The word "pagan" has a long history. It can carry a high emotional charge. Some who consider themselves to be "pagan" embrace it, others reject it. Some persons (notably some Asatruar) prefer "Heathen" to "Pagan". Recently, the term cultor deorum (female: cultrix) has been suggested. This would refer to any person, ancient or modern, who practices the Religio Romana.
The precise meaning of a word can vary from person to person, so what follows will be generalizations.
Understanding of "pagan" in Nova Roma
"Pagan" is generally taken by Nova Romans to refer to non-Abrahamic European traditions and the followers thereof.
This would include such traditions as Hellenismos, Asatu and Druidism as well as the Religio Romana but exculde all forms of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Traditions indigenous to other parts of the world (the Americas, Africa and Asia) would properly be called by their more specific names, such as "Native American" or "Buddhist" or would fall under other umbrella terms (Eastern Religion, e.g.).
Other contemporary understandings of "pagan"
- Pagans consist of Wiccans and other Neopagans
- Pagans are people to hate
- Pagans are ancient polytheists
- Pagans follow Aboriginal religions
- Pagans are followers of non-Abrahamic religions
- Pagans don't belong to any of the main religions of the world
- Pagans are Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, etc
Religious Tolerance.org also distinguishes "pagan" from "neo-pagan" , suggesting that the latter is less likely to cause confusion, but is also less likely to be familiar to a general audience. In their usage, reconstructionists would be included in "neo-pagans". This term does not seem to have wide currency within Nova Roma.
History of the word "pagan"
There is dispute regarding the original meaning of the noun and adjective set paganus. It is true that the similar word pagus can refer to a village or a villager, but it is unclear if paganus should mean "rural dweller" (and by extention "bumpkin") or "civilian" (as opposed to military). It is probably enough here to note that there is scholarly disagreement and that any word in active use for so many centuries is likely to have a variety of meanings, both denotative and connotative.