Thursday, November 8, 2012


The Púca (Irish for goblin).

The origin of the name Púca may come from the Scandinavian word for "nature spirit" — a pook or puke. The nature spirits were considered very capricious spirits and had to be continually placated or they would create havoc in the countryside, destroying crops and causing illness among livestock.

Alternatively, some authorities suggest that the name comes from the early Irish "poc" meaning either 'a male goat' or a 'blow from a cudgel'.

According to Irish legend, the Púca is a shape shifting trickster, myraid fae capable of assuming a variety of terrifying or pleasing forms. All Púca are tied to a specific type of animal and have aspects of that animal (whiskers, scales, feathers, ears, tails, etc.). They are able to shape change into that animal, if unobserved. A Púca is most often disguised as a sleek, dark horse with yellow or luminescent golden eyes and a long wild mane. However it frequently appears as a horse, rabbit, goat with curling horns, goblin, or dog, however, presumably it may take the form of any animal. No matter what shape the Púca takes, its fur is almost always dark.

Similar to other faery folk and creatures of Celtic myth, the legend of the Púca varies from region to region and the creature is either respected or feared by those who believe in its existence.

For instance in some regions it is said that in its horse form the Púca roams large areas of countryside at night, tearing down fences and gates, scattering livestock in terror, trampling crops and generally doing damage around remote farms. The mere sight of it may prevent hens laying their eggs or cows giving milk.

Incredibly, others see the Púca as a large rabbit. The Easter Bunny is of non-Christian in origin. The miraculous rabbit who delivers eggs and candy is still a potent symbol in the 21st Century and has his origins in the Celtic fertility spirit known as the Pooka.

Other regional stories tell of a huge, hairy bogeyman that terrifies those abroad at night and an eagle with a massive wingspan that swoops down upon unsuspecting travelers.

In its goat form it is the curse of all late night travelers as it is known to use its horns to swoop them up on to its back, however, unlike the Kelpie, which will take its riders and dive into the nearest stream or lake to drown and devour them, the Púca will do its rider no real harm. After their wild ride he will throw them or shake them off into brambles, muddy ditches or bog holes.

The Púca has the power of human speech and has been known to stop in front of certain houses and call out the names of those it wants to take upon its midnight rides. If that person refuses, the Púca will vandalize their property because it is a very vindictive fairy.

The only man ever to ride the Púca willingly was Brian Boru, 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 agreed to these conditions. However, over the years, it seems to have forgotten its bargain.

On a slightly brighter note, there are others who say that the Púca may be tricksters and compulsive liars, but that their personalities are almost child-like in innocence. Although the Púca is mischievous and enjoys confusing and often terrifying humans, it is benevolent or harmless and may even offer assistance by the way of advice, prophecies, and warnings where appropriate, to those who treat it with respect.

The Púca is a creature of the high mountains and hills, and in those regions there are stories of it appearing on November Day (Púca's Day) where it would behave civilly and provide prophecies and warnings to those who consulted it. People in other regions gathered on certain high places to await the speaking horse on Bilberry Sunday, a mid-summer celebration where people went to the hillsides and peat lands in groups to collect bilberries and sometimes find a spouse.

Certain agricultural traditions surround the Púca. It may transform into a small, deformed goblin, this creature is associated with Samhain, a Goidelic harvest festival. When the last of the crops are harvested, anything remaining in the fields is considered "Púca", or fairy-blasted, and hence inedible. In some locales, reapers leave a small share of the crop, the "Púca's share", to placate the hungry creature.

As disgusting as it may sound, at the beginning of November, the Púca was known—in some locales—to either defecate or to spit on the wild fruits rendering them inedible and unsafe.

Adding to the confusion of this creature's folklore there are other tales of the Púca appearing as a mysterious human-like traveler who often stoped along the side of the country home and talked for an hour or two. A favorite opening line is “You are new here, I think. Many years ago I used to live in this house, …” followed by interesting tales, often of where the family fortune disappeared. It sometimes seems that conspiracy theories started with the Irish Púcas. Fortunes swindled away from families are one of the main topics of the tales told by these visitors. The odd thing about these visits is that the person seems so real, until they go. The Púca does not say “Goodbye", they just disappear, without warning, and with the listener hardly noticing they have gone. And they never leave any sign behind, or do any harm. The fascination of the Púca is that they are encountered by people going about their normal affairs. Such people do not even realize that that anything unusual has taken place until perhaps an hour or so after the Púca has left.

Even the hardest heart can be melted with appropriately applied Púca pressure, a persuasive magic that encourages one to spill their closest-kept secrets to a prying Púca. Although they are also great listeners, they have a problem telling the truth. The truth simply isn't interesting to a Púca, and they feel that they must always improve on it in some way.

There is an old saying about the Púca -

"You can always trust a Púca,

but no one in their right mind would ever believe one."

Other variants on the spelling of Púca are (Irish) pooka, phooka, phouka, phooc, púka (Welsh) pwca, pwwka (Cornish) bucca (Channel Islands) pouque (Guernésiais and Jèrriais) pouquelée, pouquelay (Brittany) poulpiquet, polpegan. Similar terms are (English) puca, pucel, pook or puck (Norse) puki.

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