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 shudder at the mere hint of so-called negative connotations.
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