Folklore Spotlight: The Pooka
The Pooka is an obscure creature found in Celtic folklore, and one of the oldest ones. It is known by many other names, including, púca, phouka, puca, pwka, etc. It is a creature that could either benefit or harm, though it is better known for its evil tricks.
The Pooka is said to be related to the fairies, despite being described as a shapeshifting goblin creature. It can take any form it likes, though it often appears as a horse. You may be remembering another shapeshifting creature that also appears as a horse, but this is no Kelpie. It isn't a water spirit and won't dive in pools to drown you. This creature always has dark fur and ruins properties, makes people sick, affects the growth of crops, and the like.
Some accounts believe the Pooka is related to the Tuatha de Danann. I'll be writing another post about them soon enough, but to sum it up, the Tuatha de Danann is an ancient race of heavenly people who were once deities. After many Celtic people became Christians, it is said that these people fell when no one believed in them anymore and became the supernatural creatures often present in these kinds of stories. This troublemaker may be one of these creatures who survived after their downfall.
The most frequent stories of the Pooka involves the beast taking drunk people for a wild ride in the night. They use their magic to make the rider not remember a thing about the occurrence and can drop them in whatever place they see fit, leaving the drunkard confused and lost in the morning. If you ever had a wild night and can't remember a thing, you can blame the Pooka!
Of course, there are many different tales and versions depending on the county. As I said earlier, it's not always evil. It is also known to give wise advice to people, which the people respond by giving it presents in exchange. Personally, I won't listen to advice coming from a well-known troublemaker, even if they may be wise and right. You never know when it might decide to tell you something wrong just to make you look like a fool.
There was only one person who was able to control the Pooka. King of Ireland, Brian Boru. He rode the beast with a bridle made from three hairs of the Pooka. He rode it until it collapsed with exhaustion and then he made the beast promise to not bother Christian people or Irishmen ever again unless they were rowdy people who are up to no good. Stories of the mischievous Pooka continue after this point though, so it seems to have forgotten its promise. Or maybe it never intended to keep it in the first place.
Whether good or bad, it's not something you can trust. However, it never harmed anyone directly either. It's a standard troublemaker who may ruin property or spread ill luck. There are definitely scarier creatures out there, but this one is interesting because of how obscure it is. (In this part of the world at least.) The idea of a creature so terrifying that the sight of it can affect crops and livestock is pretty amazing, especially when this same creature can attain respect from its wisdom. There are many tricksters in folklore, but that doesn't stop this one from being unique in its own right.
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