What is Neopaganism?
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derivative of neo- (from the Ancient Greek prefix νεο-, meaning "new") and pagan (from the Latin pāgānus, meaning "country dweller, rustic"), Neopaganism is a broad term used to describe several modern spiritual movements that are influenced by ancient philosophies and cultures, in particular traditional nature-based customs and polytheistic or pantheistic beliefs of pre-Christian Europe. Neopaganism is distinguished as the modern revival or reconstruction of classical Paganism, although both terms are often used interchangeably.
While early Christian missionaries first focused their efforts on establishing the Christian Church in major urban centres of the Roman Empire, people of the outlying rural regions continued to revere the cycles of nature and their associated spiritual deities. As such, "country dweller", or "pagan", soon pertained to someone who was simply "not a Christian." Ultimately, Christian political propaganda presented "paganism" as a derogatory expression pertaining to sinful hedonistic practises (from the Ancient Greek hēdonē, meaning "pleasure"). Similarly, the Old Norse and Germanic Pagans, known as heathens (Old English translation of the Old High German heide, meaning "heath, heathland"), became yet another term eventually distorted to be regarded as unfavourable.
Today Neopagans worldwide are proudly reclaiming the original definitions of "Pagan" and "Heathen" to identify their nature-based spiritual practises and beliefs.
- References for this page are located in the Bibliography and Further Resources.