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Author Topic: Pagan vs Heathen  (Read 9278 times)
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« Topic Start: January 03, 2008, 09:12:44 pm »

Can someone explain to me why some people here differentiate between pagan and heathen?

A heathen is someone who doesn't believe in the JCI god. So is a pagan. So obviously they are not using the standard definition.

What is meant when someone says they are a heathen rather than a pagan?
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« Reply #1: January 03, 2008, 09:24:04 pm »

Can someone explain to me why some people here differentiate between pagan and heathen?

A heathen is someone who doesn't believe in the JCI god. So is a pagan. So obviously they are not using the standard definition.

What is meant when someone says they are a heathen rather than a pagan?


From my understanding (and I know it is not all that much!)  a Pagan is anyone not following one of the three Abrahamic religions.  A Heathen on the other hand, is one who follows an Ethnic tradition/religion. 

All Heathens are Pagans, but not all Pagans are Heathens.
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« Reply #2: January 03, 2008, 09:38:43 pm »

A heathen is someone who doesn't believe in the JCI god. So is a pagan. So obviously they are not using the standard definition.

Those are the dictionary definitions and dictionaries report the common uses of words, not usually the way words are used in specialized areas.


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What is meant when someone says they are a heathen rather than a pagan?

More often than not, a non-Christians who calls themselves "Heathen" are followers of of the "Norse" religions: Asatru, Odinism, etc.
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« Reply #3: January 03, 2008, 10:53:00 pm »

Those are the dictionary definitions and dictionaries report the common uses of words, not usually the way words are used in specialized areas.

Exactly.

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More often than not, a non-Christians who calls themselves "Heathen" are followers of of the "Norse" religions: Asatru, Odinism, etc.

Thank you. That is what I wanted to know  Smiley
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« Reply #4: January 04, 2008, 03:19:02 pm »

heathen is a word that means heath dweller or hills dweller. It was taken by the Christians to mean anyone who was an infedel back during the Crusades in the 300-500 ad era. Pagan is a more modern term and usually applies to anyone whose religion is not Jewish/Christian/Islamic or Bhuddist. Because the word heathen has been used as an insult term by Christians for so many hundreds of years most people who follow a mystery religion that do not call themselves atheist or agnostic prefer Pagan at least in the USA
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« Reply #5: January 04, 2008, 03:32:36 pm »

heathen is a word that means heath dweller or hills dweller. It was taken by the Christians to mean anyone who was an infedel back during the Crusades in the 300-500 ad era. Pagan is a more modern term and usually applies to anyone whose religion is not Jewish/Christian/Islamic or Bhuddist. Because the word heathen has been used as an insult term by Christians for so many hundreds of years most people who follow a mystery religion that do not call themselves atheist or agnostic prefer Pagan at least in the USA
Er, the term "pagan" goes back to the early days of Christianity in Rome and was derived from the Roman army's disparaging term for civilian country folk.  Not sure where the term "heathen" originated, but neither was meant as a compliment.  And even if "heathen" was coined the crusades, that would be the around 1090CE at the earliest.
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« Reply #6: January 04, 2008, 04:53:44 pm »

heathen is a word that means heath dweller or hills dweller. It was taken by the Christians to mean anyone who was an infedel back during the Crusades in the 300-500 ad era. Pagan is a more modern term and usually applies to anyone whose religion is not Jewish/Christian/Islamic or Bhuddist. Because the word heathen has been used as an insult term by Christians for so many hundreds of years most people who follow a mystery religion that do not call themselves atheist or agnostic prefer Pagan at least in the USA

ummm - no. You have the ages of those words reversed for a start.

Er, the term "pagan" goes back to the early days of Christianity in Rome and was derived from the Roman army's disparaging term for civilian country folk.  Not sure where the term "heathen" originated, but neither was meant as a compliment.  And even if "heathen" was coined the crusades, that would be the around 1090CE at the earliest.


Yes - from the Latin paganus=village.
It was picked up form there by the church C14th to mean much the same thing - still civilian but this time not a soldier of God.

Heathen comes from the Old English hæthen It hasthe same meaning as pagan but also has the meaning barbaric, uncivilized.

Latin predates Old English by a long shot. And so do the crusades.

One of the reasons I asked is because is because heathen is commonly used as an insult so I wondered why they would prefer it topagan but I think I just figured out a perfectly good reason for Asatru/Norse/Germanic religion followers to use it. If it is an Old English word it will have a Germanic root somewhere. I can see why a Germanic word would be preferable to a Latin word for those people.

The main reason I asked is  if someone says "I follow a  Heathen path" it is meaningless to me if I don't know which paths refer to themselves as Heathen because I only have the dictionary definition of the word to go on - not the special purpose meaning applied here. That information has been supplied so now I will know what the Heathens here are referring to.

