Puck’s Castle

Via Atlas Obscura:

Some say that Puck’s Castle, in Rathmichael Co. Dublin, was built from sacred stones culled from the nearby Bearna Dhearg (or “ringfort”), but little is really known for certain about the structure today. Because of the “sacred stones” story, Puck’s – an English derivative of the Gaelic “púca” or “pooka” meaning ghost or spirit – is said to be haunted.

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The Boobrie

For some reason, horses and faeries often go together in Celtic folklore. Not only are faeries sometimes depicted riding ghostly horses with bells adorning their tack, there are also pookas and other creatures that often assume the form of a horse. And then there are water horses (or kelpies)—horses that live underwater, as the name might suggest. There are also, it turns out, faeries who turn into water horses.

The boobrie is such a faery, and Flossie Benton Rogers has provided us an introduction to these creatures over at her blog, Conjuring the Magic:

Not to be confused with a Kelpie, the Boobrie is a Scottish fae that possesses the wondrous ability to shapeshift into a water horse. Since the Boobrie salivates at the thought of cows and fat lambs—its favorite snacks, along with succulent otters, ships transporting barnyard animals along the coast of Scotland risk being accosted. Boobries can even gallop on top of the waves to reach their destinations and are often mistaken by sailors for ghost horses.

In addition to a water horse, the Boobrie can take the appearance of a black feathered waterbird, something akin to a fierce cormorant. This is perhaps the Boobrie’s default form. Its strange claws appear like the wizened hands of a demon, and its caw roars like the bellow of a bull. Some legends insist the bull is one of the Boobrie’s possible forms and that it can stray from the coast to nestle among thickets of purple heather. Whether or not this fae can hug the land, it’s a rare loch in Scotland without the menacing presence of a resident Boobrie. As a bird it loves flying low over the turbulent seacoast, its huge ebony wings casting sinister shadows on the moon spattered waters below.

Five Helpful Clans of Little Folk

shee_an_gannonNot all faery beings can be imposing sídhe lords and ladies, sinister jinn, or wild, unpredictable satyrs. In world mythology, some of the inhabitants of the Otherworld are humble, unassuming, and even quite helpful to mortals. Today, I’ll highlight five types of little folk that you probably wouldn’t mind dropping by. They are all good with chores and domestic tasks of various sorts, and are usually happy to help mortals out for a modicum of remuneration. (Offerings of food or milk or cream usually does the trick.) All of these beings are all found in Scotland, Ireland, or surrounding regions.

Brùnaidh/Grogan

A brownie is called a brùnaidh in Scots Gaelic and grogan in Irish. These are domestic spirits who attach themselves to a house or family and often perform domestic chores when no one is looking. The house elves of Harry Potter are modeled largely on brownies.

Uruisg/Fenodyree

The uruisg (or urisk) is very much like a brownie, but is set apart by having goat-like hooves. They are called fenodyrees on the Isle of Man. The are said to have a mischievous nature and also tend to be inclined to perform farming or agrarian tasks. They are thus somewhat similar to a pooka.

Kilmouli

Kilmoulis are faery millers, an ugly form of brownies said to haunt mills. They also hail from the Border counties. They have enormous noses but no mouths, and therefore they have to inhale their food through the nose. Kilmoulis work hard, but also enjoy tricks and pranks.

Gruagach

Gruagachs (the Gaelic plural is technically gruagaichean) are field-folk native to Scotland. Their name literally means “long-haired one.” They love to help mortals with household tasks. Female gruagachs herd and protect cattle, and are also associated with water. They are described as having long blonde hair and wearing a green dress. Sometimes they are said to be attractive; more often, however, they are grotesques hags—although extremely kind-hearted.

Male gruagachs have thick fur, although occasionally they are described as handsome youths dressed in green and red. They commonly work as farm hands shredding and thrashing grain.

