The Dullahan is one of the most interesting creatures in
the irish fairy realm, and also one of the most
active in special area's in the remote parts of Sligo
Around midnight on certain Irish festivals or feast days,
this wild horseman dressed in all black may be seen
riding a dark steed across the countryside.
Dullahans are headless. But that does not mean he doesn't
have one-he carries it with him, either on the saddle of his horse or held in his right hand. The head is the
colour and texture of moldy cheese, and quite smooth.
A hideous, idiotic grin splits the face from ear to
ear, and the eyes, which are small and black, dart
about like malignant flies. The entire head glows
with the phosphoresence of decaying matter and the
creature may use it as a lantern to guide its way
along the darkened area's of the Irish countryside.
Wherever the dullahan stops, a mortal dies.
The dullahan is possessed with supernatural sight. By
holding his severed head up, he can see for vast
distances across the countryside, even on the darkest night. Using this power, he can spy the house of a dying
person, no matter where it lies. Those who watch from their windows to see him are rewarded for their pains by
having a basin of blood thrown in their face, or by being struck blind in one eye.
The dullahan is usually monted on a black steed, which
thunders through the night. He uses a human spine as a whip. The horse sends out sparks and flames from its
nostrils as it charges forth. In some parts of the country, such as County Tyrone, the dullahan drives a
black coach known as the coach-a-bower (from the Irish coiste bodhar, meaning 'deaf or silent coach').
This is drawn by six black horses, and travels so fast that the friction created by its movement often sets
on fire the bushes along the sides of the road. All gates fly open to let rider and coach through, no matter
how firmly they are locked, so no one is truly safe from the attentions of this fairy.
The Pooka also called "phouka, puca"
No fairy is more feared in Ireland than the pooka. This
is because it is always out and about after night fall, creating harm and mischief, and because it can
variety of terrifying forms.
The guise in which it most often appears, is that of a
sleek, dark horse with yellow eyes and a long wild mane. In this form, it roams large areas of countrysideat
night, tearing down fences and gates, scattering livestock in terror, trampling crops and generally doing
damage around remote farms.
In remote areas of County Down, the pooka becomes a
small, deformed goblin who demands a share of the crop at the end of the harvest: for this reason several
strands, known as the 'pooka's share', are left behind by the reapers. In parts of County Laois, the
pooka becomes a huge, hairy bogeyman who terrifies those abroad at night; in Waterford and Wexford, it
appears as an eagle with a massive wingspan; and in Roscommon, as a black goat with curling horns
Just the sight of it may prevent hens laying their eggs
or cows giving milk, and it is the curse of all late night travellers as it is known to swoop them up on
to its back and then throw them into muddy ditches or bogholes.
The pooka has the power of human speech, and it
has been known to stop in front of certain houses and call out the names of those it wants to take upon its
midnight dashes. If that person refuses, the pooka will vandalise their property because it is a very
The origins of the pooka are to some extent speculative.
The name may come from the Scandinavian pook or puke,
meaning 'nature spirit'. Such beings were very
capricious and had to be continually placated or they
would reek havoc in the countryside, destroying crops
and causing illness among livestock. Alternatively, the horse cults prevalent throughout the early Celtic
world may have provided the underlying motif for the nightmare steed.
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