“Sometimes teens are drawn in for the wrong reasons,” she said to the small group gathered in the libraryÃÂs newly refurbished “J” Room. “They are looking to be different or shocking, and think Wicca is a way to do that, a way to rebel.”
Simms said the negative connotations associated with the word “witch” do not help the Wiccan community. “It promotes a lot of knee-jerk reactions, which is why I do not choose to stand out in this way. I feel comfortable in my spiritual path, and that is whatÃÂs important to me.”
Simms, who has been involved in Wicca since joining the Covenant of the Goddess group in San Diego in 1987, formed her own circle and became a high priestess in 1991 after research and experimentation with religion. “I was not satisfied with my religion at a young age,” she said of her Protestant youth. Simms went on to embrace the Catholic Church, a religion she said she “returned to the most,” but eventually moved on from.
“It was for the wrong reasons,” she said. “I enjoyed the high church ceremony, the candles, the incense. I tried to be Catholic for a long time. But once it came down to the dogma of the religion, my opinions differed.”
The search for a feminine concept of deity is the thread running through the Wiccan religion, Simms said. “In Wicca, a goddess is more equal.”
The Covenant of the Goddess, according to Simms, was started by feminist activists after the feminist movement of the ÃÂ60s and ÃÂ70s.
Simms also began studying astrology in her 30s, looking for not only an intuitive path but an intellectual one as well. “Astrology brought me to the intellectual concept I needed.”
Once she found the Covenant of the Goddess, she said she felt comfortable for the first time.
“ItÃÂs the community youÃÂre in that matters the most,” she said. “The best part of Wicca is being able to live by your own ideals.”
Simms reactivated her circle when she moved to New Hampshire in 1997, but said she is less active here than in San Diego.
According to Simms, Wiccans live by what is called the Wiccan Rede: Harm none, do as you will.
“A major concept in Wicca is the three-fold law, where whatever we create, whether it is joy or pain, will be brought back to us three-fold.”
Simms emphasized to the teens the importance of learn about all comparative religions before choosing one.
“A lot of studying must be done in order to make the correct choice,” she said. “If you study, you will see a common thread through all religions. If rebellion is the primary reason for studying Wicca, I hope those teens get beyond that and see the real deal.”
Simms said that while she enjoys Wicca and has been studying it for a number of years, she is never locked into the religion.
“I will probably stay and keep learning, but I will never just believe something because someone else says it,” she said. “Just as I donÃÂt want anyone to believe something just because IÃÂm teaching it. You should read, study, probe, and know why youÃÂre believing in something.”