Following a pagan path in the conservative south isn’t easy.
Our communities are often scattered over large areas, making opportunities to gather a critical mass few and far between. We often face suspicion (or even outright hostility) from those around us, including family and friends who believe that any spiritual system different from their own is a threat that must be eliminated (or at least converted.)
That’s exactly why events like CauldronFest are so essential: they provide a critical opportunity to connect with others, take pride in our identities, and recharge our spirits.
CauldronFest is an annual festival that takes place in Tennessee, an easy drive from Nashville, Knoxville, or Chattanooga. CauldronFest offers attendees a variety of rituals, workshops, live music, drum circles, and other activities. For many, it’s also a rare opportunity to connect with like-minded souls and to cast off the cares of the mundane world for a few days.
CauldronFest is family-friendly and LGBTQ-affirming.
Location & Theme
CauldronFest takes place near Spencer, TN at a local park/campground with plenty of privacy. The campsite includes cabins, restrooms, showers, a dedicated kitchen, dining hall, and another building used for activities and performances. There is a large open area for bonfires, and another for vendor’s row. The campsite has private access, and an inn and additional cabins are available nearby for those who wish to stay off-site. The park area is one of the most beautiful in the south, with plenty of hiking and sightseeing opportunities within walking distance from the camp.
The theme for this year’s CauldronFest was “A Magickal Weekend” and was inspired by the Harry Potter book series. Attendees were sorted into one of three houses for the event: Dragonthorn, Murkwood, and Spirithoof. The final count of those registered was around 200.
No pagan gathering would be complete without our bards. They give voice to the songs in our hearts and offer us a chance to see our authentic selves reflected in their art.
This year’s bardic guests comprised an all-star lineup. Attendees were treated to live sets by Brian Henke, Mama Gina, and Ginger Doss with Lynda Millard. On Friday night, Nashville drag and burlesque group Tarte Nouveau brought the house down with their ages 18+ show Disco Bacchanal: A Divine Dance Revue. And all three days featured drum circles or workshops led by Eric Olson.
Events like CauldronFest are one of the few opportunities many of us have to meet and learn from the artists, leaders, writers, and visionaries in our community. This year the organizers of CauldronFest invited a variety of presenters, including Byron Ballard, Brian Henke, Eric Olson, Sue Balaschak, Atalanta Moonfire, and Nashville’s own Tish Owen. They and other presenters from the pagan community delivered a total of 35 workshops over 3 days.
The workshops and presentations covered a wide range of topics including practical and hands-on training in kitchen witchery, herbalism, candy magic, ritual design, and divination. Other presenters focused on wellness, with sessions on meditation, shadow work, maintaining a positive mindset in the face of adversity, and how to deal with family when preparing to “come out of the broom closet.”
Additional sessions centered on specific pagan traditions such as those stemming from Slavic, Welsh, and Norse cultures, and others took an in-depth look at magical creatures such as fairies, dragons, and cryptids.
Community rituals are another key element of pagan gatherings, and CauldronFest provided attendees with four opportunities to celebrate their pagan faith. These included the opening ritual on Thursday, a Druidic Rite of Ancestral Healing, an ADF Druid ritual of transformation through Cerridwen’s Cauldron, and the main ritual led by Wisdom Gates Coven and Hearthstead.
CauldronFest wouldn’t be the same without our amazing and talented vendors. If you didn’t get the chance to meet them in person, please visit their websites and support these pagan businesses. (There were many more vendors – I am in the process of tracking them all down so I can add links to their websites.)
CauldronFest is already accepting reservations for next year’s event. It will take place April 18 – 21, 2024 near Spencer, TN. The theme will be Finding the Deity Within. Learn more (and sign up to volunteer!) at CauldronFest.org.
Can’t wait that long? Your next chance to connect with this amazing community will be Pagan Unity Festival, happening June 1 – 4, 2023 at Henry Horton State Park, near Nashville.