Cernunnos,"The Horned One" - Paganism

The true meaning of Paganism

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The word "paganism" has come to refer to various pre-Christian religions belonging to a number of ancient cultures—those from Greece, Rome, Egypt, Scandinavia, and so on.  It has come to also represent, in some circles, the modern ideology of Wicca and the followers of revived versions of the old practices.  The truth about "paganism", however, is that it is a historically inaccurate phrase in the context of these aforementioned faiths.  Although it is now the accepted term for these religions, it is important to examine where the word truly came from and what it initially meant, allowing for a better, all-inclusive understanding of the world's religious past.

The term "paganism" was revived during the Renaissance when writers were trying to differentiate the old traditions from their contemporary Christian faith.  The term itself stems from the Latin paganus translated loosely along the lines of "country dweller" or "rustic"; thus it was initially a word describing a person of locality rather than a religion.  However, because of its usage in ancient texts, medieval authors mistakenly believed it referenced a religious sect and thereby gave it the corresponding connotation.  In actuality, there was a different word used to describe the "pagans" as they are called today, and that word too stemmed first and foremost from the location of the religious supporters.

According to scholar Peter Brown of Princeton University, "Hellene" was initially utilized in place of "paganism".  "Hellene" was a reference to Ἕλλην (Hellas), the native ancient Greek name for what is now called Greece.  Brown explains that when Christianity started making appearances in the eastern communities, "Hellene" was used to differentiate the non-Christians from the Christians.  Those from Hellas tended to remain faithful to the old religions, but with the strife between Judaism and Christianity beginning, the Jewish faction needed to ensure they were not incorrectly associated with them.  As they were not from Greece, "Hellene" became the perfect title.

An ancient temple devoted to the god Zeus

An ancient temple devoted to the god Zeus. Credit: MM, Public Domain

In the Latin west, it was more common for the various religions to refer to themselves by their ethnic origins rather than by the gods they worshipped—they simply referred to themselves (in their own language) as Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, etc., simultaneously insinuating their religious factions as well.  This form of labeling was largely due to the fact that the political and religious aspects of life were a unified entity.  Thus, the tradition of ethnic titling appears to have been continued by the early Christians.  As far as ancient sources can tell, it wasn't until the Late Roman Empire that the term "pagan" began to be used instead, as it was an easy way to lump all the non-Christians together in conversation, decrees, etc.   It rose to popularity as a matter of convenience rather than of accuracy and respect. 

It is important to note that "paganism" is not intended to differentiate the polytheistic religions from the monotheistic.  The number of gods does not apply to the term because many so-called "pagans" would have not considered it important to differentiate themselves based on the number of gods they worshipped.  Followers of the ancient religions did not necessarily have anything against Christianity based on its preference for a singular deity—many cults within each sect had a primary deity at the center of the religion, beneath which subordinate deities were also worshipped.  "Paganism" as a title was intended only to reference the non-Christians (and the non-Jews), isolating them into one solitary category that could be more easily destroyed and replaced.

The Triumph of Civilization

‘The Triumph of Civilization’ by Jacques Reattu ( Wikimedia). Many ancient religions were polytheistic and believed in a pantheon of gods.

This effort of combining all non-Christian religions under one umbrella was, in fact, a clever strategy by the early Christians to remove the "pagan" faiths altogether.  Using the Norse traditions as an example, the Vikings of the early medieval period had no true name for their religious following.  In truth, the word religion would have been an unknown, foreign term to them.  The Nordic tribes preferred the word "customs" as—like the Greeks and Romans—their rituals, beliefs, and traditions were undefined and fluidly interpreted, orally passed down rather than rigidly studied.  There was no all-encompassing word for the belief in the Aesir and Vanir, and the various other beings and deities the ancient Norse worshipped, and there was no written text discussing their practices until the Christian author Snorri Sturluson wrote their mythology down in the 13 th century. 

Detail of Runestone 181

Detail of Runestone 181, in Stockholm. Norse gods Odin, Thor and Freyr are represented as three men. Credit: Berig, Wikipedia


Imam interested in pre history

An overview of the historical tradition will help us to see how religion and history have the same origins and how easily the earliest depictions could have become misaligned and misconstrued.

