Last week I talked about categorizing faeries into the Seelie and the Unseelie Court, but the Fair Folk is so much more than faeries. One of those creatures that dwell with the faeries is the pooka, sometimes also spelled púca, phouka, or even pwca.
What is a pooka?
The pooka is an Irish goblin with the ability to change its shape. It often appears as a dark horse or goat and will bear some of those animal features when in human form. Like the Seelies and Unseelies, the pookas can be both benevolent and malevolent.
Below is a page taken from Brian Froud’s FAERIES. The text reads:
The Phooka is an Irish goblin with a variety of rough beast-like forms. He appears sometimes as a dog or a horse, or even a bull, but he is generally jet-black with blazing eyes. As a seemingly friendly, shaggy […] pony Phooka offers the unwary traveller a welcome lift, but once astride he is taken for a wild and terrifying gallop across the wettest and most thorny country, eventually to be dumped headlong into the mire or deposited in a ditch. The chuckle is that of the Phooka as he gallops away.
A pooka means no harm
Some people fear the pooka because of that wild ride, but in truth the pooka means no harm. Pookas enjoy playing a few little tricks that might appear malevolent but aren’t meant to hurt anyone. For example, a pooka loves to chat for hours, but he will leave without a word and a trace that he was there in the first place. It is also said that berries killed by frost were turned poisonous by the pookas who spit on them.
The term ‘faerie’ does not refer to one individual type of being, but rather encompasses a whole variety of beings. In Celtic mythology there are many ways to categorize faeries, for example into Trooping Faeries or Solitary Faeries. But one categorization that has intrigued me from the beginning was the Scottish notion of a Seelie and an Unseelie Court.
“[I]n Scottish legends the faeries are often divided into the Seelie Court and the Unseelie Court. The Seelie Court is comprised of the good, kind fairies, while the outright evil faeries tend to belong to the Unseelie Court (Briggs 1976: 222). These courts were not seen as very confining: the faeries of the Seelie Court could be violent when angered, while the […] members of the Unseelie Court could sometimes just have fun in non-lethal ways.”
Faerie Folklore in Medieval Tales – An Introduction by Mika Loponen
Beware: Seelies can be just as treacherous as Unseelies. The distinction, although implied (as seen in the picture below), is not light vs. dark, good vs. evil. All of the Fair Folk lack moral sense and are incapable of understanding human emotions; the Unseelies’ methods might just be a bit more savage.
The first time I came across this distinction was actually in a fictional novel. In the Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare, faeries are divided into two courts. This idea always fascinated me, but I had more burning questions: Why were there two courts? Did they used to be one? What divided them? The beauty of story-telling is that we can make up our own answers. And so I went ahead and wrote The King’s Daughters, the first conflict between Seelies and Unseelies in my fictional world of Tír na Óg.
My upcoming novel Seelie Princess will be filled with all kinds of magical creatures. I based a lot of the story and characters on Celtic mythology, but not all of my research made its way into the novel. Over the course of the next few months, I will share bits and pieces of Celtic lore I found during my research. Leave a comment below if you’re interested in learning more!
Have you seen a faerie lately?
Whether you think faeries are real or just a story you tell little children, the truth is that many European cultures have their own faerie belief. Some think of the faeries as small and cute forest creatures, others would say they are more humanoid. Faeries might be benevolent little helpers sometimes, but they can also be tricksters, like Puck in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The many names of the faeries
The faeries—also spelled ‘fairies’ or ‘fae’—go by many names. Some call them the Fair Folk. The Scottish refer to them as the Wee Folk, while the Welsh know them as Tylwyth Teg. One term that inspired me in particular is of Irish origin:
The (Aos) Sidhe – In Irish folk belief, the Tuatha de Danann, children of the goddess Dana, inhabited the island of Ireland early on. They were seen as a race of divine beings eternally young and unfading. With the arrival of the Sons of Mil, however, they retreated to live under the mounds (Irish: Sidhe; pronounced SHEE) and became thus known as the Sidhe or Aos Sidhe. They are the ever-present second race of Ireland, also called the Faeries or Fair Folk. (Source: The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries by W. B. Yeats)
Where did the faeries come from?
Same as with their appearance and etymology, the origin of the faeries varies depending on the culture. As explained above, the Irish think of the faeries as a second race living under the hills. Some believe them to be demons or demoted angels, while others think of them as demoted deities. But perhaps they are some form of elemental or spirit.
If you’re interested in learning more about faeries, here are some resources I used:
Fairy on Wikipedia (a good starting point, but not all of it is reliable)
Faerie Folklore in Medieval Tales (a wonderful introduction to the topic; available for free here)
The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries by W.B. Yeats (available for free here)
A Treasury of Irish Fairy and Folk Tales (available on Amazon)
Spring is in the air and it’s time for a new look! More than three years ago I published my first short story on Amazon and while I’ve been mostly quiet since then, the year of 2019 will finally see the release of my debut novel. (To learn more about SEELIE PRINCESS, click here.) In honor of the upcoming release, I gave THE KING’S DAUGHTERS a new look, inside and out.
Here’s the blurb: In this first part of a series of magical tales about the Fair Folk, the Faerie King of Tír na nÓg is caught in a battle between his two warring daughters, Titania and Ophira. As one strives to bring down her father, the other is plotting her revenge against her scheming sister. The king now has a fateful decision to make because he can’t save them both.
