia ...
comes from
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventu ...
''hæðen'' (not Christian or Jewish); cf.
Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic languages, North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and th ...
. This meaning for the term originated from
Gothic Gothic or Gothics may refer to: People and languages *Goths or Gothic people, the ethnonym of a group of East Germanic tribes **Gothic language, an extinct East Germanic language spoken by the Goths **Crimean Gothic, the Gothic language spoken by ...
(
gentile Gentile () is a word that usually means "someone who is not a Jews, Jew". Other groups claiming affiliation with Israelites, groups that claim Israelite heritage sometimes use the term ''gentile'' to describe outsiders, notably Mormons. More ...

gentile
woman) being used to translate Hellene in Wulfila's Bible, the first translation of the
Bible The Bible (from Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. "Common Greek"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek, was the koiné language, common supra-regional form of Greek ...

Bible
into a
Germanic language The Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most ...

Germanic language
. This may have been influenced by the Greek and Latin terminology of the time used for pagans. If so, it may be derived from Gothic (dwelling on the
heath A heath () is a shrubland Shrubland, scrubland, scrub, brush, or bush is a plant community characterized by vegetation dominance (ecology), dominated by shrubs, often also including grasses, Herbaceous plant, herbs, and geophytes. Shrubland m ...

heath
). However, this is not attested. It may even be a borrowing of Greek () via
Armenian Armenian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Armenia, a country in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia * Armenians, the national people of Armenia, or people of Armenian descent ** Armenian language, the Indo-European language spoken ...
. The term has recently been revived in the forms Heathenry and Heathenism (often but not always capitalized), as alternative names for the Germanic neopagan movement, adherents of which may self-identify as Heathens.


Definition

Defining paganism is complex and problematic. Understanding the context of its associated terminology is important.
Early Christian The history of Christianity concerns the Christianity, Christian religion, Christendom, Christian countries, and the Christian Church, Church with its various Christian denomination, denominations, from the Christianity in the 1st century, 1st ...
s referred to the diverse array of
cults In modern English, a cult is a social group In the social sciences, a social group can be defined as two or more people who interact with one another, share similar characteristics, and collectively have a sense of unity. Regardless, soci ...
around them as a single group for reasons of convenience and
rhetoric Rhetoric () is the art Art is a diverse range of (products of) human activities involving creative imagination to express technical proficiency, beauty, emotional power, or conceptual ideas. There is no generally agreed definition ...
. While paganism generally implies
polytheism Polytheism is the worship of or belief in multiple deities A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena that are not subject to the laws of nature.https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/supernatura ...
, the primary distinction between classical pagans and Christians was not one of
monotheism Monotheism is the belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is truth, true. In epistemology, philosophers use the term "belief" to refer to attitudes about the w ...
versus polytheism, as not all pagans were strictly polytheist. Throughout history, many of them believed in a supreme
deity A deity or god is a supernatural being considered divinity, divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' defines deity as "a God (male deity), god or goddess (in a polytheistic religion)", or anything revered as divine. C. Scott Littlet ...

deity
. However, most such pagans believed in a class of subordinate gods/
daimon Daemon is the Latin word for the Ancient Greek daimon (δαίμων: "god", "godlike", "power", "fate"), which originally referred to a lesser deity or guiding spirit such as the daemons of ancient Greek religion and Greek mythology, mythology a ...
s—see
henotheism Henotheism () is the worship of a single, overarching god God, in monotheistic thought, is conceived of as the supreme being, creator, and principal object of faith Faith, derived from Latin ''fides'' and Old French ''feid'', is confide ...
—or divine emanations. To Christians, the most important distinction was whether or not someone worshipped the '' one true God''. Those who did not (polytheist, monotheist, or
atheist Atheism, in the broadest sense, is an absence of belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is truth, true. In epistemology, philosophers use the term "bel ...

atheist
) were outsiders to the
Church Church may refer to: Religion * Church (building) A church building, church house, or simply church, is a building used for Christian worship services and other Christian religious activities. The term is used to refer to the physical build ...

