Originally native to Ireland and the British Isles, the pooka (also spelled phouka, or púca) is a mischievous shapeshifting spirit tat has been known to both help or hinder anyone who comes across it.
The pooka in myth is a trickster, who could be dangerous but is more often depicted as mischievous. Over-ripened food in the fields was intentionally left out to feed the trickster and keep it from pranking the community. Some old harvest festivals include leaving food in the fields, and the pooks is associated with some Samhein traditions.
The character Puck from a Midsummer Night’s Dream is believed to be a pooka.
Traits and Behavior
Pooka are shapeshifters that can be born into any shape depending on the parent’s current form, and there is no known limit to how long they can hold a form or even if there is a limitation on their form at all. However, there are some common characteristics that can be used to identify them in most forms.
Pookas will always retain their natural coloring in any form. While they can come in a variety of colors, they are most often black or white, with occasional markings that will also translate between forms. These markings can be placed anywhere on the body. Their eyes can be any color, but will have the pupils of a goat regardless of their form, and they are often iridescent. They have naturally great night vision, and are primarily nocturnal, but not exclusively.
While pooka can shift into almost any form (there is speculation about a maximum size or weight, but this has not been substantiated), they often default to a few forms: a horse, owl, or fox. In horse form, the pooka has been known to lure people to try to ride it, then going for a wild race across the land, even into other realms and dimensions, before returning the rider to where they started. They may give a rider a reward for surviving the ride, but be wary, as kelpies often use this trick as well, but they will always drown their victim instead. The reward isn’t likely to be worth the risk in this case.
Pooka are solitary, usually choosing to live on the outskirts of settlements but only making contact on occasion. When they make contact, they love pranks and to enact punishments on anyone who they deem to have committed some slight. Slights can be anything from a spoken insult, to damaging the environment (or worse, the pooka’s home, no matter if the person was aware of it), or stealing anything of the pooka’s, such as the remainder of the harvest left in the fields. Their pranks can be malicious and even deadly; there are some tales of pooka intentionally hunting down certain people in the woods alone, and it is possible that they eat them afterwards.
They prefer the woods, but will also live in any available wilderness. Due to their preferences for berries, they are commonly found in areas where they grow. Their nests are built in either caves or tall trees, and may hold small trinkets or belongings.
Pooka are fae, and therefore often live in the fae realm instead of the human one. When in the human realm, they seek out half-rotted food left over from the harvest, often grain or berries, to eat. However, they will happily accept fresh milk, honey and bread if offered. Giving them food is a sure way of winning their favor, or at least avoiding their pranks, but offering anything more substantial is a risky venture. Some will take such offerings as an insult, others will happily accept and even offer a boon as repayment. The best course of action is to avoid making any such offerings, but if you are insistent on doing so, asking the pooka if you can be permitted to make such a gift is the least dangerous way of doing so.
Pooka, when not attempting to trick a person with their shapeshifting, will often be happy to chat with anyone that offers a pleasant conversation, and can speak regardless of the form they are in. They value intelligence and love riddles, and may offer advice or information in exchange for a good riddle or story.
How, exactly, pooka courting goes is entirely unknown. No infant or young pooka has ever been confirmed to have been seen. Current speculation is that they are born and raised in the fae realm, and only leave once they reach adulthood. Even fae communities in the human realm have no reported pooka children or apparent couples. There is speculation that pooka are born via some other means, possibly asexual reproduction or through some magical means that renders childhood moot. No pooka, when asked, has ever offered any information on this topic. They seem to find the topic amusing, rather than offensive, and tend to immediately ask about how humans court and are born instead.
Pooka do not have any obvious magical abilities, but are very intelligent, and offer excellent advice when they are inclined.
As with all fae, pooka are weak to iron, and cannot stand its direct touch. In tales of pooka taking people for wild rides (while in the shape of a horse, generally), iron spurs are the best weapon. They will likely not approach at all if one is carrying an iron weapon or key.