Nov 18, 2009

"What Is...?" Wednesday

 Pooka (Old Irish for ghost
also spelled.. Puca, Pooka, Puka, Phouka

The Pooka is the English equivalent of the Old Gaelic word Púca and refers to the most feared and respected fairy in Celtic folklore. According to legend, the Púca can shape shift into a wide variety of forms, it may appear as a horse, rabbit, goat, dog or goblin. However, it's most common appearance is that of a dark horse with yellow eyes and it roams the countryside at night smashing down fences and gates, terrifying livestock and spoiling blackberries.  

One of the agricultural traditions that surround the Púca is at the end of harvesting, a small deformed goblin shows up in search of a small share of the crops, if he is not made happy he will wreak havoc.. so the farmers leave behind a small amount of the crop which has become known as "The Puca’s share"  in order to satisfy this ravenous goblin.In other regions, the Púca is spoken of with  more respect rather than fear, for if treated with due reverence, it may actually be beneficial to those who run into it. 

The púca is from the mountains and hills and from those areas there are stories of it appearing on "November Day" and giving prophecies and warnings to those who inquire of it. If a human is beguiled into riding on a Púca's back, it has been known to give them a wild ride... though unlike the kelpie (which will take its rider and dive into the nearest stream or lake to drown and/or devour them), the Púca will do its rider no real harm.

It is told that only one man has ever managed to ride the Púca and that was Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland. Using a special bridle containing three hairs from the Púca's tail, Brian managed to control the magic horse and stay on its back until, exhausted, it surrendered to his will.

The king extracted two promises from it... firstly, that it would no longer torment christian people and ruin their property and secondly.. that it would never again attack an Irishman (all other nationalities are exempt) except those who are drunk or abroad with an evil intent. The latter it could attack with greater ferocity than before. 

The Púca reluctantly agreed to these conditions.... however over the intervening years, the Púca seems to have forgotten its bargain and attacks on property and sober travellers on their way home continue to this day. I'm so glad I don't drink or leave the house!

* I apologize if you were looking for a six foot, invisible rabbit.


Fire Lyte said...

Hmm.... Oddly enough, I don't buy the "don't attack Christians" thing. Sounds like the story of St. Patrick and the driving of the snakes from Ireland. I'd be willing to put a small amount of money on the chance that, while the fairy spirit might be real, the Christian aspect of the story could be mere propaganda to get those dirty pagans to turn Christian.... Hmm.... Just a thought.

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Rue said...

They do sound alot friendlier than a Kelpie! Almost...

I'd be willing to leave a little extra out if it meant my fence didn't 'fall down' and I didn't get jumped walking home from the pub at night!