Black Flowers, Part 2 of 2
Annotations By :
Adrian Brown

Click Here for issue synopsis

It has been observed that several events happen between issues, such that this could have been a three-issue arc.

There were two main strands left hanging in the previous issue.
(1) Angie was alone in the asylum being menaced by the hand-necklace "soulherds" (a term coined by my Straight to Hell cohort, Mr Funk)
(2) John and Kev are on their way to the asylum.

In the interests of science, before we being on this issue, this is what might have happened while we were not looking.

From Issue #182, page 20:
(extra page 1)
John and Kev by the side of the road, John examining what the aforementioned Mr Funk calls "the little crop of horrors" - ie the Black Flowers. Off panel, there is an explosion. Kev looking back towards the explosion, "What the fuck?" John, "It's that petrol station we just came past ..." We see them looking at the burning petrol station from their position up the hill. ctd on Issue #183, Page 1.

From Issue #182, page 21:
(extra page 2)
Angie looks up and sees the Soulherd, thus providing a cliff-hanger that is resolved "off-screen" before we see her next. It is too close for her to try and run away, but as it comes close to her, it just keeps on walking past her, disinterested. She follows the Soulherd into the Asylum, at a safe distance.
(extra page 3)
She sees it stalking the possessed like a predator and dispatching them as it goes. She realises that something is trying to possess her, and pinches herself as if trying to wake from a dream. The would-be possessor "retreats", and she puts two and two together about pain scaring them off.
(extra page 4)
So she heads for the kitchen where sees a group of possessed patients who are the four we saw at the start of the previous issue. She recognises her brother and speaks to him, he calmly looks at her and says something in a strange language. Angie says "What have they done to you ?" She steps away from him, backing into the larder.
(extra page 5)
As the four approach her, the Soulherd comes in through the door and Angie quickly grabs "Jason" and pulls him into the larder, closing the door. Oustide the other three are dispatched by the Soulherd. Unconcerned about what is happening outside, "Jason" turns to Angie with a lascivious leer. Again, he speaks in the dead voice.
(extra page 6)
Angie replies reaching to a desk behind her and putting her hand on a paperweight. "Whatever you are, you can fuck right off. And that goes for you too, Jason." She knocks him out. Final panel, she sits at the back of larder, holding a knife and looking at Jason tied up on the floor.

Personally, I blame DC for cutting their books to 22 pages !

Anyway, enough of the fan fiction ... back to what REALLY happened.

Page 1

Apparently, Driver's Dream is a chain of service stations in the US? There aren't any in the UK as far as I know, but in any case, it's been blown up by the revelry of the possessed townsfolk.

This scene follows on from the debauchery of the previous issue. If the possessors had not been around for many years, they may recognise fire, but not know that YOU SHOULD NEVER LIGHT A FIRE NEAR A PETROL STATION. Indeed, their behaviour is that of primitive folk who do not know the ways of the modern world. Eating chocolate with the wrappers still on !

Page 2

They look like shepherds, and sure enough they are reaping the souls that they find.

Page 3

"Tilgidh mi mo dhubhan sios ! Gun mi fein dhol !"
"Tilgidh mi mo dhubhan sios" means "I will cast down my hook,"
"Gun mi fein dhol eug a 'n aonais." means "That I may not die without them."
Roughly speaking, "put down your crook! I don't want to die!"

The Soulherds are described as harvesting the shivering darkness and the hosts collapse.

Page 4

The burning petrol station.

Kev thinks they're all dead, but how's that going to be explained away to the authorities ? Kev's not used to this sort of thing, and for once, John sends away potential Hell-fodder.

"Do a runner" is an idiomatic phrase for "leave". It is also an album by top Brummie punk band, Athletico Spizz 80, perhaps best known for their song "Where's Captain Kirk?"

Page 5

The Soulherds seem confused by the "lost soul" of a chap who appears to be an alcoholic. Yes, I am qualified to deduce this from his sad face and bottle of ale in panel 2 and the reference to him being "both alive and dead". If they are not actually killing the hosts, that's a damn good cure for alcoholism.

I wish to point out that a road sign would probably not say "Mental Hospital". It might say "St Peter's Psychiatric Hospital" to prevent people turning up looking for A&E.

Page 6

So, Kev's off back to the safety of London.

The Weaver's Arms, 98 Newington Green Road, Stoke Newington, London N16. It's quite a decent folk music venue, I bet some of John's mates from the old punk days play acoustic sets there now, covering Leon Rosselson songs.

"I am a friend to this house" is a ward that would be handy for burglars. But presumably you have to be genuine for it to work. The phrase seems to originate from Euripides' "Medea" where the translation includes " that man is no friend to this house"

"Ancor, anacor." This is an invocation of angels. These two names are taken from the Ars Notoria of Solomon which allows the reciter to divine the nature of a physical ailment. Quite appropriate for attending possessions at a hospital, I'd say.

"If you would have the perfect knowledge of any Disease, whether the same tend to death or life: if the sick party lie languishing, stand before him, & say this Oration three times with great reverence."

"Candones helosi et vos eleutis phugori." Another part of the same Oration. "Elleminator, Candones helosi, Tephagain, Tecendum, Thaones, Behelos, Belhoros, Hocho Phagan, Corphandonos, Humanæ natus & vos Eloytus Phugora: Be present ye holy Angels, advertise and teach me, whether such a one shall recover, or dye of this Infirmity."

Page 7

Note that the souls that are possessing the patients are coming from beneath the hospital, perhaps an ancient burial ground of some kind under the hill ?

John picks up some earth and the flowers don't like it.

