What is the difference between a Pagan and a Heathen in today's world?

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Is “Heathen” just an outdated term?
I have a beloved Pagan in my extended family, whose heart resonates with the Old Gods.
I would never feel right calling him a Heathen.
Is “Heathen” an insult?

15 Comments

  1. Heathen is a word that simply means “of the Earth” and since Paganism is an Earth based religion I don’t think it should cause any trouble. I myself am Pagan and would take no offense to being called Heathen. I suggest that you talk to him about it and find out his views.

  2. In general, in today’s world, the term Paganism is a broad, umbrella term that encompasses a wide variety of Earth-based spiritual paths, of which Heathenism is one. Meaning “of the heath” it was, as far as I can tell, originally meant to be very pejorative, and was used to label a person as violent and uncivilized. Today, some pagans proudly refer to themselves as heathens, and are referring to themselves as members of this branch of Paganism.
    I got this definition:
    http://www.robinartisson.com/hnna.html
    It contains some good information as to how today’s heathens define themselves. I also got this definition:
    hea·thens or heathen
    1. Offensive
    a. One who adheres to the religion of a people or nation that does not acknowledge the God of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam.
    b. Such persons considered as a group; the unconverted.
    2. Heathen An adherent of a Neopagan religion that seeks to revive the religious beliefs and practices of the ancient Germanic peoples.
    3. Informal
    a. One who is regarded as irreligious, uncivilized, or unenlightened.
    b. Such persons considered as a group.
    Great question! As a non-heathen Pagan, I have often wondered this same thing.
    Bright Blessings,
    Lady Morgana

  3. See Lady Morgana. She seems to know the best. I’d have said that Paganism is specific, while being a heathen is generic and cultural.

  4. Heathen is a term generally used by Germanic Pagan religions. It has a more Germanic root, so those that follow the Germanic gods typically feel that it is a more accurate term for their religions. Heathens are a group within Paganism, but not all Pagans are Heathens. It’s not an insult, at least not in today’s religious connotation.
    Venus Bless

  5. Pagan is an umbrella term meaning all pre-christian polytheist beliefs and polytheist reconstructionisms (neo-paganism), while Heathenry is a term used specifically for Germanic and Norse polytheism.
    Heathen (capitalised) is not an insult, it’s the name of a faith… heathen (non-capitalised), however means someone uncivilised or an unbeliever.
    Whether it’s outdated or not – I don’t know, we pretty much reclaimed it by now.

  6. Heathen is that of the Norse religion. Pagan is just a broad word for many religion including Wicca. I am an heathen who believe in the Norse gods. Heathen is a specific religion.

  7. Everyone who does not acknowledge Jesus Christ as the son of God is a pagan/heathen. Everyone who thinks there are many gods: is a pagan/heathen. There is only 1 way to know the 1 true God: Jesus Christ died for all that we might have eternal life. We repent of our sins and become born again – we choose to follow the way, the Truth, and the life: Jesus Christ – to God, and Eternity. This is how you know the difference between Truth and lies: Traditions of man focus on pleasing man (humans) and pretend that they have secret powers and will live forever. The Truth is to live to please God and know that He has all the power.. This is only possible through acceptance of the gift of eternal life, through Jesus Christ, and a willingness to follow Him and His ways. The son of God. That is reality. Not some fairy tale.
    Pagan, heathen, all the same: poor lost souls – confused people. Repent and accept Jesus to live forever. God will NOT refuse anybody.

    • Well I’m about two years late to the conversation. But, I would like to point out that Heathens “in general” don’t really have plans to live for ever as you suggest. Yet funny thing is, you say that “the way” of Christians is to accept the everlasting light. Seems rather contradictory to me. Perhaps that is why more and more people seem to be looking into pre Christian religions.

    • You are an uneducated potato, Pagans were around way before you eastern religion. You can stick your false religion where the sun don,t shine. Pagans are not child molesters and Christians are.

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