Church
and thus considered pagan. Similarly, classical pagans would have found it peculiar to distinguish groups by the number of
deities A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena or entities that are not subject to the laws of nature. This term is attributed to non-physical entities, such as angel An angel is a supernatural ...
followers venerate. They would have considered the priestly colleges (such as the
College of Pontiffs A college (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman ...
or
Epulones The (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, ...
) and cult practices more meaningful distinctions. Referring to paganism as pre-Christian indigenous religions is equally untenable. Not all historical pagan traditions were pre-Christian or indigenous to their places of worship. Owing to the history of its nomenclature, paganism traditionally encompasses the collective pre- and non-Christian cultures in and around the classical world; including those of the Greco-Roman, Celtic, Germanic, and Slavic tribes. However, modern parlance of
folklorist Folklore studies, also known as folkloristics, and occasionally tradition studies or folk life studies in the United Kingdom, is the branch of anthropology devoted to the study of folklore. This term, along with its synonyms,According to Alan Du ...
s and contemporary pagans in particular has extended the original four millennia scope used by early Christians to include similar religious traditions stretching far into
prehistory Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history between the use of the first stone tools by hominins 3.3 million years ago and the invention of writing systems. The use of symbols, marks, and images appears very ...
.


Perception

Paganism came to be equated by Christians with a sense of hedonism, representing those who are sensual, materialistic, self-indulgent, unconcerned with the future, and uninterested in more mainstream religions. Pagans were usually described within this worldly
stereotype Police officers buying doughnuts and coffee, an example of perceived stereotypical behavior in North America. Social psychology Social psychology is the Science, scientific study of how the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of individu ...
, especially among those drawing attention to what they perceived as the limitations of paganism. Thus wrote: "The 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." In sharp contrast, the poet would comment on this same theme: "Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean; the world has grown grey from thy breath; We have drunken of things Lethean, and fed on the fullness of death."


Ethnocentrism

Recently, the
ethnocentric Ethnocentrism in social science and anthropology Anthropology is the Science, scientific study of humanity, concerned with human behavior, human biology, cultures, and society, societies, in both the present and past, including Homo, past ...
and moral absolutist origins of the common usage of the term pagan have been acknowledged, with scholar David Petts noting how, with particular reference to Christianity, "...local religions are defined in opposition to privileged 'world religions'; they become everything that world religions are not, rather than being explored as a subject in their own right." In addition, Petts notes how various spiritual, religious, and metaphysical ideas branded as "pagan" from diverse cultures were studied in opposition to Abrahamism in early anthropology, a binary he links to ethnocentrism and colonialism.


History


Pre-History

*Prehistoric religion **Paleolithic religion


Bronze Age to Early Iron Age

* Religions of the ancient Near East ** Ancient Egyptian religion ** Ancient Semitic religion ** Ancient Iranian religion ** Ancient Mesopotamian religion


Classical antiquity

Ludwig Feuerbach defined the paganism of classical antiquity, which he termed ('heathenry') as "the unity of religion and politics, of spirit and nature, of god and man", qualified by the observation that man in the pagan view is always defined by ethnicity, i.e. Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Norse etc., so that each pagan tradition is also a national tradition. Modern historians define paganism instead as the aggregate of cult acts, set within a civic rather than a national context, without a written creed or sense of orthodoxy.


Late Antiquity and Christianization

The developments in the religious thought of the far-flung
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Roman Republic, Republican period of ancient Rome. As a polity it included large territorial holdings aro ...

Roman Empire
during Late Antiquity need to be addressed separately, because this is the context in which
Early Christianity The history of Christianity concerns the Christianity, Christian religion, Christendom, Christian countries, and the Christian Church, Church with its various Christian denomination, denominations, from the Christianity in the 1st century, 1st ...
itself developed as one of several monotheistic cults, and it was in this period that the concept of pagan developed in the first place. As Christianity emerged from Second Temple Judaism (or Hellenistic Judaism), it stood in competition with other religions advocating pagan monotheism, including the cults of Dionysus, Neoplatonism, Mithraism, Gnosticism, and Manichaeanism. Dionysus in particular exhibits significant parallels with Christ, so that numerous scholars have concluded that the recasting of historical Jesus, Jesus the wandering rabbi into the image of Christ the Logos, the divine saviour, reflects the cult of Dionysus directly. They point to the symbolism of wine and the importance it held in the mythology surrounding both Dionysus and Jesus Christ; Wick argues that the use of wine religious symbolism, symbolism in the Gospel of John, including the story of the Marriage at Cana at which Jesus turns water into wine, was intended to show Jesus as superior to Dionysus. The scene in ''The Bacchae'' wherein Dionysus appears before King Pentheus on charges of claiming divinity is compared to the New Testament scene of Jesus being interrogated by Pontius Pilate.Powell, Barry B., ''Classical Myth'' Second ed. With new translations of ancient texts by Herbert M. Howe. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1998.