Page 8

Much of the Gaelic language that is used in this story can be found in ancient poems from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

"Gun ghiomh, gun gheimh roimh neach fo'n ghrein," means "Without fear, without terror of any one under the sun," and comes from a verse called "Blessing of the Kindling"

"Co iad ri luim an lair ? " = "Who are they on the bare floor?"
" We shall have flesh" = "we shall have flesh"
This is the possessing soul speaking, a sort of a threat. John points out that they have their own problems to deal with, presumably he means the Soulherds on their way up from the petrol station. He could mean that the post is late, and the postman who is confronting him ought to be back to work.

Page 9

Intriguing to note that the possessed bodies still feel pain here.

"Cha bhi sinn an geimhlibh bais" = "We shall not be in the bonds of death"

The earth from their graves has power against them. Remember that this earth has held them "below" for ages. There is also the tale of Dracula, where the earth he was buried in is needed for him to rest.

Page 10

Word travels fast among the body-snatching dead. Off they run, away from the earth in John's hand.

Page 11

John's expecting Angie of course, but she is not expecting him.

"This is a madhouse!" "Yeah well that's pretty much what it says on the label."

This is a reference to a UK TV advert, for Ronseal wood treatment products. Quick-drying Varnish that is rainproof in 30 minutes, which is exactly what it says on the tin. It has become a watchword for plain-speaking, no-nonsense attitude. (See, you got your "Whassup?" and we have such proverbs as this.)

It's a psychiatric hospital, so of course it's a madhouse.

Page 12

Angie did well to tie Jason up, but those ankles look PAINFUL.

John does his own annotations here, which might have saved me a bit of time - see issue #182, page 10.

Such mundane concerns as a drink or a shag ! Well, what would your first task be if you had a chance of life after death ? Eating brains ? Or a pint and a bit of the other ? Exactly.

So the Soulherds are called the Gironnved. I can't find a source for this anywhere.

Page 13

The Soulherds have that dichotomy that shepherds (and psychiatric nurses) often have. Are they looking after their charges or imprisoning them ? As they retrieve the souls of the dead, they are merely serving their function.

Page 14

Once again, John provides annotations for Angie. She may have dabbled in magic, but she's not so familiar with the "mythological" side. He points out that the possessed townsfolk are being killed in order to reap the dead souls. Let's hope no-one can link John and Angie to the slaughter that has already happened !

Page 15

John's trusty fag packet has divined the location of the door - it's the lift shaft, as we knew.

Page 16

Note the true art of british swearing. Multiple stacking of the profanity should not be attempted by the ignorant.

The graphic story-telling on this page is mighty fine !
Set-up: John and Angie are too far from the door.
Tension: Here come the Gironnved !
Threat: Jason will have to die.
Solution: We need a sacrifice.
Misdirection: "sacrific", knife, potential sacrificee.

Page 17

Blue-Orange-Red. The panel transition portrays Angie's rage.

Perhaps John was thinking of Jason ?

Page 18

"Chrathadh fual air cruach do sheanar" means "Urine was sprinkled on the rump of thy grandsire" "Piss on your grandfather." A curse worthy of John Constantine !

Angie is trying to console her brother but the fear belongs to the dead soul that is possessing him.

Page 19 But (of course) John's got other plans.

Page 20

And the sacrifice is one of the Gironnved.

"Bho shaighde reang nam ban seanga sith, Bho chridhe mhi-ruin, bho shuil an uilc" means "Since thou to them madest the noble charm, To keep them from straying, to save them from harm".

"Oidhch inid" means "on Ash Eve" which is Pancake Day, I men Shrove Tuesday. One for the Hellblazer timeline, trivia fans !

As the death is dedicated to Arawn, the souls are removed from the bodies in the town, and the Girnonnved are no longer required to kill everyone. There were eight deaths though. Since they were focussed around the hospital, I guess it will just have to be put down to one of the lunatics. I'm not a detective, but Jason seems to be implicated.

Page 21

Remember how the possessed Jason has been behaving ?

I particularly like the manner in which Jason responds to his sister now that he is "back to normal". This is a very accurate depiction of people with certain mental illnesses might react to a family member.

Everything has returned beyond the gate. Anyone interested in character development in Hellblazer (ie all of us I hope) should note that lovely final panel where John lights Angie's cigarette. A spark is certainly transmitted between them.

Page 22

Flashbacks provide more annotations within the tale, as we see Clarice at Packer's funeral (from #180, p. 21) and the Lukhavim (from #181, p. 21) reminding us that three doors will be opened.

Footnote: It's rather odd that the Black Flowers of the title do not get more of a mention. They seem to have escaped from Arawn's domain in the same way the dead souls have (see John's comment on page 21).

I found two very interesting references to Black Flowers.

"Vanilla was known to the natives of México (the Aztecs, who called the spice tlilxochitl "black flower" in their own tongue, Náhuatl); they used it to flavour their famous chocolate drink (cacahuatl "cacao water", in Mayan tongue chocol haa), made from cocoa beans, honey, hot water and, according to some sources, annatto seeds or even pungent paprika. When Hernán Cortés forced the Aztec ruler Moctezuma to grant him an audience on November 14th, 1519, he was the first European to try chocolate; less than three years later, the great Aztec capital Tenochtitlán had been shattered to pieces, and the Aztec empire had ceased to exist."

From Philip Larkin's unpublished "In the Grip of Light" (15th Dec 1945)

Who whistled for the wind
That it should break,
Gently on this air,
On what ground was it gathered, where
for the carrying, for its own sake
is night so gifted.

Mind never met
image of death like this, and yet
(all winds crying for that unbroken field
day having lifted)
Black flowers burst out where night has knelt.

I feel this poem may be tinged with imagery of black flowers from Hiroshima, but that last line is lovely.

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