Stories abound of the mischievous, mysterious Púca, a shape-shifting spirit who lives in the wilds of Ireland, in the mountains and lakes of the countryside. They are thought to bring either good fortune or bad luck to those who meet them. They can help farmers, for example, with a good harvest and healthy animals, but they can also cause chaos, appearing as a horse to gallop through fences and gates and destroy crops. They are known to be a trickster who loves to terrorise humans, although they have never been known to do any serious physical harm.
The Púca can appear in human form, but sometimes they will have the features of an animal, such as hooves or a tail. As a human, they will have jet black hair and they love to chat, taking the time to give advice and ask questions or tell wild stories of how their family was tricked out of their money and land. Then they will disappear into thin air, leaving the listener wondering if they were even there in the first place.
In many tales of the Púca, they will feature as a horse. Always a black horse, with an untamed mane and glowing golden eyes. Appearing to inebriated and weary travellers who are making their way home from the pub after a few whiskeys, they offer them a ride home on their back. In some stories, they will simply run between the person’s legs, and they are atop them before they know what is going on. When they have the unfortunate drunkard on their back, they take them for a wild ride through the night, galloping through fields and jumping over hedges. Come dawn, they throw the rider off their back and leave them to find their way home from wherever they have been dumped.
Years ago, in the lead-up to the Samhain festival, when people across Ireland were bringing in their harvest before they could mark the end of the year, they would always be sure to leave a little bit of their harvest in the fields for the Púca. If they were happy with the offerings, he would ensure a good harvest for the next year.