Monster Monday: Pooka

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about the Pooka.

Puck of Pook's Hill by Arthur Rackham (1905)
Puck of Pook’s Hill by Arthur Rackham (1905)

A pooka is a fairy-like creature in Celtic folklore. It can change its shape and often appears as a horse, a rabbit, a goat, and eagle or a dog. It can also appear as a misshapen goblin. If it appears as an animal, it’s fur or plumage is almost always black.

According to different legends, pookas can be malevolent, indifferent, or benevolent to humans. Certain stories tell of pookas leading travelers astray, sometimes even killing them and drinking their blood. In certain regions, the pooka is associated with the harvest and the Celtic version of Halloween, Samhain. Any fruit left in the field after Halloween is considered poisoned by the pookas. Some farmers even leave a small share, the “pooka’s share,” to placate the spirits.

In other legends the pooka is merely mischievous. It will appear to a person in the form of a docile horse and entice the person to get on its back. Once the person mounts the pooka, it takes off and gives the person a wild ride.

Other stories tell of pookas helping with household chores if treated with respect.

November 1 is considered the pooka’s day, and if approached on that day, they may give a person advice and predict the future.


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