But this year, I’m thinking of my friend Cookie Crandall, who disappeared after she’d gotten into some trouble with the law. She is a witch, practicing the the spiritual system of Wicca. Last year, we gathered at Vera’s house for a ritual and the more I think about it, the more I cherish this memory. I love ritual—and this was so special—but, unfortunately it was interrupted by the police. . Here’s my memory of the night (excerpt from SCRAPPED):
Cookie’s hair was pulled up off her neck, and she wore a jeweled band around her black hair. Rhinestones? Whatever they were, they sparkled against her dark hair and brought out the light in her green eyes, as well. Her earrings matched her blue dress. She was actually wearing a little mascara and eyeliner.
Cookie wore a long blue velvet dress, which cascaded to mid-calf and flowed around her as she walked. The dress had a low V-neck, which showed off her breasts…
The women—Sheila, DeeAnn, Paige, and Annie, along with Vera and her mother—gathered in a circle around Cookie, who stood next to a decorated table. Pictures of deceased people adorned the table, along with a huge seashell, a statue of Mary, candles, a wooden bowl of water, flowers, and silk scarves. Each piece of this altar alone was not unusually pretty, but gathered on the altar, the pieces had a simple beauty.
“I like to keep things simple,” Cookie had said. “Some of my cohorts go way out. You won’t see fancy things or become overwhelmed with the ritual, I promise. But women have been meeting like this for generations, gathering around the fire or the altar. Some of the things here represent some deep connections we have and will always be so. Maybe some of you are already feeling a pull that you don’t quite understand.”
Vera’s eyes met Cookie’s.
“I want you to know that’s okay. You are safe here. If anybody feels uncomfortable at any time, please let me know.”
I loved the sound of Cookie’s voice—it was quiet, yet strong, never wavered.
“Why don’t we get on with it? I’d like to eat sometime before midnight,” Beatrice said.
The group giggled nervously.
“Okay, first I’ll call quarters, and we will remember our loved ones by sharing our memories,” Cookie told them. “It’s important to honor our ancestors tonight. Magically, it’s the night the veil between our worlds is the thinnest.”
“Hail to the North,” she said with her arms out, palms up, facing Vera’s fireplace. “Place of patience, endurance, stability, and earth.” She dipped her hand into a bowl of dirt and let it fall back into the bowl. “Hail to the East,” she said, picking up a feather and placing it in the bowl. “Place of wisdom, intellect, perception, and inspiration. Air,” she added with a flourishing of the feather.
The fire in the fireplace popped, and some of the women jumped a little.
Cookie struck a match and lit the black candles that were on the table. “Hail to the South, place of passion, strength, energy, and willpower. Place of fire.”
Just then a knock sounded at the door.
“Bother,” Vera said. “Let’s ignore it. Go on, Cookie.”
Cookie picked up the water bowl, and the knock at the door became louder and more forceful.
“Vera Matthews,” a male voice said. “It’s the police. Open up please.”
And that began the beginning of the end of our relationship with Cookie. I can’t help but wonder where this night would have gone without that interruption.