Issue #18 February 14th - 20th 2003

The bit about love

Sister Janice and the Empty Mailbox
Back in the convent, Valentine's Day was a bit of a no-no. The Pope, in full-on killjoy fashion, decided way back in 1969 that the whole thing was way too Pagan.
By Sister Janice Slejj

St Valentine's day
The now sainted Bishop Valentine had helpfully got himself executed for assisting secret lovers on the eve of the feast; so he got to be the feast's new name.
By Jo Harrington

Blind Man's Bluff
It wasn't the most suitable job, for a blind man
There were so many things he could have done.... he was clever, resourceful, cute -
By Ian Anscombe

The bit about everything else

The tills have eyes - part 2
You didn't have to even be a member of the Communist Party, or even the Labour Party...
By Paul Williamson

Virginia's Magic Therapy Potion
Such a soul as drowned as mine in the god-kissed and the mused, draped in dreams of gemmed divine, now awakened, wet and bruised.
I "should" be all right.
By Emily Ann Potter


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Sister Janice and The Empty Mailbox

Sister Janice is our new agony aunt. She used to be a nun, but after becoming involved in an accident at her convent involving a papal emissary; the mother superior; the convent dog and a bottle of 'citrus fresh' bleach, she decided it was time to find herself a new career. These days she travels through the galaxies in a converted garden shed.

Write to Sister Janice Slejj care of Friends of the Heroes. She will answer your problems and questions with the insight unique to a disco-loving alternative-gardening defrocked clergy member and cosmic adventurer.

Hello again my little flickers of eternity,

When you woke this morning, what did you do?

Did you yawn, throw the alarm clock across the room, stumble out of bed, abuse yourself and go to work, as normal?

Or did you... just this once... creep to the letter box, hoping, hoping... hoping...

I hoped too my dears. And, like many of you, I hoped in vain.

My first year away from those religious fascists who attempted to curtail my enjoyment of life... into a new world.. and out of the new world, into the galaxy..

The postal services clearly reach this far, because I've been receiving battery-operated items destined for a man named Vincent in Colchester for the past week or so. I'm not entirely sure what all of them DO. I would write to him, and ask for an explanation, but then he might want them back.

Perhaps my mail went to him instead. For this week, my little dewdrops of morningtide, I have had NOTHING in the way of communication.

Not a letter.

Not even a post-card

And certainly not a bloody Valentine's Day card.

Now, I wasn't expecting much. I haven't found too many romantic opportunities whilst floating around the void in a garden shed. There was a brief moment with a man who tried to get me to sign up to the Raelian Order. But the closest I got to cloning was a coffee and a chat on the red spot of Jupiter.

But I hoped, as you do... yes, you do. Whether you admit it or not.

Back in the convent, Valentine's Day was a bit of a no-no. The Pope, in full-on killjoy fashion, decided way back in 1969 that the whole thing was way too Pagan. For which, read 'there's a possibility people might enjoy themselves. Let's stamp on it.'. So, the Holy Ordinance Of The Blessed Virgin didn't like it much either.

I remember once, trying to brighten their lives a little, suggesting the Valentine's 70s night at the local Ritzys.

Now, personally, I don't consider it unholy, strutting your God-given stuff to Grace Jones. The sanctimonious fuckers looked at me like I'd farted a demon.

That was it. I didn't try for years. I hoped this year might be different.

It can be a lonely life. I don't need another person to make it complete. I tried that. I tried it with The Big Guy In The Sky for a while, but he didn't come through.

I don't need another person. Happiness comes from within, and one day I hope to find some. But, this week, just this once, it would have been so nice to find a little envelope on my hemp-woven welcome mat.

tead, there's just an absence. An absence made all the worse by an expectation. As if the world were laughing at those of us managing alone. The rest of the world opens cards, feels the smug satisfaction of knowing that some cares enough to share a bit of paper with them. It doesn't mean all that much, when you know you're going to get something. For those of us with ourselves for company, it means a great deal more. We reflect on the lack of communication, and it seems as if the occasion was devised to bring home the emptiness of life in its full, shuddering numbness.

not going to solve any problems this week. I'm going to open one of the bottles of communion wine that I managed to sneak out of the convent. And I'm going to drink it all. On my own.