Clurichaun

A clurichaun (Irish clobhair-ceann) is thought by some to be a variant form of the leprechaun who goes out to drink after finishing his daily work. They are always drunk. If treated well, a clurichaun will protect a mortal’s wine cellar.

Interview: Kindreds

Into the Wonder: Your friend, Danny, thought I would like to interview you, Bryn. I hope that’s all right.

Bryn: Any friend of Danny’s is a friend of mine.

ITW: He speaks very highly of you.

B: Pooka and huldra, field and forest. We make a pretty good team.

ITW: And yet you seem so different. And not just your personalities. The more I learn about Your Kind, the more I’m amazed at how different you all look.

B: Part of that is magic. We can pretty much look however we want. And then, a lot of us are really into body modification.

ITW: You mean like piercings and tattoos?

B: Piercings, tattoos, hooves, antlers… The sky’s the limit, really. And, of course, the different kindreds all have their own particular look, if you know what I mean.

ITW: Kindreds? You mean different types of fae?

B: Presactly. Our Kind live all over the world, and we’re just as diverse as you people. Topsiders, I mean. And most of us value our heritage. Oh, not that I would think any less of Danny, for instance, just because he’s a pooka. But we all have our own ways, our own magics. It’s something to take pride in, you know?

ITW: And somehow, you all manage to get along?

B: Well, I’d say most of us at least try to stay out of each others’ way. There are some of Our Kind who are best left alone. Know what I mean? There’s no need to go asking for trouble.

ITW: So, some fae are more…agreeable…than others?

B: Isn’t it like that among you people?

ITW: Touché.

B: I think I like you, sweetie. You’re real easy to talk to.

ITW: Erm…thanks.

B: Is something the matter?

ITW: No, it’s just…well…

B: It’s the tail, isn’t it?

ITW: I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to stare.

B: Aw, you’re blushing! How cute! But it’s okay. Really. It’s just part of who I am. Nothing to be embarrassed about.

ITW: You’re very kind. I think that’s enough for now, though. This has been very enlightening. Shall I see you to the door?

B: Such a gentleman!

ITW: I’m a married man, Bryn. I’d appreciate if you’d stop batting your eyes at me.

B: Sorry. Force of habit.

ITW: Now you’re blushing.

Pookas: Shapeshifting Irish Tricksters

black_horseThe word “pooka” (or phouka, puka, etc.) derives from Gaelic púca, meaning “spirit, ghost, or goblin.” Originally an earth-spirit associated with fields and herds, these beings are best known as trickster figures, either malevolent or simply mischievous. The worst among them have been accused of crimes including child molestation, kidnapping, and murder.

Pookas often pass through the mortal realm invisibly, but they are also accomplished shapeshifters. A pooka’s animal form is almost always a type of animal that lives in close proximity to humans: cats, dogs, horses and ponies, goats, cattle, rabbits, etc.—another indication of their original agrarian connection. In Waterford and Wexford, however, they have been known to take the form of a huge eagle. No matter the form, its fur or feathers are almost always dark.

As an agricultural spirit, pookas are associated with Samhain, the Gaelic harvest festival when the last of the crops are brought in. The pooka is acknowledged to have a right to anything that remains in the fields after November 1, “the pooka’s day.” Thereafter, pookas might render crops inedible or unsafe—perhaps by spitting or defecating on them. In some locales, reapers leave a small share of the crop to placate the hungry creature.

Pookas can also be helpful to farmers. In at least one story, pookas helped a poor farmer by milling his grain for him in the dead of night.

The Border Region has a variety of pooka known as a brag. These beings are noted for their kindness to animals. They still enjoy playing tricks on humans, however.

A Monster a Day from the Fairytale Traveler

Christa Thompson, aka the Fairytale Traveler, has been cataloging a monster a day in honor of Halloween. Some of my favorites so far:

The Pooka: a menacing shapeshifter (who can also be benevolent)

The Banshee: a harbinger of death.

The Headless Horseman: the terror of Sleepy Hollow.

The Dullahan: the original Irish headless horseman.