Irish Pooka

From A Smaller Social History of Ancient Ireland 1906

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CHAPTER V....continued

In modern times the Pooka has come to the front as a leading Irish goblin: but I fear he is not native Irish, as I do not find him mentioned in any ancient Irish documents. He appears to have been an immigrant fairy, brought hither by the Danish settlers: and is the same as the English Puck. But, like the Anglo-Norman settlers, he had not long lived in this country till he became "more Irish than the Irish themselves." For an account of his shape, character, and exploits, I must refer the reader to Crofton Croker's "Fairy Legends," and to the first volume of my "Origin and History of Irish Names of Places."

When the Milesians landed in Ireland, they were encountered by mysterious sights and sounds wherever they went, through the subtle spells of the Dedannans. As they climbed over the mountains of Kerry, half-formed spectres flitted dimly before their eyes: for Banba, the queen of one of the three Dedannan princes who ruled the land, sent a swarm of meisi [misha], or 'phantoms,' which froze the blood of the invaders with terror: and the mountain range of Slieve Mish, near Tralee, still retains the name of those apparitions.

According to another account, Ireland, before the arrival of St. Patrick, was plagued with multitudes of reptiles and demons. "These venomous and monstrous creatures—the reptiles—used to rise out of the earth and sea, and they wounded both men and animals with their deadly stings, and not seldom rent and devoured their members." "The demons used to show themselves unto their worshippers in visible forms: they often attacked the people, and they were seen flying in the air and walking on the earth, loathsome and horrible to behold."

What with Dedannan gods, with war-gods and goddesses, apparitions, demons, sprites of the valley, ordinary ghosts, spectres, goblins, and demoniac reptiles, fairies of various kinds—sheevras, leprechauns, banshees, and so forth—there appears to have been, in those old pagan days, quite as numerous a population belonging to the spiritual world as of human beings; so that Ireland was then an eerie place to live in: and it was high time for St. Patrick to come.

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