What everyone else said, with the side-note of: Appropriation is when you "cherry-pick" different elements and use them out of their cultural context, but homages/shout-outs are when you keep the SPIRIT of the religion even when you change things to suit the world.
Also keep in mind that the vast majority of writers with a "pagan" pantheon tend to ACTUALLY have a pseudo-Wiccan pantheon, with a God-and-Goddess apex couple who embody pretty much everything and get most of the IN-STORY worship. There are maybe a few vague hunting/household/childbirth gods wandering around in the background, but they rarely if ever get any in-story worship.
Please note that I don't think Wicca is BAD, it just ends up being overrepresented because most pagan literature and practice (especially European paganism) is either fragmented heavily or Hijacked by Jesus
If you want to draw on an ACTUAL pagan pantheon, you would need to research various pantheons and see which of them can be tailored the easiest to your story. If not, just make up your own and keep the following details in mind.
For example, my story has a civil war going on. I have a sun/moon apex-couple who are technically the highest-ranking in the pantheon, but seeing as the country's in a war, the only people who actually pray in-story to the highest deities are the royal family. And even then, the king is from a different
country and prays to HIS highest-deity because that's who he was raised with, while the queen and their children are native.
Most other characters are praying to the god of warfare for protection/morale, the god of the hearth for protecting their families/children/homes, and one of my protagonists is foreign. She's really desperate for help from her god of love because 1) she really wants her lover the prince to stay alive, and 2) love-gods tend to be the most understanding when you went through a HUGE amount of trauma that you aren't ready to talk to other people about.
Three different countries, two in-story issues, about half a dozen gods being name-dropped. That's how most paganism works.
edited 31st Mar '13 2:05:49 PM by Sharysa