Paganism is the term for those who believed in the oral traditions, which had been handed down for centuries. The remarkable uniformity of these tales extended beyond regional influence and long before the institution of religion gained its power. Read this excerpt explaining how the dominating Hebrew religion emerged and rendered the meaningful accounts about ancient gods as nothing more than myth.

Actually, the author of the link you posted made a common mistake. The Bible is NOT the oldest written history on record. Written records of the Vedas are far older.

As you live out your life, you are creating 'pre-history''. Eventually, given enough time, you will become pre-historic, relative to those who will come to live here in your place.So, do it well.

rbflooringinstall's picture

This is a really awesome article. Its crazy how distorted views and words information in general can get throughout history.

Peace and Love,


Great article!

I personally like the title of Pagan.... Despite it once being a discriminatory title...

I would agree that the meaning of the word Pagan is "country dweller" but it was assigned to people that worshipped in the old way, by people from the cities who worshipped new gods.

me thinks the more accurate authentic SPELL[ing be HA EL AN Ic ?

No, the correct, authentic spelling of Hellenic (which is the correct English spelling of the word in question) is ελληνικός.

Me engañaron, me dijeron que en Marzo ya iba a estar en funcionamienrto la página en castellano (español) y en unos dias estamos en Abril.
Igual los sigo leyendo.

ancient-origins's picture

Apologies for the delay Piccard. 28th of April is going to be the launch date of the Spanish site!




An interesting read

This is why those of us who follow the reconstructed Northern Way refer to ourselves as Heathen and not pagan. Furthermore, we recognize that much of what we know about the Old Gods comes through the lens of Christian monks. But we still work to reconstruct it as it is fits our souls better than the monotheistic one size fits all faiths of Christianity, Judaism,or gods forbid Islam.

Blue Clobalt, I have been tracking down my heritage and it has lead me to as you put it, being Heathen and following the customs of Norse. Can you give any more information, everything I find is limited... you seem to be saying the same things I am thinking. Blessings

Pagani or Pogani is an old Bulgarian word meaning casting ghosts and bad spirits away. Pogani days and nights are the period after Koleda (today Christmas) . Ancient Bulgarians were powerful magicians and enlightened wise men. They were the people of God Sun who they
Alen or Ba Alen or Bal. Alen gave the name Alada/Halada of the country which venerated the sun. Halada means Sun (Alen) gave (da). Ancient Bulgarians formed Hallada / Hellada as well as ancient religion which formed later on Christianity, islyam a judaism from the same basis.

Uuuhm, why the connection to Bulgaria? The ancients were ancients. The ancient Greeks identified themselfs as such and differentiated themselves from the barbarians which included what would be the ancient Bulgaria.

Pagani or Pogani is an old Bulgarian word meaning casting ghosts and bad spirits away. Pogani days and nights are the period after Koleda (today Christmas) . Ancient Bulgarians were powerful magicians and enlightened wise men. They were the people of God Sun who they
Alen or Ba Alen or Bal. Alen gave the name Alada/Halada of the country which venerated the sun. Halada means Sun (Alen) gave (da). Ancient Bulgarians formed Hallada / Hellada as well as ancient religion which formed later on Christianity, islyam a judaism from the same basis.

All three of the Abrahamic religions are a mish-mash of older Pagan religions. The older Pagan religions are condemned as evil and are not to be studied because Abrahamic institutions don't want their followers to know the origins of their belief systems.

Yes, occasionally when I get annoyed with their followers, I'll point out that Yahweh was once part of a larger pantheon and was known as "The Consort of Ashera".

Can you provide me with some information on The Consort of Ashera?


