The Pooka and The Will-O'-The-Wisps

The Pooka

The pooka comes out at night, sometimes as an eagle flinging a man on his back and flying to the moon.

Sometimes it's a black goat with wide wicked horns leaping on a mortal's shoulders and clinging with it's claws until the man drops dead or blesses himself three times. It is a bird, a bat, a donkey, a solitary nightmare shape.

Most often it appears as a terrible black horse, huge and sleek, breathing blue flames, with eyes of yellow fire, a snort like thunder, a smell like sulfur, a stride that clears mountains and a human voice deep as a cave. With a sound sometimes like the head-on crashing of trains, sometimes like the ripping of trees from the earth, it haunts rivers and frightens fishermen and sailors so much so, that they are fearful of approaching land. Sometimes it follows the ships to sea. Often at night, as the black horse, the pooka will take a man for a ride clear around the country at breakneck speed until he loses his grip and flies headlong into a bog ditch.

Yet for all its black deeds, the pooka now is a tame creature compared to what it was before Brian Boru curbed it. In ancient days the pooka was lord over all that went forth after dark, except those on missions of mercy. All roads belonged to it; and few who traveled them lived to tell. For the pooka kicked hard enough to crush human bones and could lift a man like an empty sack onto its back and jump with him into the sea, so deep that he drowned. Other times it sprang over a cliff and let the man tumble to the bottom.

But Brian Boru tamed it with a charm made from three hairs from a pooka's tail and thrown round its neck like a bridle. At the first pull, the hairs were transformed into threads of steel. Crossing himself and mounting, he fiercely reined the beast and rode it until it heaved with exhaustion and promised never to kill another man.

Since then it takes only drunkards on its madcap ridings and always returns them to the ditch where it found them, no worse for some bruises and a drunken tale.

When it rains with the sun shining that means that it will be out that night. When berries are killed by frost it is the pooka's spit which is upon them and they shouldn't be eaten.

The Will-O'-The-Wisps

The Will-O'-The-Wisps, or fairy lights, are quiet and helpful. They appear in the misty Irish mountains to help searchers to locate someone lost in a ravine or drowned in a rocky pool. It's said that those who can see the lights have the gift of knowing when their closet of kin are in danger.

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