How long have I been doing this?
Well, I believe the appropriate response to that requires employing the NCRF standard. The Neopagan Coolness-Response Factor, is used for deriving the answer to any question that begins “How long have you been doing (cool thing_“N”_) ?" -wherein, the duration of N = (Age of the do-er in Solar Years) X 0.8999…
I read Isaacs book Real Magic back in 1973 and although I don't remember any mention of Druidism in the first edition, it was about that time that I was first getting interested in Druidism and the mythology of the British Isles. I just about wore out the local library's copies of Piggott's The Druids, and Hawkins' Stonehenge Decoded. Although I've considered my self a Druid-ish pagan since the early Seventies, I've been doing things publicly with other neopagans since the mid Eighties. Long the solitary, in 1986 I finally met other pagans, in-the-flesh, at a nationally advertised pagan festival held at, of all places, the group camp facilities at Raccoon State Park (40 minutes from Pgh!). It was quite a cool event featuring Gavin and Yvonne Frost and Issac Bonewits. At the time, Issac was just starting to promote a new organization he'd cooked up called "ADF"...
From the contacts I'd made at that festival, I became involved in the startup (c.1988) of a pagan networking collective called ASH (Allegheny SpiritHaven). It was a loose association of half a dozen individuals who desperately wanted Pittsburgh to have at least “something” like a functional community, yet we knew that in the process we’d always have to respect the autonomy demanded by Neopagans which nonetheless tends to hamstring such efforts. After all, as CAW’s founders always said, we are all "POPE"s... We had done a couple public rites at the old LifeWork Center near Bloomfield and had started the (still continuing) tradition of the Community Beltane Picnic in South Park. In October of 1990 we held our first (and only) weekend-long community festival at Raccoon: "Harvest Home". It turned out very well for a first effort. I continued collecting contacts and maintaining the ASH mailing list and kept the ASH effort going (as a community events newsletter well through the mid-Nineties).
Meanwhile, back in the late eighties I had joined ADF and was going to its national festival Wellspring each May up at Brushwood where the Starwood festival was held. I applied to ADF to start a "Proto-Grove" in our area, and by 1992 had enough experience and prospective members to found Sassafras Grove, ADF. Sassafras became Pittsburgh's chapter of ADF, our form of modern Druidism focussed on serving the Mother and the Blessed Ones by providing quality, open Neopagan rites on a regular basis to the community, a very good fit for my "calling".
By the end of 2002 Sassafras Grove had already conducted 83 public high-day rituals celebrating the turning seasons of the Pagan year. At the Wellspring Gathering in the spring of 2002, I was one among a group of the first six members to be fully ordained as ADF Druid-priests. Now it's over ten years later and twice as many rites and Sassafras is still going strong
When called upon to state what I've found the most rewarding in my work as steward of this "process" we call Sassafras Grove, I'd have to say it's been watching the Subtle Pattern grow over the years. It's all about working hard and never giving up, and time after time being given undeniable blessings in return. It comes in many ways. At times it comes in signs and good fortune, beauty, tears, and most often, through the goodness of the incredible people who come our way. It's just not always clearly definable at first yet I've come to recognize its proximity: there's something here; something we're being given - or being told. Often obscure at first, yet, given time and perspective, irresistibly the Pattern emerges and our diligence is confirmed for us as having been "worth the trouble". I have come to believe that this is the place for "Faith" in Neopagan pursuits; without it, one may never hang-in there long enough to discover the keys necessary to recognize the blessings you're already being given.
Enough for now, I've already rambled on too long...
Blessed is the Great Way of Things!
- Earrach of Pittsburgh