Summer, 2016-Chris Friend
Happy summer from
Mars. Those of us of a certain age have heard the classic Fleetwood Mac
song “Rhiannon,” but few know the legend behind it. According to Welsh fairy
lore, Rhiannon was the daughter of the fairy king. To the great disapproval of
the fairies, their princess fell in love with and married a mortal man, Pwyll. They
had a son by the name of Pryderi. Due to the scandalous nature of the marriage,
a group of evil spirits kidnapped the infant. They splattered Rhiannon with dog
blood, making it appear that she was guilty of murdering the child. For this
crime the elders of the fairy race turned her into a horse and forced her to
carry souls of the dead to the Underworld. Eventually, when the child was
discovered among the evil spirits alive and well, the fairies restored the
princess to her original form. She became the patroness of horses and is
connected to blackbirds too—birds
of Rhiannon. She is also known as Rigantia, meaning “Great Queen”.
In this case the Underworld should not be confused with the
Christian Hell (named for the pagan goddess Hel). In ancient pagan
cosmology the Underworld was the abode of the sun at night and where the moon
resided, when unseen, by day. The souls of the dead would stay there awaiting,
not punishment, but reincarnation. Some versions speculated that souls would be
judged in the Underworld to see if they were worthy of coming back. In many of
these legends the ghosts of the dead and the fairy race were interchangeable.
Among the Celts, the fairy realm and the Underworld were
one and the same, with the great mounds throughout Britain and Northern Europe providing
gateways therein. During Samhain (SOW-Unn) both fairies and ghosts could cross
back over to the mortal world. The Winter Hag was believed to come up from the
Underworld then with frost and blight. Thus, the fall harvest had to be
gathered up and stored before Samhain.
So magical a place was the Underworld that the legendary
King Arthur is said to have travelled to its depths and retrieved a magic
cauldron. Belief held that the Underworld had a great fountain of
wine that offered immortality and eradicated old age. Thus, among the
ancients the sun god who died at night could be resurrected the next
day from his nightly rest in the depths of the Underworld. This goes with many
dying god myths of death and resurrection.
The Underworld was where deities representing the seasons
were also believed to slumber. Gods of summer hid there during the winter and
those associated with winter hid there during the summer. (The tale of Sleeping
Beauty may have derived from this.) And, since the greenery of nature comes out
of the ground, the spirits of nature are viewed as having come up from the
A few weeks back I splurged and went to see 10 Cloverfield
Lane. There was
controversy over whether it was going to be a true sequel of the original Cloverfield
and, yes, it definitely
is...but not until the bitter end. At first it feels like it’s going to be a
male version of Misery, with a crazy
survivalist (well played by John Goodman) who kidnaps two young people and
holds them in an underground bunker. He rants about “Martians” aboveground and
seems clearly deranged. Finally, when the young woman and we learn what is
actually ‘out there’, we realize it’s a sequel. Recommended to fans of the
original. Happy summer, Martians and Earthlings! Enjoy 4 of my poems too.
Hag Fairy Communion
Old grey hands
Stir a pot of bones
Boiling in milk
Cleaned, dried, and
Placed in a wicker coffin
Given to changelings
To nibble when she
Sips warm brown gruel.
Hidden in a dark place,
The sinful heart lies
Like an empty wallet,
With arrows of Eros
Unable to pierce
Its leathery hide.
The Blue Fairy
Rides a coffin-shaped sleigh
Pulled by six black goats
That breathe gossamer steam,
And stop at each abandoned house
That stands solemn
As a tombstone
Marking where lost souls
Hide like bruised skin.
With the thirst
Of a wolf fairy.
Outside the old cathedral
The dead, dressed in puritan black,
Travel in great processions,
Leaving behind ossuaries
Empty as stillborn wombs.
Friend, email@example.com, who wrote BP #76’s
4-poem set—“Hag Fairy Communion,” “Love’s Sepulcher,” “Night Wanderer,” &
“St. Andrew’s Feast” (+ 2 poems for BP #75, “Angel of the Pagan Dead” and
“Churchyard Watcher”; BP #72’s 2-poem set, “Ed Gein” & “Sour Puss”; and the
2008 poem “All Hallows’ Eve”), writes and illustrates our “MARS News” column.
He did a cover for Black Petals back in 2000 for the fall issue, and has been
around ever since. BP keeps up two websites for him and prints his column in
the issue quarterly. Chris has a gallery at http://chris.michaelherring.net/ and was featured
artist in Kurt Newton’s Ultimate PerVersities (Naked Snake)