For solstice, a druid who's down to earth
His faith is a break from high-tech life
By Lesley Bannatyne, Globe Correspondent
June 20, 2004
Julius Caesar wrote about them. Winston Churchill was one. Every year they assemble at Stonehenge to pay tribute to the sun at the height of its power. Come tomorrow at dusk, some of them will convene in Somerville.
As the light wanes on the longest day of the year, Davis Square resident Mike LaChance will don his white robe, gather together friends, fellow pagans, and curious onlookers, and lead a solstice celebration culled from the tradition of druidism.
At 33, LaChance is no smoky-eyed mystic or bearded Gandolph. He's a 9-to-5 software sales professional who uses druidism to answer a spiritual need he doesn't find satisfied by other faiths.
''Druids of today are not practicing the druidry of England and Ireland of thousands of years ago," he says. As LaChance leans against the bar in The Burren pub and orders a pint of Guinness (''I'm a huge fan of Irish culture," he says), he tries to explain what -- exactly -- a modern druid does.
''The solstice ritual will be performed outdoors," says LaChance. ''We'll be in a circle, so everyone's of the same rank. I'll walk around the circle four times, for air, water, fire, earth. We'll talk about the significance of the holiday, what's going on in the world, how we can change things, or make wishes for others."
People of all beliefs can, and do, attend LaChance's holiday rituals. ''I found it very peaceful, very accepting," says Ron Lacey, a participant in LaChance's 2003 Lughnasa (August 1) celebration on Cambridge Common. A librarian at Harvard and practicing Buddhist, Lacey appreciates the benevolence of druidry: The ritual ''was welcoming the harvest with a wish for abundance for everyone. It seems a good idea whether or not one's a druid."
LaChance himself is a lapsed Catholic who discovered druidism eight years ago. He, and many druids throughout the world, trace a lineage to freemasonry-influenced trade guilds formed around the turn of the 18th century. Druidism had a revival in America in the 1960s and '70s and another boost with the advent of the Internet.
''Druids should be public servants," says LaChance. ''I wish I were a justice of the peace; I'd be at city hall right now doing gay weddings!"
Barring that, he reads tarot cards and performs house ''cleansings" in addition to his open-to-the-public holiday rituals. ''It's kind of like a Catholic having a priest bless a new house. At your garden-variety cleansing I'd have the place cleared out. I'd open every door -- fridge, closet, everything -- and burn incense in every corner, probably white sage or dragon's blood. I might do a simple incantation, a four-line homespun verse, something about replacing dark with light, about the divine making them safe. Most magicians work with simple rhymes."
Luciana LaVallee, a tarot client of LaChance's, says he is ''incredibly intuitive. When someone says he's a druid, it sounds like they'd be out in left field, but he's not. He's practical."
Says LaChance, with a grin, ''I'm down to earth about it -- as down to earth as anyone who believes in fairies, ghosts, and magic can be. Even though we live in cities, we cannot escape the fact that life is cyclical. Someone in rural Vermont is connected with nature when they walk out their door. People in urban places need it more. Now is the time to plan, to sow, to reap.
''I deepen my sense of spirituality while walking in the woods or in a green field. Christians go to a church. Same difference."
LaChance will lead a solstice celebration tomorrow at dusk in Somerville. For details go to: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pagansofsomerville.
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.
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