Thursday, May 23, 2013

Houston Pagan Conference 2013

Catching wind of something going on in Houston for pagans, something really big, my ears perked to hear Houston Pagan Conference.  Looking for something in and around Houston, only three words came to mind for me:

"About damn time."

Houston covers over six hundred square miles, has millions in its population and surrounding areas, and is the largest port city in the United States.  Based those numbers, I would have the inclination to believe that there has to be a large pagan populace.

A pagan group from Conroe, Tx, Blackberry Circle  (a recognized non-profit organization) had a vision to bring together pagans from all paths, helping to unite the local community.  This concept was concieved in 2011, and the coven struggled with finding a venue for its outlet.  Every time the words 'Houston Pagan Conference' were uttered, doors slammed shut.  Once venues figured out what this group had planned, no matter how hard they struggled with dates, places became suddenly 'unavailable'.  Being a solitary group with not only a vision but acting upon that vision, they were getting a bit disheartened.  Someone mentioned to them the UU church, and once contacted, Northwoods welcomed them with open arms.

So on the north side of Houston, in a place called The Woodlands, there was a small church nestled beneath a canopy of thick, green trees.  This church, the Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Church kindly allowed a small group of happy pagans to gather within (and without) its walls.

We arrived early, due to a triathlon which was being held nearby, to see many others had also done so.  Vendors scrambled in the early morning light to open canopies and haul merchandise up a flight of stairs. I always find this heart-lifting, watching the vendors, because every time a new group of vendors arrives, a few of the other vendor groups break off to help people they have never met unload their tables and open their canopies.

As I watched vendors and helped relay information, the staff of Blackberry Circle moved through the fray, directing individuals and answering questions on their set-up.  This is always a good thing, and I have yet to see any of that group act anything less than a cohesive unit.  Questions get asked, messages get relayed, but I have never seen any hint of dissension - everyone knows their job, or they lend in a hand.  The more people you add, and I swear, the more they smile.  Sometimes it could be nervously, but  they are excited about what they are doing.  More people flitted in among the trees and gathered in the shady places in front of the church, ready to hear words of wisdom and find fellowship with like minds.

For the staff of ten coven members and two volunteers, the event was rather fast-paced.  The Spiral Scouts (Guardians Circle #312) were there, and the members cheerfully took on children from the event with entertainment and crafts while their parents listened in on the lectures.  Rick Fairchild, contact for the local #312 circle spoke of the co-ed international all-faiths organization.

For the attendees, some came and went, listening to various speakers on other faiths. Northwoods' very own Reverend Ellen Cooper-Davis led the lectures, offering many beautiful thoughts on the Divine.  "The Divine is a verb, a process, and the Unfolding of the Universe," she spoke.

"Miracles are everywhere.  The problem is that we keep calling them miraculous," said Reverend Ellen.  "The Divine is never away.  Divine is not limited to specific days, or rituals, or books; it is every moment, every choice, every interaction of the relationship of the world."

Debra Davis lectured on Buddhism and the connectivity of all things.  Kaleen Reed, Sumerian priestess, spoke on living a good life, that "your name be known for 5000 years". John R. Nelson spoke of the death and rebirth of magic in the Western Culture.  "There is still more of the mysterious out there than all of what we truly know," he remarked.  Tess Bennett, acting sound engineer for the event, even spoke of her experiences in finding her path and the C.U.U.P.s program being started at Northwoods.

Last but certainly not least, Raven Grimassi stood and spoke on Greenwood magic and the organic memory of the earth.  He graciously posed for pictures and signed copies of books.  

It was exactly what you would expect from a pagan gathering, minus the petty little things that can happen with large groups.  These people came together in spirit and purpose, sharing their knowledge and experience.  They were from different creeds, as happens in the pagan community, and learned more about one another through these lectures and conversations.  The group that came with me had a remarkable time, even the kiddoes.  It was fun, fast, and exhausting, leaving a sense of elation and eagerness for more to come.  It was a first for many of those that hosted this event, which then becomes a learning process.  There was no evidence of any real glitches, everything went along swimmingly and people came and went as they pleased.

I was fortunate enough to attend this event, and pleased to be asked to review it.  If this kind of amazing event can be put on by a group of ten people, what kind of event would it be if we had more leaders in the Houston pagan community step up and take part, take action?  I challenge you, especially the Houston pagan community, to come forth and create this kind of event in your community.  Not matter what challenges are faced, they can be overcome, just like Blackberry Circle did.  It is time for the pagan community to step up, to be strong, and create events of education and public awareness.

- Kathy Swords-Capen and
James P. Walley


  1. Thank you, my dear, for your kind words; you worked just as hard as anyone there.

  2. This sounds great. I'm sorry I didn't drive down for it. Was this a one-time event, or are their plans to do it again in a year or two?

  3. There are plans in the works. A lot of us would like to see this as a yearly thing, but one coven of ten people can't pull this off easily year after year. We need other people to volunteer and help fund-raise for events like this in Houston.

    Thanks, Anice.