So, apparently, Pagan is the equivalent of hillbilly to the self-elevated and mistaken of the heathens, when – in fact – the etymology of both words is so similar as to be the same. In fact, theory projects that heathen was a translation of pagan. In any event – both words refer to someone not of “cultured” society or rather, the “cultured” society of the time.
The ill-informed heathen is little better than the ill-informed Christian; grouping all “Neo-Pagans” under a Wiccan umbrella and believes Pagans to be tree-hugging, peace and love folks, to be scorned and shunned from heathen society. Not all Pagans are Wiccans. Just as not all Heathens are Neo-Nazis.
The uncomfortable truth is that we are all Neo; neo-pagans and neo-heathens, which, in and of itself isn’t wrong unless this neo-ism is accompanied by a lack of historical context.
None of us, not a single one of us is a “true” Heathen or Pagan. Unpopular but truth is rarely popular. We are all reconstructing what was and we reconstruct based on our personal frames of reference, often these frames are inaccurate and lack true historical fact. There was nothing glamorous about life 2000+ years ago. There would have been no tall blonde or redheaded people with beautiful teeth and long, flowing, clean locks. Our ancestors were not that tall and that they retained their teeth is improbable.
The violence would have been horrific; village stores run out – another village has food. Okay, village A needs food, Village B has food and isn’t likely to share – they have their own to worry about. Village A pillages Village B, killing anyone who objects to having their survival threatened. That was the way of things. We are also learning that cannibalism wasn’t unknown. Starving people will do whatever is necessary to make it to the next day.
There was nothing romantic in the lives of our ancestors – Celtic, Nordic, Germanic, Slavs, and Visigoths.
We are all best served, those who identify as Heathen and those calling themselves Pagan, by educating ourselves and not looking so much like little children playing fantasy games. The early pre-Christian history is still being written by modern science and what is being found is less than something to which we should strive to replicate. Pre-Christian northern Europe was a barbaric place, rife with killing, starvation, disease and brutality. High infant mortality, high death rate for women as a result of childbirth; osteoarthritis, scabies, rickets…fleas; all of these things would have been just another day in the life for our ancestors.
We should all be respectful of those who came before, their fight for survival in a world we cannot truly understand; standing in awe at their abilities, at their resourcefulness and skills. It is wonderful to honour these people and is something we must do, for without them we would not be alive today but it is essential to see them through the eyes of fact and not some sunny Lord of the Rings ideal.