Winter, 2017-Chris Friend
Since BP’s winter issue usually comes out
between Christmas and Valentine’s Day I thought I’d write on the color red. I
have read that red is considered the most pleasing color to the eyes.
Obviously, red blood and the life force are intertwined. Red symbolizes the
supernatural, with fairies and witches often wearing red clothes. Having red
hair was also associated with vampires and fairies and thus considered unlucky.
(Judas Iscariot was said to have had red hair.) Among the Celts red was
associated with the dead and it was taboo to eat red-colored food. Since death
is the time when life-giving blood stops and congeals, red was seen as a symbol
of health, vitality, and strength.
In earlier times the
dead were painted with red ochre to prepare them for the next life. Often the
tools of the dearly departed were also painted red to imbue them magical
powers. Usually both the corpses and their tools would be placed within
the great burial mounds found in Ireland, as well as many other sites. Since
spilt blood would make the ground turn bright red, it became the color most
associated with cruelty, war, danger, destruction, and violent death. Mars, the
god of war, was also connected with red, which transferred to the name of the
planet. The red-haired Irish goddess Morrigan was linked to battle and
warfare. Some warrior deities became vampires and drank blood spilled on the
battlefield. Because of this, red was often employed as the color of choice for
flags of socialist revolutionaries. To be caught “red-handed” was to be caught
in the act of committing a crime.
Red has an obvious
connection to the sun and deities associated with the sun. As the sun
begins to set it turns blood-red. The ancients believed that the sun god died
and slipped down into the Underworld to dwell with the dead. The red clouds of
dusk were thought to be the red hair of the goddess of death, who would accept
the dying sun at night, only to give birth to him the next day. This image was
likely one of the sources for the many paintings of the Virgin Mary holding the
body of the dead Christ.
The color red implies
completion, as in the fall harvest. At one time the popular colors of Halloween
were black and red, until the American pumpkin made Halloween orange. Red is
associated with authority and influence—red carpets being unrolled for VIPS,
Roman Catholic Cardinals wearing red hats, Chinese officials sporting red
buttons to show their rank. Red is also worn to ward off the evil eye and bad
luck. The ancient Romans wore red coral against the evil eye. Red thread
was used to keep fairies and witches from casting spells on children and farm
Vampiric fairies were thought to dye their red caps by
dipping them in blood; when the cap dried, the evil fairy would have to search
out a fresh victim. These particular fairies were described as having long
sharp talons, being short of stature with long gray beards, carrying red staffs,
their evil faces dominated by crooked, protruding teeth and red eyes.
In Russia, Santa Claus is known as Ded Maroz, or Grandfather
Frost (in Siberia, Father Ice).
Like our Western version of St. Nick, he has a long white beard and wears a red
coat and black boots. His helper is the Snow Girl, who presents ginger
cookies to the good. This version has Santa making his rounds on New Year’s
Day, not Christmas, traveling the Russian landscape in a sleigh pulled by
I’d like to recommend my friend Nellie Hufford’s new book
of poetry as a possible Valentine’s Day gift. Proof of My Existence is written
by a great story teller. Many
times after the end of our poetry workshop, Nell shares the most incredible
stories about her family and other people she grew up with—never one dull
moment. The Halloween issue of Night
‘til Dawn contains several poems and drawings of mine. (Google on!) Happy
winter, Earthlings, and here’s a poem.
The Old Yule Goat
As the wind screams,
Causing my guts to jump
Like squirming black toads,
The Great Hunt flies over
Led by a howling daemon
With horns that curve
Like the waning moon.
Its hooves cast sparks
Across the sky.
Chris Friend, email@example.com, of
Parkersberg, W.Va, wrote the BP #78 poem, “The Old Yule Goat” (+ BP #77’s
4-poem set: “At 50,” “Owls,” “Vintage Halloween,” & “Xmas in the Doll
Asylum”; 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”). He also illustrates his “MARS
News” column. After a cover for BP’s 2000 fall issue, he 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) [Jan. 2011].