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« Reply #7: January 04, 2008, 11:19:23 pm »

One of the reasons I asked is because is because heathen is commonly used as an insult so I wondered why they would prefer it topagan but I think I just figured out a perfectly good reason for Asatru/Norse/Germanic religion followers to use it. If it is an Old English word it will have a Germanic root somewhere. I can see why a Germanic word would be preferable to a Latin word for those people.
<nod> Certainly that's the reasoning I've always heard given when someone says, "I'm not a Pagan, I'm a Heathen."

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« Reply #8: January 05, 2008, 05:07:54 am »

Those are the dictionary definitions and dictionaries report the common uses of words, not usually the way words are used in specialized areas.

More often than not, a non-Christians who calls themselves "Heathen" are followers of of the "Norse" religions: Asatru, Odinism, etc.

The 'dictionary definintions', as you say, are the definintions that I believe would be understood by the majority of people- those possibly not familiar with the different branches of Paganism. A lot of my family, for instance, hear the word 'heathen' used often in the Bible and in Christian sermons to denote somebody who does not follow their God. But then again, I remember hearing the word 'Pagan' used to denote this same thing during mass at my high school...hmm...

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« Reply #9: January 05, 2008, 09:33:36 am »

Can someone explain to me why some people here differentiate between pagan and heathen?
A heathen is someone who doesn't believe in the JCI god. So is a pagan. So obviously they are not using the standard definition.
What is meant when someone says they are a heathen rather than a pagan?


Both words, Pagan and Heathen are derogatory in nature. Both came to mean "bumpkin" (foolish country folk.) When applied to religion, they meant a foolish person who clung to old beliefs and Gods.

So, if you don't think clinging to old Gods is foolish, you don't see the term as derogatory, but wear it with pride.

A similar idea can be applied to the state of Indiana. The residents call themselves Hoosiers, although it is defined as a derogatory term in dictionaries (meaning bumpkin or country rustic). Hoosiers are proud to be country folk.

The link below gives more examples of derogatory words becoming words of pride (Yankee for example)

http://education.yahoo.com/reference/dictionary/entry/Hoosier
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« Reply #10: January 05, 2008, 11:28:36 am »

A similar idea can be applied to the state of Indiana. The residents call themselves Hoosiers, although it is defined as a derogatory term in dictionaries (meaning bumpkin or country rustic). Hoosiers are proud to be country folk.

That's news to me...  I've heard many explanations for the origin of the term, but this is the first time I've ever heard the one in the link you posted.  The more common explanations I've heard (although as I understand it there is no definitive explanation) involve a regional dialect, but with the word portrayed as a compression of "who's there" (as when greeting someone knocking at the door) or possibly "whose ear" (I'm less clear on this one), not as a word used to refer to big things.  Huh

Which is to say, I doubt most Hoosiers use the term because we're "proud to be country folk" and reclaiming the term or something.  Rather, I suspect most of us have just never heard it was supposed to be derogatory, which I don't think is quite the same as what you're describing.  (And in fact I would argue that the word has lost all derogatory meaning by this point.  Possibly excepting when used in the right tone of voice in our good-natured rivalry with Kentucky.)  Most Pagans and Heathens are well aware that those terms are used in a derogatory way by some people and choose to use the terms for their own reasons.
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« Reply #11: January 05, 2008, 11:30:13 am »

Us heathens prefer the term precisely because it is Germanic in root. Northern Europe, with the exception of part of the British Isles, was never conquered by the Roman Empire. so, sure it may be childish, but it's our way of thumbing our noses at the southerners Smiley. It's one of *our* words, not one that came from Latin.
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« Reply #12: January 05, 2008, 11:47:28 am »

so, sure it may be childish, but it's our way of thumbing our noses at the southerners Smiley. It's one of *our* words, not one that came from Latin.

which is actually a perfect reason for using it.
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« Reply #13: January 05, 2008, 01:35:04 pm »

That's news to me...  I've heard many explanations for the origin of the term, but this is the first time I've ever heard the one in the link you posted.  The more common explanations I've heard (although as I understand it there is no definitive explanation) involve a regional dialect, but with the word portrayed as a compression of "who's there" (as when greeting someone knocking at the door) or possibly "whose ear" (I'm less clear on this one), not as a word used to refer to big things.  Huh

My Da's from Indiana and always used to say it was short for 'who's your daddy' and no one else in the family could seem to come up with a better explanation Tongue .
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« Reply #14: January 05, 2008, 08:14:18 pm »

heathen is a word that means heath dweller or hills dweller. It was taken by the Christians to mean anyone who was an infedel back during the Crusades in the 300-500 ad era.

Your about 6 centuries or more early.   I believe the first cursade was in the late 11th c.

In the 300-500  ad time frame there were still many 'pagan' or 'heathen' in central Europe and northward.  There waere no Muslims.  Scandinavia became Christian 1000 ad by edic of Olaf, King of Norway, better known today as St. Olaf.  Convert or die, it is a fast way to enlarg the faith.
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