I was once a Christian untill i found out that all the holidays such as christmas was pagan holidays along with words such as lord god which means baal gad. And the name jesus christ is also pagan jesus came from the name of the greek god zues and they worship on sunday sun god not sabbath friday evening to Saturday evening. And christ came from the goddess Kristin then became christeos then christ. I still believe in the heavenly father his name is Yahuah and his son his name is Yahusha. I no longer want to be called a christian because christ is not his name christians are followers of christ i am a natserim natserims are followers of the messiah Yahusha HaMashiack that is his true name. And the law was never abolished. In Jeremiah Yahuah said not to follow the ways of the heathen by decorating christmas trees which back then pagans would sacrafice their own children and the set up their trees to worship their sun god whose birthday was on dec 25th not our true messishs birthday. Pagans worship so many diffrent things they mixed the religion of the natserims and jewdism in with the other stuff they worship and thats why Christians today celebrate christmas thinking its a godly thing to do not knowing where that holiday came from or even knowing the true names of the father and the son. A lot of things have been corrupted by pegsnism. You wont know the truth unless you ask Yahuah for it and search for it. There is a most high Aluah and his true name is Yahuah it means I Am I Was I Will Be. And their is a massiah his true name is Yahusha it means Salvation on Yahuah. Even the word bible is the name pagans used to call one of their goddesses biblica. If you want the truth look for it and fir scripture look for it in ainctiant hebrew we all must follow it from Geneses to Revilation keep in mind some of pauls teachings contridict what Yahuah and Yahusha tought. We should not eat pork Yahusha never said we should he did not say pork was clean. And he also said he didnt come to abolish the law but fulfill it and we are to follow what he did. Shalom

The book “The Rise of Christianity and the Proscription of Paganism” by Maude Huttman accurately lays out the ‘method’ by which Christianity rose to power. The book is actually a study of ‘economics’, ironically enough.

Between the years 300 and 500 a series of laws and decrees were enacted by Constantine and his successors which effectively outlawed non-christian beliefs to the point that you could be put the death for practicing the old ways. You could not own property or have a will. You could not hold employment of any meaningful position, etc,etc.  It wasn’t the “message of the gentle Prince of Peace” that gave christianity its appeal. It was the threat of death to you and your family.

Don't blame "threats to you and your family" on Christianity, blame it on Constantine. He was a politician and a ruler of his time whose conversion is now suspected to be insincere, and rather done for political purposes, probably to gain adherents from the growing numbers of Christians. And why was Christianity growing so steadily? Christianity's "appeal" is indeed from the Messiah's words and actions themselves - messages of God's mercy and forgiveness for mankind. But it wasn't just his message, which others had also given, it was his real power to heal, save and forgive, a power he only had because he was the sole, unique, physical manifestation of God on earth and in time. God promised him and sent him, because mankind cannot hope to save himself or survive without him. This is a power lacking in all other religions, pagan and otherwise. Having said that, God is Father of all his human children, and does not favor or disfavor any religion or denomination. We are all precious in his sight, and we will all meet in the same heaven, no matter what any particular religion says.

Heaven & Hell are both here on this dimension called earth. No other proof exists otherwise, by humans.

Rome was built on indulgences. I was just stating facts. You counter with speculation and sentiment.

But you contradict yourself when you say, “...God promised him and sent him….”, then proceed to exemplify all-inclusiveness by saying, ...” and does not favor or disfavor any religion or denomination….” Yet, by your on admission, he was the “Messiah”; The one who said, “no man cometh to the Father except through me”. So your messiah offers only one road to salvation, yet you say God favors all.  You can’t have it both ways.

But this is the reason I left the christian religion; the absolute lack of logic. “God became man, so that He could die, so that He could forgive us.” There you have your christian doctrine in a NUTshell. My God does not ask me to suspend the use of my brain, nor threaten me for not doing so.

interesting thought, that GOD had to become man to get y'all to know and worship him. But I'm on thought that GOD don't need human's to worship him if he is really God. Only false gods need human's to worship them.

The Creator is still creating, better and even more intelligent species then humans. Nothing is correct about GOD, that is taught by religions - its all about indoctrination and controlling others. We ain't nothing but seeds and grains of sand made from other creatures who created them.

God's spirit is always active in nature and very alive while the false gods claiming to represent him, are to busy destroying or abusing nature on a daily basis.

How do I know this is truth? Because that's where I live and he speaks to me whenever I pay attention or want answers to my questions.

NO Human needs other humans to educate them - especially those who claim that they speak for GOD.

starting in 800AD era. We use Atheist now as opposed to Pagan. My ancestory worshiped no God/god and did just fine. Happy Easter! NOW bite that bunny head.

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