Talking My Path: Qira Clarenbach

[Welcome to our column, Talking My Path. Here, polytheists, witches, and Pagans of any tradition are invited to discuss and celebrate their spirituality in a series of five short questions. If you would like to participate, don’t hesitate to email us at ev0kepublication@gmail.com.]

ev0ke: How do you define your particular tradition or path? Does it have a specific name?

Qira Clarenbach: I straddle two religious worlds. One is Unitarian Universalism, a large, institutional religion with 1000+ congregations in the United States, and more worldwide. I am an UU minister, ordained in 2015, and under the auspices of that ministry, I serve as the facilitator of small groups, an occasional preacher in congregations local to me (Portland, Oregon, USA), and I provide pastoral care.

I am also a Third Degree Initiate and Priestess of Stone Circle Wicca (USA), which has initiates and students in Vermont, Maryland, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Oregon, and South Korea. We are a progressive Tradition of Wicca, committed to a broad inclusion of identities, high standards of ethical conduct, and the flowering of various Wiccan paths to vocation.

From our Charter: “The Stone Circle Tradition of Wicca is a Wiccan Mystery Tradition, which exists to promote the spiritual development of Dedicants and Initiates; to encourage responsible fulfillment of diverse Wiccan vocations (to priestxhood, priestesshood, and priesthood); and to offer service to our communities, to all in Earth’s Household, and to the Divine Spirit of the Universe, One and Many, Male, Female, Both, and None.”

ev0ke: Which Deities, powers, or other spirits are honored in your tradition?

QC: We speak of the Divine as One and Many, Male, Female, Both, and None. The construction, “Male, Female, Both, and None” comes from our roots, when in our first class of Dedicants, many of us were members of the Radical Faeries of Washington, D.C. In fact, many of our members have LGBTQIAA identities, and we are committed to the fact that when anyone looks into the obsidian Mirror of the Divine, one can find the image of oneself there, whatever one’s race, gender(s), relationship status, sexuality, size, dis/ability, neurodivergence, or any other identity might be.

We also honor various deities at various times and seasons, depending on ceremonial or devotional needs. For my part, I have a particular relationship with and affinity for Brigid, goddess of many names and faces, the Mary of the Gaels, foster-mother to Jesus (in Her form as St. Bridget), Keeper of three-fold wisdom: that of the Forge of Transformation, the Awenof Inspiration, as well as the Healing Wisdom of the Hearth.

Very importantly for our tradition, we honor both Ancestors and Descendants, legacy moving backward and forward. Learning from and venerating our imperfect Mighty Dead, and committing ourselves to a wholesome and life-giving legacy for our Descendants. Ancestors and Descendants need not be only of the body, but may be from our Families of Blood, Choice, and Spirit, as we say.

Another important element in our ceremony — which we understand to be needs-based, psycho-emotive, and transformative — can be the practice of Aspecting. While Aspecting the priest, priestx, or priestess invites the understanding, inspiration, wisdom, character, and identity of a given deity, archetype, or other spirit into oneself for the good of the community in the context of ceremony. This practice is not to be undertaken lightly, and is considered to be part of a specialized ceremonial skillset.

A note on our ceremonial practice: As I said, we speak of it as needs-based, psycho-emotive, and transformative. We are all human, and as such, we have needs. Having needs is universal and nothing of which to be ashamed. Many of these needs may be met by the healing, consolation, challenge, support, conviction, exultation, devotion, or hilarity of ceremony.

By psycho-emotive, we mean that we create ceremonies that are accessible and that engage the senses as fully as possible. Even as we grow to be a bicoastal, and even international tradition, we work to make sure that our ceremonies engage people on a deep level — a deeply transformative level, as the last adjective says.

If we are not changed by our engagement with ritual, then why do it? In Stone Circle Wicca, we encourage the development of Authenticity, Integrity, Compassion, and Wisdom as our Cardinal Virtues or Ethics, as well as the full flowering of human-ness in each of us, unemcumbered by oppression from inside or out.

ev0ke: Among the various festivals and holy days celebrated in your tradition, which is the most important to you, and why?

QC: Which is most important to me? Oh goodness …. Such a hard question to answer… I do love Samhain, as I love my family and my Mighty Dead. I also, of course, have particular affection for Imbolc, given that it is Brigid’s holiday. And I offer a day-long spiritual deepening retreat the week before the winter solstice, and that event nourishes my own soul, just as it does for participants. The deep, deep work that can be done around the winter solstice is unmatched by that of any other time of year.

ev0ke: Which texts, websites, or other resources would you recommend to someone interested in your tradition?

QC: There are so many texts, so many varied paths, so many threads in the braids of our Tradition, that I cannot begin to describe them. I encourage folks to look at the website, and if they have questions, to feel free to email me, Qira Clarenbach, at magic@thewayoftheriver.com .

ev0ke: Is there anything you would like to add, such as creative projects you are undertaking, festivals or events you will be attending, and so on?

QC: While our next introductory classes in Oregon, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and possibly Vermont will not begin until the spring of 2021, I encourage folks to peruse our website, and be in touch, as I mentioned above.

Depending on the state of public health concerns, the Portland, Oregon “rhizome” of Stone Circle Wicca will be represented at the PaganFaire on March 21st, the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, and we’ll be offering short Tarot readings, as well as chat and information about our work with our Thirteen Tools, the sacred objects through which we express our religion, ritual, and magick.

Public rituals, like the Feast of Red Dragon, held in Washington, D.C.; the vernal equinox ritual at West Hills UU Fellowship in Portland, Oregon; and Pagan Pride Days around the country will also be available throughout the year, and publicized through our website. Please check there for current information.