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Púca's Day - Day of the Dark Rabbit
“This is a fierce bad rabbit;
look at his savage whiskers,
and his claws and his turned-up tail.”
~ Beatrix Potter, Peter Rabbit and Other Stories, 1902
They're not all fluffy tails and twitchy little noses, folks! The Celtic púca is a shape-shifting dark-furred creature of the mountains and hills, often appearing in the form of a rabbit, and is said to appear on All Souls Day, providing prophecies and warnings to those who dare to consult it. Folk customs and traditions required providing offerings or appeasements to the Dark Rabbit who could bring either good or bad fortune to a community. After the days of harvest and celebration, anything remaining in the fields would be considered "púca", or fairy-blasted, and hence inedible. And in some locales, reapers would leave a small share of the crop, the "púca's share", to placate the hungry and possibly vengeful creature! The idea of a harmless and passive creature such as a rabbit assuming a sinister mien and possibly malevolent intent is an archetypical fear. The medieval manuscript art form known as "drolleries" shows fearsome and anthropomorphized rabbits taking their revenge on humans in the most gruesome and blood-thirsty of ways ... so today, just in case, heed any killer bunny rabbits lurking in your garden and appease them with a carrot! 🐇 🥕
This tartan was inspired by 'Mat the rabbit', a character created by artist and animator Mat Kelman. The name "Coinean Dubh" (meaning 'dark rabbit'), refers to the character Mat and his rabbit ancestors.
Though usually associated with happy Easter traditions such as baskets of candy and coloured eggs, like Mat the Rabbit, there is a darker rabbit mythology emanating from the British Isles.
The rabbit, originally an ancient symbol of fecundity, has a non-Christian counterpart in Celtic fertility traditions and a spirit known as the Pooka or púca (Irish for goblin). Welsh mythology calls it the pwca; Cornish folklore refers to it as the Bucca; the Channel Islands refer to the pouque fairies who live near ancient stones; while the pouquelée are the equivalent spirits in Brittany.
Considered to be bringers both of good and bad fortune, Pookas could either help or hinder rural and marine communities. They were also said to be shape changers which could take the appearance of black horses, goats and often, rabbits! When they take a human form, it often includes animal features, such as ears or a tail.
The Púca is most associated with the harvest festivas and Samhain, October 31st. When the last of the crops are harvested, anything remaining in the fields is considered "puka," or fairy-blasted, and hence inedible. In some locales, reapers leave a small share of the crop, the "púca's share," to placate the hungry creature. November Day (November 1) is the Púca's day, and the one day of the year when it can be expected to behave civilly.
The rest of the year it is said to waylay travelers, toss them onto its back, and give them a wild ride, which leaves the rider forever changed. The Púca has the power of human speech, and has been said to call those it feels have slighted or offended them. If those called fail to appear, the Púca will tear down fences, scatter livestock, and create general mayhem.
In popular culture, puca-like creatures of the rabbit variety have been embodied in recent film and literature.
In the classic 1950 film Harvey with Jimmy Stewart, Stewart has a 6-foot 3 1⁄2 inch tall invisible rabbit as a companion named Harvey, whom he refers to as a "pooka". The film is based on a Pulitzer prize winning play of the same name by Mary Chase.
In the 2001 movie Donnie Darko, the protagonist is "haunted" by an aspect of a rabbit which exhibits many traits of a pooka, most notably, the paranormal aspect of a rabbit-humanoid, and is the harbinger of both good and bad fortune.
To learn more about other fearsome rabbits and rabbit creatures in folklore and pop culture, click the dark rabbit.