World Faiths & Religions

Frequently Asked Questions

Doesn’t “pagan” just mean “not Christian”?

"Pagan" likely comes from the Latin paganus, but how or why that term was used early in its history remains unclear: suggestions include "country dweller," or "civilian."  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "pagan" was originally used to describe anyone who did not subscribe to any major religion, and was specifically used to describe practitioners of non-Abrahamic religions.  However, even the OED notes that this definition is primarily historical; today, the OED's definition for pagan is "A follower of a pantheistic or nature-worshiping religion."  In common usage, Pagan (usually with the capital "P") is used to describe a wide range of religious traditions, including but not limited to Wicca.