Islam in Arabia

Arabic paganism gradually disappeared during prophet Muhammad's era through Islamization.Muhammad Saed Abdul-Rahman
Tafsir Ibn Kathir Juz' 2 (Part 2): Al-Baqarah 142 to Al-Baqarah 252 2nd Edition
p. 139, MSA Publication Limited, 2009, .
online
The sacred months of the Arab pagans were the 1st, 7th, 11th and 12th months of the Islamic calendar.Mubarakpuri
The Sealed Nectar (Free Version)
p. 129
After Muhammad had conquered Mecca he set out to convert the pagans. One of the last military campaigns that Muhammad ordered against the Arab pagans was the Demolition of Dhul Khalasa. It occurred in April and May 632 AD, in 10AH of the Islamic Calendar. Dhul Khalasa is referred to as both an idol and a temple, and it was known by some as the Ka'ba of Yemen, built and worshipped by pagan tribes..


Early Modern period

Interest in pagan traditions was first revived during the Renaissance, when Renaissance magic was practiced as a revival of Greco-Roman magic. In the 17th century, the description of paganism turned from a theological aspect to an ethnology, ethnological one, and religions began to be understood as part of the ethnic identities of peoples, and the study of the religions of so-called primitive peoples triggered questions as to the ultimate historical origin of religion. Thus, Nicolas Fabri de Peiresc saw the pagan religions of Africa of his day as relics that were in principle capable of shedding light on the historical paganism of Classical Antiquity.


Romanticism

Paganism resurfaces as a topic of fascination in 18th to 19th-century Romanticism, in particular in the context of the literary Celtic Revival, Celtic and Viking Revival, Viking revivals, which portrayed historical Celtic polytheism, Celtic and Germanic polytheism, Germanic polytheists as noble savages. The 19th century also saw much scholarly interest in the reconstruction of pagan mythology from folklore or fairy tales. This was notably attempted by the Brothers Grimm, especially Jacob Grimm in his ''Teutonic Mythology'', and Elias Lönnrot with the compilation of the ''Kalevala''. The work of the Brothers Grimm influenced other collectors, both inspiring them to collect tales and leading them to similarly believe that the fairy tales of a country were particularly representative of it, to the neglect of cross-cultural influence. Among those influenced were the Russian Alexander Afanasyev, the Norwegians Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe, and the Englishman Joseph Jacobs. Romanticist interest in non-classical antiquity coincided with the rise of Romantic nationalism and the rise of the nation state in the context of the 1848 revolutions, leading to the creation of ''national epics'' and national myths for the various newly formed states. Pagan or folkloric topics were also common in the musical nationalism of the period.


