Anonymous asked in Society & CultureReligion & Spirituality · 1 decade ago

What is the difference between Wicca, paganism and heathenism?

11 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Best Answer

    I once wrote a lengthy essay about it. I'll paste it here, I hope you don't mind VERY long answers! ;)

    "What is a pagan?"

    There are a couple of ways how to answer this question. Firstly, let me point out that there is no "pagan religion" as such, therefore it should not be capitalised.

    Paganism is the oldest belief known to humanity. It's origins reach back to the stone-age animism, when people tried to explain natural phenomena, explore the unknown, and honour the nature around them. Therefore, paganism originally has no founder, no earthly leaders, no prophets, no messiahs, and no saints.

    Linguistically, the word pagan derives from the Latin word "paganus", which means "a villager", or a "country dweller". Romans in the big cities, who had already accepted Christianity, used this derogatory term to described simple farmer folk who lived in the countryside and still practised the old polytheistic religion. Back then, anybody not Christian was considered a barbarian, a lesser being.

    Historically, the different synonyms for a "pagan" were almost always used in the derogatory way, meaning an infidel, heretic or an unbeliever. Look for example at the term "heathen". Heathen is yet another word like pagan. Heathen means "people of the heath (hearth)", and nowadays it is used to signify pagans that follow one of the norse/germanic pagan paths.

    The Latin word "Pagus" means a village, and while the majority of Pagans today live in towns, this term nowadays accurately describes the Pagan heritage, and the affinity which modern Pagans feel with the natural environment.


    So what does a term "pagan" mean nowadays, for example here on Yahoo!Answers?

    The word "pagan" is an umbrella term which nowadays came to mean all pre-Christian non-Abrahamic polytheistic beliefs and also many of the new polytheistic beliefs, reconstructionisms and neo-pagan beliefs.

    Reconstructionisms are original polytheistic religions of old that either survived or we are trying to restore them in the form as they were practised before Christianity came. Recons don't just study the gods, but also the culture of the people who practised the old religion, and often try to re-enact both.

    Such beliefs include: Heathen reconstructionism (Asatru, Odinism, Theodism, Anglo-Saxon Heathenry, Irminsweg - Germanic Heathenry), Hellenic Reconstructionism (Greek gods), Kemetic polytheism (Egyptian Gods), Celtic, Roman, Indian, African, Native American and many more. Some of those are nearly lost and only fragments are left (like Celtic), others have actually survived almost intact to the present days (like Native American with the tribes, or Asatru in some remote regions of Scandinavia.)

    Neo-pagan beliefs include all practices and forms of theistic (usually poly-theistic) forms of Earth-centred religion, for example Wicca, different forms of witchcraft and eclectic paganism. Eclectic paganism is the most free, no-rules type of pagan belief, it's basically a pick-and-mix do-it-yourself religion. Eclectics often work with gods from different pantheons, sometimes even at the same time, and adopt practices from different traditions. This is often frowned upon by those who follow a specific path.

    There are also HUGE differences in the way of worship. Specific-path pagans worship only one pantheon of Gods. Hard polytheists believe that every God and Goddess is a separate entity with a distinct personality, while certain Wiccans worship one mother Goddess and one God as the archetype of all female and all male gods.

    There is no holy book or scripture that requires pagans to follow any prescribed manner of worship - every path has its own rules, its own texts, books and sources. Some pagans worship in a formal manner, with strictly prescribed rituals, others have a more instinctive and unconscious mode of acknowledging and communicating with the divine. Some Pagans prefer to make their worship a private affair; others gather in groups and make their worship a communion with each other, as well as with the Gods.

    On the subject of magic: not all pagan paths practice magic. It seems to be quite an integral part in modern pagan paths like Wicca, but not in all pagan beliefs. Especially reconstructionists don't always practice magic. Some, of course, do, but it's not essential for the practice of their path.

    Various pagan beliefs are so different that you'll have to research them as individuals. There is hardly anything at all, that all of them would have in common - apart from not being Christian, Jewish or Islamic. By this definition, even Buddhism could be counted among pagan beliefs.

    Nowadays there are even a couple of people around who claim to be atheist pagans - not believing in any gods, but feeling close to nature, respecting an honour code similar to those of the pagan beliefs, being spiritual without being theist.

    When someone identifies as "pagan" to you, you shouldn't presume anything without asking first: "Which tradition?"

    Source(s): Many sources, including some of the similar questions and answers here on Y!A.
  • 1 decade ago

    Paganism is an umbrella term that includes various religions and spiritualities, including Wicca and Heathenism. Wicca is one religion with several branches now. Heathenism might need someone else to describe as I've not looked into it very closely.

