Pooka

Black Dog or Water Horse of Ireland.

Etymology: From the Irish püca, "ghost" or "fairy."

Variant names: Bauchan, Bocan (Gaelic), Bogan, Bucca (Cornish), Bucca-boo, Buggane (Manx), Bwbach (Welsh), Bwca (Welsh), Bwgan (Welsh), Phooca, Phouka, Puca, Puck (English), Pwca (Welsh).

Physical description: Like a black dog, horse, or calf. Can also appear in human form. Eyes like blazing coals.

Behavior: Usually malevolent and demonic but sometimes benevolent. Active at dusk. Spoils blackberries. Has supernatural powers.

Habitat: Swamps, bogs, lakes.

Distribution: Ireland; also Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, and the Isle of Man.

Significant sightings: A Pooka was said to inhabit a lagoon called the Poulapuca (Pooka's Pool) in County Wicklow, Ireland, before the valley was flooded to create a reservoir for Dublin.

A black dog trotted alongside a young man as he was cycling home near Ballygar, County Gal-way, Ireland, one night in 1913. The animal kept looking at him in a way that made him uneasy. He later found that other people avoided that stretch of road because of the dog, which had a disconcerting way of vanishing into thin air.

Possible explanation: A folk memory of the mythical Celtic spirit horse that carried dead heroes to paradise.

POOKA 439

Sources: Thomas Crofton Croker, Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South oflreland (London: John Murray, 1825); Wirt Sikes, British Goblins (London: S. Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington, 1880); Lady Wilde, Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions oflreland (Boston: Ticknor, 1887); Diarmuid A. MacManus, The Middle Kingdom (Gerrards Cross, England: Colin Smythe, 1973), pp. 66-76, 133-137; Katharine M. Briggs, A Dictionary ofFairies (London: Allen Lane, 1976), pp. 28, 50, 51-52, 55-57, 326-327, 337-338; James MacKillop, A Dictionary ofCeltic Mythology (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 46, 63, 65, 367-368.

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