The Fires of Ecstasy at Samhuinn

Like a ravished shadow she danced
Atop Calton Hill, serpent-haired,
Full naked, black-decay painted,
Silver skin kissed by cloud-lightning
That turns her liquid darkness lucent —
With twisted tree-fires, luminous red,
She casts illusion upon the hillside
Tracing spirits of the illustrious dead

Hesperidean garden-fires
Of violets & violence,
Slaughter & sexual license,
Chaos-born, daughter of Darkness
She burns with cold luminescence:
The other light, liminal shine,
Skies of a caliginous universe
Watching with eyes of dead starlight

Dark Æther, son of Erebus,
The deepest of shadow, ancient,
Drunk on darkness & ecstasy
The night is alive & breathing,
Awakening skeletal-fingered bats,
The witching hour’s fairy ride,
Starlight-gliding serpents dreaming
And magic-raskovnik hedgehogs starry-eyed

Her fire-sworn eyes held the starlight
Alive with dead philosophy,
Speaking to me in poetry
Without ever saying a word —
In a language of another world
She consumed me with a brilliance,
Dark & Light, shining her night-fire
Into my mind with Orphic arcanæ

Pursuing me like mad spirits
Her eyes stripped me of my secrets,
With night-craft she occults the moonlight,
Divining stars like glowing bones
She could sight read the starry sky:
Listening deeply, she heard my
Suicide-whisperings at Whitby
Where madness & despair were ascending

Seeing deeper into my mind
She saw my Faerie-born lovechild,
A phantom-vision, a past life,
Passions & poisons Venetian,
Buried bones, garden skeletons,
My inheritance of lightning
And despairing letters Keatsian:
On life & love and death & ecstasy

My Springtime of youth was long dead,
In truth I felt Summer fading —
Dead harvests, lush gardens dying,
Yet their buried secrets remain:
Fragrance of dead flowers above,
Stench of death below, a dark stain,
Damp black earth, the home of worms
And all the featureless patterns of decay

Seeing deeper, ever deeper,
She saw ghosts of my haunted mind:
The elfin nymph, the Yorkshire sprite,
Olivia the phantom-eyed
Who brought torrents of inspired light
Into realms of my endless night,
Whose death I breathed into mine
Worshipping her as my goddess divine

But then her own vision came to me:
I saw in her burning eyes fires
Of Áillen the burner, I heard harps
And Faerie-song of the aes sídhe,
I saw snow & ice, her mountain-throne,
Nibheis, phantasmagorias fevered
And universes undiscovered —
Then, when she kissed me, her eyes released me

With her frostbitten kiss, I tasted
The blood of Summer on her lips —
Consumed by her fires of ecstasy
I succumbed to immortality:
Astral visions & spirits unseen

On my knees, petite mort dying,
I kissed her goddess lips Tartarean,
Tasting nightshade & dreamy atropine,
And, willingly, I swallowed her sweet poisons
Like a poet’s potion of emerald green

She then revealed herself to me:
The Veiled One, between Life & Death,
Yet She is immortal, deathless,
Rider of storms, the wolf-charmer,
Goddess of frosts & lengthening darkness

She peeled off Her silver-spun flesh
Of cloud-lightning, spellbound by light
Alive with eyes of liminal skies,
And, intoxicated by eternity,
I beheld two worlds of one dark reality

Like a vision within a flame,
I awakened and found Her changed:
Age-withered & bent, She became
The hag-witch, the one true Cailleach,
Smiling red-toothed with dark cerulean skin

For centuries She would oversee
The crowning of a winter king,
But, with icy fingers that reach
Toward Her own eternity,
She extinguishes the fires of ecstasy

I watch as she plucks dying stars
From mountain-peaks, frozen with time,
Weaving them into a crown of ice
Glimmering with liminal shine:
Burning to live, and yet living to die

Living, yet ever lingering,
Sight reading skies of dying light
Her music lives within dead eyes,
Between worlds of liminal realms
Where only death creates new life,
And only life gives birth to new death,
Feeding the earth with ghosts
Until they grow and breathe again,
Where She keeps captured shadows
Of the lengthening darkness,
Spreading them upon the world
Like a prelude to Night everlasting

Listening between living dreams
And ecstasies of Her limbal rings,
I am mesmerized, hypnotized,
By the sounds of spirits unseen,
Speaking to me in melodies
From a language of Her universe,
Spoken in death & rebirth,
Keening to me Her loathing
For the rule of petulant kings

Until, like an astral vision
Showing me wonders from the stars,
I watched as Her icy fingers
Held eternity & destiny,
And, with a smile meant for me
Made of Summer’s fiery desires
When She drank from the wells of Spring,
Placed Her starlight crown of Winter
Upon Her head for all the world to see

Needless of rite or ceremony
And before Her spirits unseen,
She becomes what She once became,
For in every season of change
There is only one true goddess,
There is only one true queen.

[Clay F. Johnson is an amateur pianist, devoted animal lover, and incorrigible reader of Gothic literature & Romantic-era poetry. His writing has been featured in the Horror Writers Association’s Poetry Showcase & Enchanted Conversation: A Fairy Tale Magazine, nominated for a Rhysling Award & Pushcart Prize, and received Honorable Mention in The Best Horror of the Year. His first collection of poetry, A Ride Through Faerie & Other Poems, is forthcoming in 2021.. Find out more on his website at or follow him on Twitter @ClayFJohnson.]