Pagan lingo? What's the difference

Been reading a variety of posts, am curious. What’s the difference between neo-pagan, Norse reconstructionist and heathen, and ordinary pagan? I thought heathen and pagan are the same? Obviously not. :thinking::sparkling_heart:


Great question, @tracyS!

Terms like “pagan” and “heathen” are so wide-spread that you’re likely to find slightly different definitions depending who you ask. In the dictionary, they do indeed mean pretty much the same thing:


  1. a person who does not belong to a widely held religion (especially one who is not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim) as regarded by those who do.


(especially in historical contexts) a person holding religious beliefs other than those of the main or recognized religions.

(Definitions from Oxford Dictionary via Google)

However, in conversations and literature, I hear “heathen” in a (usually not very nice way) to mean someone who doesn’t go to church or follow Christian teachings. It seems to be used mostly to exclude or distance someone from a major religion. (Although I believe there are some movements out there to reclaim this term)

On the other hand, I hear “pagan” being used by someone to describe their spirituality and/or religious beliefs (that exist outside of widespread major religions) in a way that gives their beliefs identity and validity. These days, I hear “pagan” being used in quite positive ways.

(Note that these are are just my personal experiences and may not reflect how everyone uses these terms!)

Neo-pagan is an umbrella term beneath the umbrella term “pagan”, if that makes sense! :laughing:

It is one category of pagan beliefs, usually used to differentiate between types of pagans:

Picture from Spells8: The 3 Types of Witches

This is an even more specific type of paganism- while not an area I’m overly familiar with myself, I believe it refers to those who primarily or exclusively work with the Norse pantheon of deities.

Hopefully those who follow Norse traditions will have more information for you about this term! :blush:

At the end of the day, there are a whole cauldron-full of witch types out there- it can help to search around and see what terms people are using and why, but the final call of what (if any!) terms you choose to use to describe yourself all boils down to you!

For me, I call myself “Eclectic” and call it a day- but to each their own! Do what feels best to you, Tracy :heart:

Blessed be! :sparkles:


Wow, this is fabulous thankyou. I’ve more reading to do. So many new terms to understand. Thankyou for sharing this with me. :sparkling_heart::hugs:


I couldn’t imagine a better answer than what @TheTravelWitch_Bry already said :clap: :blush: Just coming here to say that there are so many terms in the spiritual community that its no wonder we can’t keep them all straight :laughing: I always find new terms to learn, so you’re not alone!


Not to add any confusion but Heathery or Heathens are/is a Norse Pagan practice that is also known as Asatru.

Many people today follow a spiritual path rooted in the practices and beliefs of their Norse ancestors. Although some use the term Heathen , many Norse Pagans use the word Asatru to describe their beliefs and practices.

Asatru - Norse Heathens of Modern Paganism: Learn Religions

Also, when referring to paganism, most people are referring to a spiritual path involving nature, earth, cycles, polytheism (not always)

In general, when we say “Pagan” today, we’re referring to someone who follows a spiritual path that is rooted in nature, the cycles of the seasons, and astronomical markers. Some people call this “earth-based religion.” Also, many people identify as Pagan because they are polytheists–they honor more than just one god–and not necessarily because their belief system is based upon nature. Many individuals in the Pagan community manage to combine these two aspects. So, in general, it’s safe to say that Paganism, in its modern context, can usually be defined as an earth-based and often polytheistic religious structure.
Overview of Modern Paganism: Learn Religions

Neo-Pagan references are the modern practices as oppose to before our time. Such as different types: Wicca & Asatru included with them. As well as the Maiden, Mother, Crone archetype when referring to a Triple Goddess.


Thankyou for this. :sparkling_heart:


You’re welcome :blush: I hope it didn’t add too much confusion to the mix. The context of the writing or conversation may help you figure out where they are coming from with the words they choose to use. :hugs:


You’re very welcome, Tracy- I’m happy if I could help! Wishing you all the best with your studies- have fun! :books: :blush: :sparkles: