Wednesday, September 1, 2010
The Púca or Pooka.
The Pooka is the Anglicisation of the Old Gaelic word Púca, it refers to the most feared and respected fairy in Celtic folklore. According to legend, the Púca can metamorphose into a wide variety of shapes; it may appear as a horse, rabbit, goat, dog or goblin. However, it most commonly assumes the shape of a dark horse with yellow eyes, it roams the countryside at night smashing down fences and gates, terrifying and scattering livestock.
Certain agricultural traditions surround the Púca, it is said that at the end of harvesting, a small deformed goblin shows up in search of a small share of the crops, if he is not placated he will wreak havoc, so the croppers leave behind a small amount of the crop which has become known as the Púca's share to satisfy the ravenous goblin. Only one man ever managed to tame a Púca - Brian Boru, when high King of Ireland, managed to ride a Púca until it surrendered to his will. He forced the Púca to make two promises - firstly that he would no longer torment Christians and secondly that he would no longer attack Irishmen except those who were drunk or were roaming with evil intent.
The puca agreed but as the centuries rolled by it forgot its bargain and returned to its old ways. However, in some areas the Púca is spoke about with quite an amount of deference and is treated with more respect than fear. It is stated that if the Púca is treated with respect they can actually turn out to be more beneficial than malevolent.
According to legend, the Púca is a deft shape shifter, capable of assuming a variety of terrifying or pleasing forms, and may appear as a horse, rabbit, goat, goblin, or dog. No matter what shape the púca takes, its fur is almost always dark. It most commonly takes the form of a sleek black horse with a flowing mane and luminescent golden eyes.
If a human is enticed onto a Púca's back, it has been known to give them a wild ride, though unlike a kelpie, which will take its rider and dive into the nearest stream or lake to drown and devour him/her, the Púca will do its rider no real harm. The Púca has the power of human speech, and has been known to give advice and lead people away from harm. Though the púca enjoys confusing and often terrifying humans, it is considered to be benevolent
Certain agricultural traditions surround the púca. It is a creature associated with Samhain, a Pagan harvest festival, when the last of the crops is brought in. Anything remaining in the fields is considered "Púka", or fairy-blasted, and hence inedible. In some areas reapers leave a small share of the crop, the "Púca's share", to placate the hungry creature. Nonetheless, November 1st is the Púca's day, and the one day of the year when it can be expected to behave civilly.
The Púca is a creature of the mountains and hills, and in those regions there are stories of it appearing on November Day and providing prophecies and warnings to those who consult it.
The Púca (also Pooka, Phouka, Púka, Glashtyn, Gruagach) is a creature of Irish and Welsh myth. It is one of the myriad of fairy (faery) folk, and, like many faery folk, is both respected and feared by those who believe in it.
The Púca is an adroit shape changer, capable of assuming a variety of terrifying forms. It may appear as an eagle or as a large black goat (its name is a cognate of the early Irish 'poc', 'a male goat' and it lends its name to Puck, the goat-footed satyr made famous in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream), but it most commonly takes the form of a sleek black horse with a flowing mane and glowing yellow eyes.
The Púca is considered by many to be the most terrifying of all the creatures of faery. Not the slightest reason is its appearance, but it is its powers that are most feared. It is said to waylay travellers and others about at night, and if it is able to toss them onto its back, it will, at very least, provide them with the ride of their lives, from which they will return forever changed. A similar creature, the Aughisky (Water-horse), will allow itself to be saddled and ridden, but if it is ever taken next to a river or pond, it will carry its hapless rider into the water and rip him to pieces. The Púca has the power of human speech, and has been said to call those it feels have slighted or offended it out of their homes for a ride. If they fail to appear, it will tear down fences, scatter livestock, and create general mayhem.
At the beginning of the 21st century, the Púca has succumbed to the terminal cuteness which has been the fate of so many other powerful mythological creatures. Contemporary media have reduced it to a harmless, shy, and slightly demented garden-gnomish weevil eater. Toy manufacturers seek to increase their market penetration by selling cuddly blue-eyed púcas, in absolute ignorance of the thousands of years of history they debase in doing so. Yet myth is not easily denied. The Púca, ever the master of disguise, may find new life in synthetic fur and glass eyes, and gallop forth into the darkness once again to strike fear into the hearts of the midnight traveller.