I’ve briefly talked about this before here – but I want to tell you a bit more today. SEELIE PRINCESS is my first full-length novel, which I finished revising back in August. As of now, it has not been published, but I’m querying and excited to share this story with you. So today I want to rave about my book baby.
UDPATE MAY 2019: After doing some research, I decided to brave the life of an indie writer. My book will be self-published in a few months.
A quick recap of what to expect:
YA Fantasy with LGBTQ rep
faeries! lot’s of them
strong female characters
a magical realm
elements of Celtic mythology
names that are pretty on the eye but you won’t be able to pronounce them (sorry, not sorry)
Meet the MC – Kayla Whittemore
Everyone knows that faeries only exist in stories, but Kayla is certain that they are real and the reason why her father vanished when she was little. Even almost 10 years after his ‘death’, she holds on to the hope of finding him. When she finally receives word from the faeries, she doesn’t hesitate to strike a bargain with their queen. But finding her father is not as easy as she’s hoped and Kayla has to face treacherous faeries, hidden family heirlooms, and her first heartbreak. How far is she willing to go?
Kayla was born in 1998 in a small down in Illinois. After her father disappeared, they moved to the bustling city of Chicago. When Kayla isn’t researching how to find faeries, she spends her time cuddled up with a good book or drinking way too much coffee with her best friend Abby.
What inspired it?
1 – Celtic Fairy Faith
In the summer of 2014, I was obsessed with Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter Chronicles. And even though I was a huge fan of all the badass Shadowhunters in the books, what fascinated me even more was her portrayal of the faeries as beautiful, cunning, and complicated creatures. So I began to research how she’d come about that idea and I soon learned she’d taken a lot of her inspiration from the Celtic Fairy Faith (as did her wonderful writer-friend Holly Black).
The Celtic mythology is filled to the brim with magical creatures and fantastic folktales. I could write for hours about this topic! But I don’t want to digress, so I’ll give you a little overview of characters that found their way into my story:
faeries: also known as Daoine Sidhe, inhabitants of the magical Tír na nÓg, divided into the Seelie Court and the Unseelie Court
pookas: the underdogs of the faerie realm, shapeshifters and forest creatures
pixies: smallest inhabitants of Tír na nÓg, also the friendliest of the Fair Folk
merrows: merfolk living on a small island off the mainland, telepaths and constantly suspicious of the faeries
faerie cats: an ancient type of faeries who can perform magic and shares both a cat’s furry ears and its heightened senses
2 – Diverse Storytelling
When I began this journey of writing SEELIE PRINCESS, I had decided on two aspects early on: there would be faeries (plenty of them!) and my main character would be a girl falling in love with another girl. Throughout my writing process, many ideas appeared, shifted, manifested, or disappeared again, but these two facts persisted until the very end.
There has been an abundance of great stories where girls were whisked away to far lands by incredibly handsome boys (I’m looking at you, Jace Herondale!). I believe it’s time for girls to get whisked away by gorgeous girls, too. Or boys being seduced by other boys. Or just generally people falling in love. All mixed with a fair amount of faerie dust!
So who’s the Seelie Princess?
I can’t tell you just yet… but keep your eyes open for little excerpts and sneak peeks! If you’re interested in reading more about faeries and Tír na nÓg, please check out my short story set in the same world: The King’s Daughters. Feel free to talk to me on twitter @sarah_tanzmann or leave a comment below!
I am so excited to announce that the first installment of Tales of the Seelie Court is out on Amazon. Read a preview here or buy it here.
In this first part of a series of magical tales about the Fair Folk, the Faerie King of Tír na nÓg is caught in a battle between his two warring daughters, Titania and Ophira. As one strives to bring down her father, the other is plotting her revenge against her scheming sister. The king now has a fateful decision to make because he can’t save them both.
“The King’s Daughters” is the first installment in Tales of the Seelie Court and will be released THIS month. Below is another snippet of the story. Enjoy!
The king followed the path a little bit more until it made a slight turn to the left and descended. A few feet down, in a hollow, stood a tall oak tree. He sank to his knees in front of it and extended a hand to gently trace a finger along the engraving on the stone.
Eyela. Faerie Queen. Loving mother.
Every night since her death, he had taken a walk down to her grave, but never before had it hurt him so much. The recent events weighed heavily on him and dragged him down even further at the thought of his dead wife. Once more he was filled with despair and, above all, remorse.
He pressed his palm onto the cold stone beside her name. “My love, if only you were here.”
Welcome to this very first post of mine 🙂 I’ve known for more than ten years that I wanted to be writer, but finding the right story to start out with was difficult. I’ve recently discovered the exciting world of Irish Fairy and Folk Tales and it inspired me so much that I decided that I wanted to write stories about faeries. So I embarked on the journey of writing my first short story (in English, I have written some in German before, but they are the worst, let’s hope no one ever finds them!). It will still take some time for the story to be finished, but I will start you off with a little sneak peek. Enjoy!
In the faraway land of Tír na nÓg, where the weather was always bright, the flowers bloomed endlessly, and the water sprouted plentiful from wells, there lived a hidden people. They were faeries; tall, human-like creatures with unearthly beautiful faces and pointed ears. Their beauty never wilted; in Annwn, time stood still.
The faeries were ruled by a Faerie King who had two gorgeous daughters that were his pride and joy, the essence of his being. He would’ve given his life for them, more than he would’ve ever given it for his people. If ever he were to lose his daughters, he would be heartbroken.