I hope you got what you wished, my little rainbows of diversity. And I hope you wished for happiness.

Sister Janice

Sister Janice Slejj


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St Valentine's Day

I often celebrate dual festival days, vaguely smug that the origins of my religion are also the source for the secular specialness of these days. Pagans and general society all simultaneously celebrate Samhain/Hallowe'en, Winter Solstice/Christmas, Imbolc/Candlemas and Beltane/May Day/Lady's Day. I can watch, with vague amusement, as God-fearing types enact pagan ceremonies without realising it.

Until this week, I did not realise that St Valentine's Day was also another of those Pagan festivals which had been Christianized into mass consumption. I had assumed that the 'saint' part of the name had meant it had its origins in the crowded calendar of Catholic Saints' Days, especially as it didn't correspond with any of the eight Wiccan sabbats. However, it now seems that the only thing Christian about this particular day is the name attached to it.

Internet sources (of unknowable reliability) have informed me that the pre-Christian Romans used to celebrate the Feast of Lupercalis, celebrating Februata Juno, goddess of love and marriage, and Pan, the god of nature, on February 15th. Part of the festivities on that day involved all the single people placing their names in a hat and then pulling out the name of a member of the opposite sex, in a kind of lucky dip. This person became their sexual partner for the day.

Things changed somewhat when the Roman Emperors converted to Christianity.

An aside: It was considered sound military strategy to encourage homosexuality amongst the Roman soldiers, on the basis that young Julius or Septimus were going to fight a little harder, if they were going to impress the cute lad who'd just joined the legion; or if such-and-such had his boyfriend of several years standing battling away alongside him, he might put that extra effort into the fight, just to ensure his loved one got home safe and sound. The flip side of all of this was that marriage with a female wasn't merely discouraged, but it was illegal while he fought in the Roman army.

Enter the criminal clergy. These were the Christian priests and bishops who performed clandestine marriage ceremonies for soldiers who really insisted on marrying a woman. The penalty for performing such a ceremony was execution and, on February 14th, 260, Bishop Valentine was beheaded for doing just that.

It wasn't until 496 that Pope Gelasius sussed that his Christian Empire was not going to give up the Feast of Lupercalis, no matter how many missionaries he sent out. So he let them keep it… with a few minor alterations for the good of their souls and all that. The now sainted Bishop Valentine had helpfully got himself executed for assisting secret lovers on the eve of the feast; so he got to be the feast's new name. The lottery was emptied of the names of nubile young things and filled instead with saints' names. The lucky dipper had to emulate that saint for the rest of the year.

Pity those who got Sebastian…


Jo Harrington


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Blind man's bluff

It wasn't the most suitable job, for a blind man

There were so many things he could have done....he was clever, resourceful, cute

Had he been free to choose his own destiny, anything would have been possible...poet, philosopher, king....

But he wasn't free. He was under obligation, in the way that only his kind could be. His parents had chosen this for him. His parents, and their friends, the Gods.

Sometimes he'd imagine them, laughing at him. Laughing at their own clever trickery...

'Oh yes... We'll make him wear a LOIN CLOTH...and shoot ARROWS!'

He would imagine them, laughing at him....and he hated them. He knew they laughed. He knew fate laughed. Everyone found his predicament amusing.

And he would have his revenge on them all..

Being immortal, he had plenty of opportunity for revenge. His arrows were tipped with a unique poison. It could kill, in extreme cases, but more frequently it gave rise to a deep and abiding intoxication - a semi-hallucinogenic state in which the thoughts, the actions, the physical proximity of one other being became of such importance to the sufferer that nothing else could exist in their afflicted brain.

Nothing could displant the poison's potent effects, although sometimes it grew weaker with time. In their poisoned state, people would give away all their belongings, including their dignity. They would spill blood, including their own. Their world would change completely, and forever.

There was so much power in that little bow. They laughed, in the early days.

They didn't laugh for long.

Cupid decided to g