Deep to on High: Traveling the Way of the River

A Wiccan priestess/UU minister transplanted from Central Pennsylvania to Portland, Oregon, helping those who seek intimacy with the One Who is Many—Male, Female, Both, and Neither—through ritual, seasonal observance, mythology, divination, and examination of current events.

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The Deep Is Calling

A Priestess, a minister, and a fat white woman walk into a bar…? Nope, it’s not a joke, it is merely I, Catharine Clarenbach, one of the newer bloggers to come onto Witches & Pagans. I have been blogging elsewhere, as well as at my own site (see below), and I welcome the chance to interact with you her at "Deep to on High."

Who Am I Being Here?

So before we get into what I’m doing here, let me put some historical cards (Tarot, perhaps the Marseilles?) on the table for you about who I’m being here:

  1. First, my most personal, cultural characteristics, my social location, as we say—I am a white, fat, queer ciswoman with mobility difficulties. I am a committed comrade in the struggles for justice, whether environmental or social or both. Much of my political, magical, and devotional sensibilities emerge from those identities.

  2. I am a priestess in the initiatory tradition of Stone Circle Wicca, born out of the fertile soil of Four Quarters Interfaith Sanctuary. In the context of Stone Circle Wicca and of Four Quarters, I have made ceremony for thousands of people, some of them under sun or moon in an oak grove within and around a growing Circle of multi-ton Standing Stones.

  3. In 2014, before I was ordained a UU minister (Wait! What?! More on that later.), I began a blog called The Way of the River. By Samhain 2015, it was growing into a portal for other things, like classes and spiritual accompaniment.

Now The Way of the River is my primary ministry, as we say in the UU tradition, it is my outreach as a priestess, and it is the place where I have connected with others like you.

Who Do I Think You Are?

But here I am now, at Deep to on High, reaching low and bringing up-up-up from the dark into the light, and sometimes planting what has known the light into Earth’s close and holy darkness. Here I am now, like the animal with which I most identify, the whale, diving deep and emerging, breaching the water’s surface with joy, breathing in to dive again.

Here I am now, reaching for you.

But who is it that I’m thinking, “you” are? And what am I doing here anyway?

Well, here’s some language about who I’m thinking you might be, and especially who we might be together:

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for, as Sweet Honey in the Rock sings.

We are the ones for whom the breath of spirit and of truth blows farther and deeper into us than any one religion can breathe into our lungs, even though we may Circle in community, or attend a church or a congregation.

The thing is, though, we are the ones for whom the flame of spirit burns in our hearts insistently, always pushing us to something more meaningful. For whom those troubled waters are always inviting us deeper, deeper. For whom this blue-green planet is the source of our wisdom.

We are the people drawn to the troubled waters, the roiling waters of terror and freedom. The place where the angel came at Bethsaida and healed the sick who dared to come forward.

We are the ones who can learn to be a leaf in the stream, carried towards our destiny by being aligned with Flow.

We may be Pagan, UU, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, spiritual-but-not-religious, or simply moving through the wilderness. We may be of any tradition or none.

This description is both a description of myself and of the people I see myself writing for. It is a description of people I know and people I don’t. It is a description of people who would like me and people who would find my frankly distasteful. But if you find yourself in this description, my hands are open to you.

My Cheeky Thea/ology

In these pixelated pages, you will find all kinds of ways of looking at the River that flows to the Sea of. While part of me does not buy into the idea that “all paths are climbing to the top of the same mountain,” part of me does.

“Do I contradict myself?” Walt Whitman asked cheekily, “Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large! I contain multitudes!”

That quotation is the core of my theology.

Holding many things at once. Being the spark that jumps the gap. Contradiction. Always, always seeking the One Sea of Communion, of Union.

And yet, always, always trying to respect the specificity of tradition.

Knowing that I can never perfectly or even fully accomplish this juggling act in my lifetime, I nonetheless make my imperfect, uneven attempts.

What I am doing here is exploring a new place, a new way to find you and for you to find me. For us to dance. For us to share a path or two to some altars in the woods. And, most important for my work, to swim those Rivers that lead to the Sea.


What to Expect

So what will there be here to read?

I shall write about current events from the perspective of a progressive who is terrified, energized, and hopeful about the future of US politics and Pagans in that future.

I shall write about divination and discernment and their relationship.

I shall write about holidays. O, holidays, how I love thee! Seasons coming, turning, passing. For example, this past holiday of the just, righteous, and inspiring goddess and saint, Brighid.

This Imbolc and its Fire and Water and Air and Earth—the Forging, Quenching, Blowing, and Hammering of the Smith Brigid inspires. Inspires with awen as surely as she does the Bard/Prophet/Poet/Preacher. Inspires with awen as surely as the does the healer/midwife/protector of women.

I shall write about rituals past and rituals perhaps to come.

I shall write about ancestors and descendants, and I shall encourage you to write and speak and sing about your own.

I shall write about leadership and creativity, formation and initiation.

And I shall write about things that make us all a bit uncomfortable: Fat and spiritual leadership; mental illness and the Divine; and queerness, kink, and their magics.

There is so much to explore from Deep to on High. So much to dive and receive and then to give to others as we surface. Or even to keep for ourselves as we climb for a bit out of the River to rest by the waterside.

So welcome to you, and I accept your welcome. Blessings on you and on your house.

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I am an initiated priestess in the tradition of Stone Circle Wicca, and began my Pagan studies in 1990. I have led rituals for thousands of people, in ceremonies as large as 400 in a Circle of Standing Stones under dozens of branching oaks and tulip poplars, and in rituals as small as a couple of folks in a living room. I am an affiliated UU minister with the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta, GA. I also provide spiritual direction—what I call spiritual accompaniment or sacred conversation—and have for over 15 years. Over that time, I have been with individual people of many faiths and none as they explored, encountered, and shared their relationships with the Divine. You are welcome to my spiritual accompaniment page for a fuller invitation.  


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