FAQ: Paganism Questions

Table of contents
» What is the definition of pagan?
» Pagan vs. Heathen
» Is paganism a religion?
» Is witchcraft a religion?

What is the definition of pagan?
The dictionary as has several definitions of pagan but the one used in the pagan community to define itself is anyone who doesn't adhere to a Judeo-Christian/Islamic religion or an offshoot.

That covers a lot of ground and can be controversial. Some groups add the codicil "and/or who self identifies as pagan".

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Pagan vs. Heathen
Does pagan and heathen mean the same thing?

Sort of.

The Romans called country dwellers "pagani". Those country folk were not converted to Christianity until sometime after the city folk. So pagan came to mean someone who was a little backward and was still practicing the old country ways instead of the hip and happenin' new religion like the city folk.

The Old English word Heathen has a similar derivation, meaning someone who lives on the Heath which is a kind of barren countryside.

From there both words came to mean unbeliever.

In the modern pagan community Heathen is usually used to refer to Germanic pagans.


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Is paganism a religion?
No. Paganism is not a religion. Paganism is an umbrella term that covers many different belief systems (often referred to as "paths"). Some are related to each other and some are not.

The most well known pagan paths, Wicca and Asatru, have very little in common with each other.

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Is witchcraft a religion?
No. Witchcraft is a magical system which can be practiced by a person of any religion or no religion.

There are religions for whom witchcraft is an integral part of religious life such as Wicca. There are magical systems that require no religious affiliation such as Hoodoo.

There are also people who consider themselves to be Jewish Witches, Christian Witches and Atheist Witches.

There's a saying in the pagan community, "All Wiccans are witches but not all witches are Wiccan." Try saying that 3 times fast.

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