Black Petals Issue #76 Summer, 2016

Mars-News, Views and Commentary

Mars-News, Views and Commentary
Anniversary-Fiction by A. M. Stickel
Flirting with the Alley-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Gone Astray-Fiction by Denis Bushlatov
Surviving Montezuma-Serialized Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
The Road-Fiction by Walter Kwiatkowski
The Watchers-Fiction by Mike Mulvihill
Honey Island Swamp Monster-Poem by Richard Stevenson
Skin Walker-Poem by Richard Stevenson
Ucu-Poem by Richard Stevenson

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 Underworld.

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.


Love’s Sepulcher


Hidden in a dark place,

The sinful heart lies

Like an empty wallet,

With arrows of Eros

Now useless,

Unable to pierce

Its leathery hide.


Night Wanderer


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.


St. Andrew’s Feast


The priest

Drinks wine

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.


Chris Friend,, 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 and was featured artist in Kurt Newton’s Ultimate PerVersities (Naked Snake) [Jan. 2011].

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