Pooka See Me

By Olivia Preston

Have you encountered a pooka recently? Or your childhood best friend that nobody else could see?

A dog, a rabbit, a horse, a gremlin or an old man. Dark, sleek, luminescent golden eyes. Mountains, lakes or springs.  Age-old Irish folklore tells of a feared ‘faerie’ that has the power of human speech. Mischief and havoc-creating are the favoured pastimes for pookas.

Pesky little pookas can hide themselves everywhere but love rural landscapes most of all, so its unsurprising that they are mainly heard of in a picturesque place called Ireland. These shapeshifters can take the form of plenty of creatures and can be either be mean and menacing or sweet and harmless. These talking characters often tell fables and riddles to those that they meet.

These mischievous spirits can be imaginary friends, only seen and heard by their owners. Having friends that only the owner can see is a normal and common phenomenon for many children, a phase that they usually grow out of. They realise that these ‘friends’ are only figments of the imagination. But for middle-aged Elwood P. Dowd his his invisible six-foot rabbit best friend Harvey is very much real.

The Friendly Kind

In the 1950 comedy-drama film ‘Harvey’, the plot revolves around a pooka who is benign but mischievous. Elwood’s sanity is under question as nobody else rarely sees his best friend. Soon. enough, him and Harvey become the catalysts for a family mending its wounds and for romance blossoming in unexpected places. See, pooka aren’t all bad!

The Unusual Kind

If you had an imaginary friend as a child, it probably didn’t take the form of Adolf Hitler, but this was the case for little boy, Jo Jo. Growing up in Nazi Germany, Jo Jo is surrounded by propaganda which is manifested in an albeit supportive and buffoonish version of Hitler who offers a comedic stand on the politics of the war. Jo Jo Rabbit (2019) looks at the light-hearted version of pookas in a rather unique way.

The Creepy Kind

The traditional glowing-eyed character is seen in psychological thriller Donnie Darko (2001), but as a much darker manifestation of the spirit. The main protagonist, Donnie befriends Frank the Rabbit only he can see. The scary and sinister figure tells Donnie that the world will send in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds. A more menacing pooka, Frank guides Donnie through the next 28 days, where everything becomes more clear.

The Invisible Kind

We don’t see this imaginary friend but he is definitely real to Danny Torrance in ‘The Shining’ (1980). . He lives in Danny’s mouth and hides in his stomach and “appears” to Danny by showing him a series of visions. We never see Tony and only manifests himself through young Danny’s finger wagging.

‘Danny … you’re in a place deep down in your own mind. The place where I am. I’m a part of you, Danny.’ Tony – The Shining novel

The 80’s Pop Kind

In the 1980’s, an electronic pop group formed that gave a nod to the Celtic legend. Pookah Makes 3 consisted of Martyn Watson and Mallett (Martyn Hallett) and the pookah – that made three. The band reached number 28 in 1985 on the Australian charts with their single “Take It Back”. I wonder if the pooka whispered words to them and inspired the song?

In some rural areas of Ireland, houses have a bench on the right side of the door and the gate post on the right will be smooth whereas on the left there will be a rockery or some sort of uncomfortable mound. A good Pooka will always sit on the right and the more mischievous spirit will favour the left.

If you ever encounter a pooka, treat it with respect, it may give you some valuable information.

If you enjoyed this article, why not check out Sound For The Senses?

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