Neopaganism, also called modern Paganism or simply Paganism, is an umbrella term for a number of new religious movements that strive to revive, reinterpret, and experiment with pre-Christian polytheistic religions. While the impulse to revive ancient forms of worship is widespread in the early twenty-first century, this term is usually reserved for those groups that focus on the ancient religions of Europe, the Near East, and North Africa, although they can also be inspired by the indigenous religions of Africa and the Americas. Necessarily, this group of religions is broad and eclectic; thus it is more correct to speak of modern Paganisms in the plural. Neopagans share a desire to reconnect with nature, community, and the sacred, a view of the divine as immanent, and a search for religious experience that is personal, direct, and embodied. They generally lack a single codified scared text or charismatic leader. Drawing heavily from traditional folklore in their creation of rituals, their goal is the re-enchantment of the world and the creation of a personalized relationship with divinity.
“Pagan” comes from the Latin word paganus, meaning “country-dweller.” When Christianity became the dominant religion of the late Roman Empire in the fourth and fifth centuries, the word came to be used to designate those who were not Christian and identified with the pagus, or rural territory, rather than with the state. The word had also acquired the slang connotation of “civilian” among Roman soldiers, and was picked up by Christians to refer to those who had not joined the army of God. The term “heathen,” preferred by some modern Pagan religions inspired by Germanic and Scandinavian practices, is similarly problematic in its derivation.