Modern Paganism

Modern Paganism Modern Paganism, also known as Contemporary Paganism and Neopaganism, is a collective term for religious movements influenced by or derived from the various Paganism, historical pagan beliefs of History of the world#Ancient history, pre-modern pe ...
, or Neopaganism, includes polytheistic reconstructionism, reconstructed religions such as Roman Polytheistic Reconstructionism, Hellenism (religion), Hellenism, Slavic Native Faith, Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism, or Heathenry (new religious movement), heathenry, as well as modern eclectic traditions such as Wicca and its many offshoots, Neo-Druidism, and Discordianism. However, there often exists a distinction or separation between some polytheistic reconstructionists such as Hellenism and revivalist neopagans like Wiccans. The divide is over numerous issues such as the importance of accurate orthopraxy according to ancient sources available, the use and concept of magic, which calendar to use and which holidays to observe, as well as the use of the term pagan itself. Many of the revivals, Wicca and Neo-Druidism in particular, have their roots in 19th century Romanticism and retain noticeable elements of occultism or Theosophy (Blavatskian), Theosophy that were current then, setting them apart from historical rural () folk religion. Most modern pagans, however, believe in the divine character of the natural world and paganism is often described as an Earth religion. There are a number of neopagan authors who have examined the relation of the 20th-century movements of polytheistic revival with historical polytheism on one hand and contemporary traditions of folk religion on the other. Isaac Bonewits introduced a terminology to make this distinction."Defining Paganism: Paleo-, Meso-, and Neo-"
Version 2.5.1) 1979, 2007 c.e., Isaac Bonewits
;Neopaganism: The overarching contemporary pagan revival movement which focuses on nature-revering/living, pre-Christian religions and/or other nature-based spiritual paths, and frequently incorporating contemporary liberalism, liberal values. This definition may include groups such as Wicca, Neo-Druidism, Heathenry, and Slavic Native Faith. ;: A retronym coined to contrast with
Neopaganism Modern Paganism, also known as Contemporary Paganism and Neopaganism, is a collective term for new religious movements influenced by or derived from the various historical pagan beliefs of pre-modern peoples. Although they share similarities, ...
, original polytheistic, nature-centered faiths, such as the pre-Hellenistic Ancient Greek religion, Greek and pre-imperial Religion in ancient Rome, Roman religion, pre-Migration period Germanic paganism as described by Tacitus, or Celtic polytheism as described by Julius Caesar. ;: 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 Indigenous peoples of the Americas, aboriginal Americans as well as Aboriginal Australians, Viking Age Norse paganism and New Age spirituality. Influences include: Spiritualism (religious movement), Spiritualism, and the many Afro-Diasporic faiths like Haitian Vodou, Santería and Espiritu religion. Isaac Bonewits includes British Traditional Wicca in this subdivision. Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick in their ''A History of Pagan Europe'' (1995) classify pagan religions as characterized by the following traits: * Polytheism: Pagan religions recognise a plurality of divine beings, which may or may not be considered aspects of an underlying unity (the Polytheism#Soft versus hard, soft and hard polytheism distinction). * Earth religion, Nature-based: Some pagan religions have a concept of the divinity of nature, which they view as a manifestation of the divine, not as the fallen creation found in dualistic cosmology. * Sacred feminine: Some pagan religions recognize the female divine principle, identified as Goddess movement, the Goddess (as opposed to individual goddesses) beside or in place of the male divine principle as expressed in the Abrahamic God. In modern times, Heathen and Heathenry are increasingly used to refer to those branches of modern paganism inspired by the pre-Christian religions of the Germanic, Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon peoples. In Iceland, the members of ''Ásatrúarfélagið'' account for 0.4% of the total population, which is just over a thousand people. In Lithuania, many people practice Romuva (religion), Romuva, a revived version of the pre-Christian religion of that country. Lithuania was among the last areas of Europe to be Christianized. Odinism has been established on a formal basis in Australia since at least the 1930s.


Ethnic religions of pre-Christian Europe

* Albanian mythology * Baltic mythology * Basque mythology * Celtic polytheism * Etruscan mythology * Finnic mythologies * Germanic paganism * Ancient Greek religion * Hungarian Native Faith * Minoan religion * Mari Native Religion * Mordvin Native Religion * Norse mythology * Religion in ancient Rome * Sámi shamanism * Scythian religion * Slavic paganism


See also

* Animism * Astrotheology * Crypto-paganism * Dharmic religions * East Asian religions * Eleusinian Mysteries * Henotheism * Analytical psychology, Jungian psychology * Kemetism * List of Pagans * List of modern Pagan temples, Neopagan temples in Europe * List of Neopagan movements * List of religions and spiritual traditions * Myth and ritual * Naturalistic pantheism * Nature worship * Panentheism * Polytheism * Sentientism * Totemism


Notes


References

* * * Hua, Yih-Fen. book review to: Maria Effinger / Cornelia Logemann / Ulrich Pfisterer (eds): Götterbilder und Götzendiener in der Frühen Neuzeit. Europas Blick auf fremde Religionen. In: sehepunkte 13 (2013), Nr. 5 [15.05.2013], URL: http://www.sehepunkte.de/2013/05/21410.html. (Book review in English). * Robert, P. & Scott, N. (1995). ''A History of Pagan Europe''. New York, Barnes & Noble Books, . * York, Michael (2003). ''Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion'' NYU Press, .


External links

* * {{Authority control Paganism, Christian terminology Christianity in late antiquity Ancient Roman religion