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Etymology of 'Pagan'

To: alt.satanism,alt.religion.wicca,alt.pagan
From: (lorax)
Subject: Etymology of 'Pagan' (was Re: the semantics game)
Date: 10 May 1997 02:18:58 -0700

[cc'd to Kerry and SRP and posted]

49970510 AA1  Hail Satan!  

Kerry Delf :
>And it should be pointed out that not only is Paganism non-Christian,
>"non-Christian" IS THE DEFINITION OF "pagan."  A slightly less inclusive
>definition is "non-JCI."  

you recently posted something to me about the 'original' definition
of 'pagan'.  I sought after a source I respect which indicates to the
contrary and received an email response.  here it was [my comments]:
~From: Bill Heidrick 
~Subject: Re: etymology of 'pagan'

93 [nocTifer] et nomina plurissima,

[I have secured permission to repost BH's things; nocTifer wrote:]
>recently you derived the etymology of 'pagan' from something earlier than
>the Neopagan favor 'paganus, country-dweller', and I wondered if you might
>repeat that and its source again to me for the benefit of Usenet.

Ok.  I've been playing with that one for a little over a year.  Although 
it is the actual origin of the usage, it is so contrary to modern 
prejudices that neither Christian nor Neo"pagan" can usually tollerate 
it.  The only significant response I got to it was on AOL from U.Wolfe, 
the Mason.  He confirmed it, but most folks can't take it.  :-)

Here's my post to the Masonic debate forum on AOL:

   Just to make things a little interesting.  Has anyone really considered
what "Pagan" signifies?  I suggest reading Plutarch's Lives, Life of Numa,
p.88 in the Modern Library Edition.  The original usage meant "parish", as a
division of the country side under authority of an official.  If we stuck
with that original definition, to be a pagan you would have to live in a
parish and go to church!

Plutarch lived in the first century of the Christian era.  Numa founded the
original state religion of Rome, c. mid 1st century after the founding of the
City.  Many of the terms for Christian clergy and functions were borrowed
from Numa's statutes.

So, what is "Pagan"?  Non-Christian seems to be the common usage.
"Christian" seems to be not far removed from the oldest usage, as
Christianity emerged under the Roman state, until Constantine's time.  Using
the term in origin, it would appear that the early Christians became settled
"pagans" as soon as they could be accepted.

This one is from the Thelema Lodge Calendar, 11/96 issue:

   On the issue of the origin of the word "Pagan":

   Many dictionaries state that this term derives from the Latin "paganus" and
signifies in origin: a peasant or civilian.  This is not correct.  The
characterization is in the nature of a "glancing blow" at the facts,
complicated by over generalization.  Sources giving this and related origins
for the term "pagan" sometimes state that the source for this information in
antiquity is "Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans", a 1st
century biography collection.  Specifically, this comes from Plutarch's
account of the life of Numa Pompilius, founder of the ancient state religion
of Rome, but not the city-state itself.

   The following is therefore the primary source on the origin of the term
"pagan", via English translation of Plutarch's book (John Dryden translation,
revised by Arthur Hugh Clough), Modern Library edition, page 88:

   "Numa, therefore, hoping agriculture would be a sort of charm to captivate
the affections of his people to peace, and viewing it rather as a means to
moral than to economical profit, divided all the lands into several parcels,
to which he gave the name of pagus, or parish, and over every one of them he
ordained chief overseers; ..."

   Thus, although one can positively say that the Latin "paganus", does mean
"peasant" or country dweller, this term derives from the usage that a "pagus"
was an administrative division of the Roman countryside, not simply that all
rural indigenous people were classed as such -- in fact, since the Romans 
were colonists, it never simply meant "indigenous people" in the old usage.
Bluntly, the Roman Christians became pagans and mustered under "parishes" from
this original usage.  If you wanted to ignore all the twists and turns of
usage over the centuries and to stick with the original, you could say that
anyone living in a parish and going to the parish church was a pagan.   The
modern American word for Numa's "pagus" is "county", except in Louisiana,
where these land divisions are still called "parish".  Of course, in the USA,
the connection to a religious hierarchy and temple has been removed from 
these governmental divisions, by the 1st amendment to the Constitution in 
the Bill of Rights.
   Incidentally, one might be tempted to pursue the origin of "pagan" in the
Greek, e.g. in the Athenian usage "Areopagus", for the Supreme Court of
Justice on the Hill of Aries at Athens, but that means "Aries
mount", emphasizing the coldness of the elevation.  The Latin apparently
derives from the judicial usage, not the word root.

Feel free to quote as you please.

93 93/93
[ps, my review of ARW FAQ to Rain BOUNCED; some reason for this? -- lorax]
see  and  call: 408/2-666-SLUG!!!
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