Only reported in ancient folklore, this ancient species is believed to have been driven to extinction between the period the muggles call the Dark Ages and the end of the Witch Hunts.
They were reputed to be great riddlers, rather like the Sphinxes of Greece, as well as responding well to kindness, often repaying the one who gave them kindness far in excess of the kindness first given. Some reports name them as shapeshifters and claim that all with the ability to become Animagi are their descendants or, alternately, that the first werewolves were the product of their unions with wixes.
Phooka (or Puca) are spirits from Irish Folklore, and are bringers of good and/or bad fortune. Some tales tell of Phooka helping farmers and villages, though others tell differently, saying that the phooka are vampire-like creatures that hunted and attacked humans. According to an anonymous boy in the past “old people used to say that the Pookas were very numerous…long ago…, were wicked-minded, black-looking, bad things…that would come in the form of wild colts, with chains hanging about them.“ More about them here.
Phooka generally use verbal methods of communication, even in their other forms. They can be quite verbose compared to other fae, but they can be blunt sometimes, and cruel. Be careful with what you say to them, for they can be easy to insult, and will bring bad fortune to those who insult them.
Phooka can have a human form, but they are also known to be shapeshifters. Their most common animal forms are that of a rabbit, goat, or a black horse (though they can take on the appearance of any animal if they wish).
Recorded as having been built by Geoffrey the Red of the Norman family of Synan in 1380, this tower on a rock was forfeited by the family in 1639, and granted to the St Leger family. Richard Morgan was in residence in 1748 at Castle Pook when he died at the age of 106. He had been clerk of the Court of Peace for the county in the time of James II; never at salt with his meat, and died of no other complaint than the mere effect of his age.
Castlepook or Castle Pook (The Castle of the Phooka or Fairy Horse) is made of limestone, with a stone vaulted roof which is still intact. There was once a spiral staircase made of stone in the southwest corner. Remains of the defensive wall form a ridge around what would have been the castle courtyard. Parts of a dry moat is visible. There is evidence of the site having been defended since prehistoric times, with traces of a ring for and ancient ramparts having been found on the site.
There are a number of legends attached to the castle, and these seem mainly to emanate form the nearby large cave (Castlepook or Mammoth Cave), which is described as having been inhabited by the Phooka, or by a good natured giant to secretly ground corn at night for the people of the neighborhood.
If they left the corn outside the door, they would find it neatly ground in the morning, but he did not like to be seen, and after one nosy parker had stayed awake in order to catch a glimpse of him, he disappeared and was never seen again. A variant of the story is that no effort should be made to thank the spirit, or giant, but in spite of this the master of the castle feeling grateful, left a new suit of clothes for him. The giant did not appear on the following nights, and eventually quit working because he was spending his time admiring himself in his new clothes. The idea of such a spirit working surreptitiously for the people and disappearing when seen is common and has even been recorded by the Brothers Grimm.
The poet Edmund Spenser (c. 1552 – January 13, 1599) lived near the castle and its legends may have inspired the name Pook in his poem, the Epithalamium. It is believed that the name Puck which Shakespeare used for Robin Goodfellow in A Midsummer Night’s Dream may in turn have been inspired by Spenser’s Pook.
The ruins are a few miles north of Doneraile, in the foothills of the Ballyhoura Mountains in County Cork, Ireland.
The Pooka is a mischievous and sometimes murderous supernatural being in the folklore of Ireland and surrounding lands. Other spellings include Phooka, Phouka, Púca, and Pwca.
A shapeshifter, the Pooka was said to take the form of a wild horse or fabulous bird and entice a traveller to ride it. Once on its back, the hapless human would be taken on a wild ride and then dropped into the water or off a cliff. In this way, the Pooka is similar to the Scottish Kelpie and the Norwegian Nøkk. Horses found wandering the countryside at night should be avoided, unless the night was Halloween, when a Pooka in horse form would speak of the future to anyone who asked it politely. Halloween was also the night Pookas were said to trample or urinate on unpicked blackberries, rendering them unfit to eat for the rest of the year.
Pookas would watch over graveyards in the form of snails perched atop tombstones, and would punish those who disrespected the dead. Sometimes Pookas could be felt but not seen, and would move about town causing mishaps. They also sometimes appeared as humans with animal features.
Pooka lore is entrenched in the British Isles, Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe, and it’s unclear where it originated. Some of the variations are essentially different beings. While the Irish Pooka was a creature of the wilderness, the English Puck, Cornish and Welsh Bucca, and Latvian Puķis cohabited human dwellings like the Brownie or Domovoï.
The Bucca was a furry man that was invisible under most circumstances, the Puķis was an unsightly little man that travelled in the form of a fiery-tailed dragon, and the Puck had various descriptions but is now best known as the Pan-like character featured in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. All would play pranks on their human hosts if offended.
Illustration by Alan Lee for Faeries by David Larkin.