  • 4 years ago

    Seax Wicca has almost nothing to do with Heathenism persay except for a reverence for the same group of gods, major differences appear in the way each group practices this reverence. Wiccatru is I suppose the Heathen version of a fluffy bunny. It may sound as though Wicca is being insulted by the use of this word but that's not really the intention, I'm sure most Wiccans get upset with some of the people on the fringes of their religion as well. The thing about Ásatrú/Germanic polytheism is that we generally take a very dim view on syncretism, in other words we don't like borrowing methodology, dieties, symbolism etc etc from other religions or cultures we simply prefer to use our own which we can trace back through archaeology, literature and history to the people who practiced our ways before us. This is not to say that syncretism is wrong persay, you can do and believe whatever you want but we generally take our ways very seriously and this can lead us to distance ourselves from people who appear not to. I think the best way to describe this is something HP said (at least I think it was her) "It's not can you be Ásatrú but can you be Ásatrú with me"

  • Aravah
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Paganism is the umbrella term for anyone on a religious path not Abrahamic - Jewish, Muslim or Christian.

    Wicca is one of those paths. So are Celtic Recon, Heathens, Greek, Kemetic, etc.

    Heathenism is the pagan religious path of Northern Europe and Anglo-Saxon England. It's also known as Asatru, Vor Tru, Vanatru, Theodism, Odinism, and more.

    Pagan and Heathen were originally terms meant to insult someone. Nowadays, pagan is used almost universally. With Heathenism - if it's a lower case "h" most likely it's an insult. If WE used it with a capital "h" - we're talking about a specific pagan religion.

    For instance, Christians and Muslims call us heathens (and worse) and they mean we're uncivilized and non-religious (they couldn't be more wrong). We call ourselves Heathens with pride.

    # ##

    Truth T - you are incorrect and therefore lying. Please change your avatar or stay out of questions you know nothing about.

    Source(s): Reconstruct Heathen
  • How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
  • xx.
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    Paganism is an umbrella term. Wicca is a newer pagan religion. Heathenism is another name for Asatru, which is a pagan recon religion focused on Germanic beliefs.

  • 1 decade ago

    Paganism is a very large umbrella term for any non-Abrahamic faith (Christianity, Judiasm, Islam); some extend the definitition beyond that to include Buddhism and Hinduism as traditions that don't get the 'pagan' label...but honestly, alot of Abrahamic faith practitioner will ALWAYS consider anyone outside their own tradition as 'pagan'

    "Pagan" simply means country-dweller. It was used as a derogatory term, like "country bumkin" during the Roman empire, as the people outside the big cities tended to not follow the 'civilized' religion of the empire (which, after Constantine was Christianity). So pagan came to mean people that followed pre-Christian religions - and later on that was extended to all non-Abrahamic faiths.

    NeoPaganism is likely what you are specifically asking about since you are asking about it with Wicca and Heathenism. NeoPaganism is another very large umbrella term used for the modern reconstructionist and revivalist religions that utilize the spiritual lore/pantheon/thea(o)logies/practices of pre-Christian (and usually European - though that is rapidly expanding as NeoPaganism grows). The majority of these traditions are taking their inspiration from these cultures, and then blending that with more contextually-appropriate modern elements.

    Wicca is a smaller umbrella term for one particular NeoPagan religion. Just as "Christianity" is a comparably smaller umbrella term than "Abrahamic", but still a pretty darn large umbrella! There are MANY Wiccan traditions who varying in all sorts of different ways. Generally speaking though, Wiccan traditions follow the 8 Sabbats which fall on the quarters and cross-quarters of the pre-Christian Celtic/Eastern European agricultural calendar. They generally also accept Deity as manifesting in both male and female forms (though some traditions choose to only worship the female), who are referred to as the Lord and Lady, but the specific names they are called by depend on the pantheon(s) that a particular tradition is working within.

    They generally have a great reverance for Nature, and see all things as sacred and divine. They see wisdom in the cycles of nature and the universe. Most embrace magic as a way to focus their energies to change their environment (like other traditions do with prayer).

    Wiccans generally follow an ethic called the Rede which states (among other things) that as long as you are not harming anyone/thing, you are free to do as you place. They also tend to follow the Rule of Three, which is a type of karma, meaning that whatever you put out (good or bad) will come back to you three-times over.

    Heathenism is another specific term that covers the generally reconstructionist traditions of Northern Europe. Many of them do not consider themselves NeoPagan, but simply Pagan. There are quite a few very articulate Heathens on Yahoo!Answers, so I will let them speak for themselves!

    Source(s): IndoWiccan 11 years Religious Studies, B.A.
  • 6 years ago

    The only time I've come across "heathen" is in Christian books criticising non-Christians (including Jews and Muslims). Not really restricted to paganism.

  • eh- we all accept all those names :)

    To be honest, different practitioners feel differently about these terms. In a nutshell, paganism is an "umbrella term" (sort of like "christianity" is for lutherans, baptists, methodists, etc.) Wicca is a specific path of paganism.

  • 1 decade ago

    wicca is an organized religion, many christian ideals and practices were originally pagan, so wicca and many other religions (like x-ianity) are kind of related. "heathenism" just means not believing on a god, but has a negative connotation of being uncivilized.

  • Green
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    I think pagan and heathen is a put down. Jedeo-christian religions used it to put down indigenous people that they hadn't converted. Basically calling them uncivilized. I don't know why anyone would want to call themselves that.

Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.