Black Petals Issue #93 Autumn, 2020

Mars-News, Views and Commentary

BP Artists and Illustrators
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
Justin Alcala: A Horse for Us All-Fiction
Matthew Penwell: Bless Be Him-Fiction
Shiloh Simmons: Coffin Birth-Fiction
John Cox: Don't Teach Cats Latin-Fiction
Ken Hueler: I, Said the Fish-Fiction
R. A. Busby: Not the Man I Married-Fiction
Jude Clee: Notes from a Bathroom Stall-Fiction
M. W. Moriearty: Scarecrows-Fiction
Robert Masterson: Sharper Than She Ever Imagined-Fiction
Michael Steven: The Mirror-Fiction
Kevin Hawthorne: The Song-Fiction
Marlin Bressi: The Man on the Box-Fiction
Terry Riccardi: Winter Hunt-Fiction
Stephen J. Tillman: Angry Tammy-Flash Fiction
Andreas Hort: Pay the Price!-Flash Fiction
Sam Clover: Piety and Parm-Flash Fiction
Deisy Toussaint: Parasite in the Shadows-Flash Fiction
Outnumbered-Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Mickey Sloan: Basement Beldam-Poetry
Daniel G. Snethen: Grandmother Screamed-Poetry
Daniel G. Snethen: Pumpkin Tanka-Poetry
Daniel G. Snethen: Yellow Death-Haiku
Theresa C. Gaynord: The JuJu Man-Poetry
Theresa C. Gaynord: The Widow Paris-Poetry
Theresa C. Gaynord: Funeral at the Louisiana Bayou-Poetry
Theresa C. Gaynord: The Old Hag-Poetry
Loris John Fazio: Halloween Prayer-Poetry
Marilyn Lou Berry: My Darling, My Sustenance-Poetry
Chris Collins: Nature-Poetry

By Chris Friend-Autumn, 2020


For the Halloween issue of Mars I decided to do an article on the old practice of the ‘sin eater’. Many moons ago a classic episode of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery featured The Waltons’ Richard Thomas as the son who had to stand in for his dying father as the village sin eater. He ends up having to eat his father’s many sins after his death.

The practice seems to have originated in Wales, but can be found in many other places, even here in my native West Virginia. This custom can be viewed as a Christian as well as a sympathetic form of folk magic. The sin eater is hired to come into a dying person’s home or the home of somebody who has already died to have some food or a crust of bread laid out on the person’s chest. By ingesting the food item the sin eater absorbs the misdeeds of the dead or dying person. Sometimes one of the mourners would give the sin eater a cup of ale to wash down the sins. This would complete the ritual. At other times the ritual of sin eating would be held outside of the house in the family’s flower garden. This time a whole loaf of bread was given to the sin eater and, once finished, the ritual would be done, absolving the deceased of any sins. The sin eater would then be paid a wage and sent on their way. In some cases the sin eater was seen as a pariah in small rural communities and even believed to be possessed by devils. I should mention that a good friend of mine told me that she once went to a funeral where a sin eater was present. She said that the sin eater stayed over in a corner hidden in the shadows. 


Recently I caught the cult classic horror “The Beyond.” Even though I find copious amounts of blood and gore usually too much to take, I give this particular Italian splatter film a reasonably good rating. For one thing, this was well photographed and produced for a typical zombies-from-hell flick. The story starts out with the execution of a suspected warlock, which opens up a gateway to hell. Years later the same antebellum museum is being fixed and refurbished, which angers the house’s assorted demons. Even the murdered warlock shows up as a zombie. We get plenty of nasty murders, such as large spiders eating a man. Again, there is some gory stuff in “The Beyond,” but still not nearly as much as the ugly “Saw” or “Hostel” films. Recommended, but not for the squeamish, it is directed by cult favorite Lucia Fulci. Happy Halloween, Earthlings.


Chris Friend,, of Parkersberg, W.Va , who wrote BP #91 Poems, “Land of Big Teeth” & “Possessed” (+ BP’s fall 2018 poems, “Demons Play Flutes” & “Purdy Picture”; BP #84’s poems, “The Sentinel” and “Psalm of Mithra”; the BP #81 poem set, “Angel of the Bereft, “Beauty’s Sleep,” & “Dark Trinity”; the BP #80 poem, “The Temple of Colors”; BP #79 poems, “The Marquis” and “My Bloody Valentine”; 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”), 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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