Posted in Posts and podcasts

The Pooka – 1891

Nation 4th April, 1891 p.4    (abridged)

Image; Deathfly  Wikimedia Commons
Image; Deathfly
Wikimedia Commons

There are few villages throughout Ireland near which there is not a hill, cliff, glen or cave which takes its name from the Pooka, but  very few indeed know what sort of spectre the Pooka is. A poet once said that he is in existence “since the time of the flood,” and he assumes many shapes – a huge black dog, a cat, a horse, human, rabbit or hare.
The Pooka is wont to give a ride to anyone he meets out at night when he is on the walk; and he does it in two ways. When you meet him in human shape he claps you up on his back, head towards the ground, feet aloft, facing his back.  The creature then seizes your ankles and carries you off over mountain and glen, over lake and lakelet, up and down the hills until you, poor rider, are tired, worn and weary.  Only then will the Pooka fling you on the ground and let you on your way.
When the Pooka takes the shape of a horse it is up to the poor traveller to keep his grip or bones could well be broken.
Now and then the Pooka meets a smart fellow, who lets him know he can’t play his tricks always. There was a merchant long ago who came to Connemara ere roads were made. He got lodgings of course, for in those days “a welcome and twenty of them” awaited the traveller and wayfarer, and  the hospitality of the people of Iarconnaught was spoken of with praise near and far. The merchant let his horse out in the fields and went to sleep. When he had slept his fill, he took his meal and prepared for the road.
He called his  horse to harness it but what came across the field instead was the Pooka. The Pooka clapped the merchant on his back and off he started. At first he went in a trot;  soon this became a gallop. He went like the wind, over marsh and crag, across river, up and down hill, but failed to throw the man. He gave another rush and came near a large river.  The Pooka was on the point of jumping it when the merchant remembered he had his spurs on his heels. He gave a strong dart with his two heels and sent the rowels to the quick into the Pooka.  The creature  shivered and quaked with fear and besought the merchant to take off the spurs, and that he would let him off. The merchant did so and the Pooka flung him down and away with him across the river in a jump.
But the merchant regretted he had let him off so easily and thought to coax him back so that he would make him cease his pranks. So he asked him to cross the river again.
“Have you the spurs on yet?” said the Pooka.
“I have so.”
“If you have,” says the Pooka, “you may stay as you are. I’ll not go next or near you. But if I ever find you without the spurs, I’ll let you know the differ, or ‘lose a fall’ by it.”



B.A., M.A.(Archaeology); Regional Tour Guide; Dip. Radio Media Tech; H.Dip. Computer Science.

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