Celtic Puka

Imagine; walking in the dark along a back road. Alone and secluded.
NOT suburbia Hell (thank you Gone in 60 Seconds). Far, far, away from another human being. And out of screaming range…

No matter how I spell it, ‘’Puka’’ just doesn’t sound all that intimidating, does it? Well, too bad. That’s all I’ve got to work with here people. None of the eighty bazillion spellings of this word change the pronunciation. Go out on a limb for me and forget that your toddler would laugh at the sound of the “Dreaded Puka”.


Puka, Puca, Pooka, Phuka, etc. They are a mischievousness specie of shape-shifter.


  • Celtic


  • Fey
  • ½ Fey and ½ Human
  • Spirit
  • Goblin

It depends on the lore. You pick.








  • Terrifying humans.
  • Ruining crops.
  • Confusing you to pieces.
  • Turning into a large, black animal for the purpose of either frightening you or taking you for a seemingly purpose-lacking ride. And then dropping you on your arse. In the middle of nowhere.
  • Punishing the “wrongdoer”.
  • Punishing those who are ungrateful.
  • Punishing grave robbers.
  • Rescuing beasts that get stuck in bogs.
  • Tidying up after humans who have appeased them.

The Fey in general are held as tricksters to many of the Celts. But the Puka are mentioned specifically, several times.

  1. To the Celts, Samhain (Halloween) was a festival in which the final harvest and storage of the crops for winter was a big deal. Starving was not a fun thought to think. I happen to agree. So, anything left on the trees or in fields after Samhain was considered ruined by the Puka.
  2. The Puka can be seen on Samhain in the mountains. Come across one and it might foretell of a prophecy or warning.
  3. There are many legends of the Puka helping farmers who appeased them.
  4. Most often seen as a black horse with fire in their eyes. Or golden eyes. I wouldn’t suggest you try to saddle them. In most stories their unwise rider gets lost in a bog.
  5. Little kids (yes, you have baby goats and you didn’t even know it!) often call snails ‘pookas’ and ask them to ‘put out their horns’ in a nursery rhyme.

The Puka tend to roll along the same lines as most other tricksters in lore. In some stories, they’re the villain and in some the hero. Some are selfish; some selfless.  Some are oafs and some could outwit Einstein. So on and so forth. Your regular every day contradictory creature.


They don’t like mean people. Grave robbers are just plain creepy. Corpse bothering = yick. And black panthers are awesome.







I don’t believe they’ve been used in fiction all that recently. They’re a pretty prevalent part of Celtic lore, seeing as how they’re tied in with Samhain and all. But they’ve not popped up and I’d be interested to see just how creepy I could make them. They have a small bit of non-detail-oriented lore, giving you lots of wiggle room. Shape shifters are always fun. 😉

Regardless, the Puka are considered benevolent. Even though they enjoy scaring the bejeebers out of random people.

Makes so much sense to me… *rolls eyes dramatically*

Have you ever heard of the Puka?



Filed under The Odd Bit

38 responses to “Celtic Puka

  1. Megan

    My 25 year old sister passed unexpectedly May 2014. 5 1/2 weeks later I found a shoebox with a little black kitten in it. It had been dumped outside my apartment. The kitten was 5 1/2 weeks old according to his size/teeth/growth. I put together his name in a strange way. He was my lil pooh and loved water.. thus came Pucanoe. He became Puku. Again he is all black He’s different than any cat I’ve ever crossed. He is incredibly smart. He used the toilet after being trapped in a bathroom with out a box. He jumps in my arms when I call him. He speaks using 2-3 syllables. He greets me as a pet dog would stretching his long arms out up my leg. He can roll the windows down in the car. I thought it was just a paw slip but after he did it he went to the back window and I watched him look at the button and touch it. I have to turn the child safety lock on when he rides. He is so special and has a large & loud presence. I think this is very cool to have found this information on your site.

  2. Only after seeing how old this post was :/ sorry !

  3. Every samhain my grandfather used to take me to a fairy fort near our house and we would hunt for snails, and sing for the pooka to ‘put out their horns.

    He told me his grandfather thought it to him and it was a way to beseech the pooka to reveal its true form. Your blog is one of the only places online I can find reference to this rhyme 🙂 , do you have any info or sources about it ? This is such a great blog thanks so much 🙂

  4. kate

    i know this is a very old post, but i just spent a month in maui in hawaii, and a friend i met there was teaching 3rd graders about old hawaiian folklore, and she had a book on irish folklore, so she asked me to come into the class and read to the children ( as i have that irish accent to add to the atmosphere) , i choose the story of the puca. it was the first time i had read it too. they loved it, and the particular story i read about him, nearly brought me and the other teacher too tears. great moral learning to be taken from the tales that are told about these creatures.

  5. Miss Rosen

    i meant to tell you i only heard of the Puka once before. very recently, in fact, he is tattooed on the shoulder of i man for whom i have had the most incredible love, it is this love that has brought me to where i am today even tho i had to set us both free in order to be at peace.

    i dont know that means anything at all, except i believe in signs and how shall it be that the second person to mention Puka is the lovely Miss Shadows ..

    life is fascinating ~*~

  6. Daphne,
    Great post. Piers Anthony incorporates Pooka into his Xanth series, as Night & Day Mares, if I remember correctly. It’s been a while.

  7. Pingback: Japanese Kitsune – Trickster #2 (PART ONE) | daphneshadows

  8. I’ve definitely heard of the púka! First heard about it from Kate Thompson, who used it in ‘The New Policeman’. Also mentioned in a couple of other mythology-based YA books I’ve read, I think. And I used one in my WIP (as a somewhat major plot point).
    They’ve also been known to appear as a headless horse, or a horse made of fire, or a goat. They’re generally just pretty cool. I don’t know which spelling I like, though. ‘Pooka’ is easiest, though Kate Thompson used both ‘púka’ and ‘púca’.

  9. I have not heard of the Puka before this post. Frankly, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to hear of them again unless the change their name. I changed mine back in 2004, and it only cost $75 to do it!

  10. Very cool! I’ve also never heard of a Puka…why am I conjuring up an image of a tiny Pokemon-looking creature in my head? I don’t mean that as a negative comment to this important character in Celtic lore…my imagination is just weird sometimes!

  11. Never heard of them, but they sound like some of the stuff I have to kill/help when I play certain video games, lol.

  12. Satis

    Rings a bell, though like you I haven’t come across any popular references in recent years. What immediately springs to my mind is deception; after all, who could be scared of something called a Puka? Could be a creepy angle…

  13. so..would golem be considered a puka?
    interesting stuff

    • Crazy coincidental that you would bring this up! I just learned something about Golem! Did you know that golem is a species? I thought it was just his name in the movie! But I was reading in this colossal book of creature mythology I have and found it to be quite interesting species actually. They’re supposed to be an ‘artificial human’ created by mud and some really bad magic. The mythology is actually really detailed. I was shocked! Maybe I should do a post on that…
      So no, they wouldn’t be a puka. But he’s definitely creepy enough to qualify! 😉

  14. Never heard of a Puka, but I bet they’d make great support characters. You know, comic relief with a dark side. Maybe they could help a new fae learn the fae ropes? They’d also be helpful when shifting into a horse to get the new fae character out of harms way. My initial thoughts anyway.

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