Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Solstice and the Cultural Meaning of "Pagan"

Today is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and a holiday for Pagans.  The term "pagan" has both a denotation -- it refers to pre-Christian religions which tended to be polytheistic and to contemporary religious views that are more nature-based in their view of the Divine -- and a connotation -- it is associated with heathens who lack moral sensibilities and live an all too bodily existence.  But with so many people identifying themselves as "spiritual, but not religious" and with the increase understanding of our inter-relatedness with the larger world, it seems that foundation for the longstanding cultural meaning of pagan which was largely a marketing tool of early Christianity is coming to resemble an old Chesterfield ad that explains the healthiness of smoking cigarettes as an aid to digestion. 

Has the term changed its connotation in the common vernacular?  The Pagan motorcycle club clearly uses the term in its old sense -- it is meant to give an edginess to its members. Are there other ways in which the word maintains its sense or is used in new and different ways?