Defining “Heathen”

Hea’ then: haithno [Gothic], hæthen [Anglo-Saxon], heide [German], mistranslation by the Gothic Bishop Ulfilas (4th century c.e.) of hethanos [Armoric], heathen, by association with haithi [Gothic], heath, thence the folk etymology of heathen as ‘wasteland dwellers’ developed by other Germanic languages. Then, heathen refers to anyone not of the Abrahamic religions, especially a member of a tribe, nation, etc. worshiping many gods. Historically used by Christians to describe others with different beliefs as barbaric, godless, and irreligious.

In the modern revival of the pre-Christian religion of Northern Europe, many of us prefer to be called Heathens, although some dislike the possible negative connotations.