Púca's Day - Day of the Dark Rabbit
"P O O K A - Pooka - from old Celtic mythology - a fairy spirit in animal form - always very large ... very fond of rumpots, crackpots, and how are you, Mr. Wilson?"
~ Harvey, 1950 film
The 1950 film, Harvey, starring Jimmy Stewart is a tale about a man whose best friend is a "pooka" named Harvey – a six-foot, three-and-a-half-inch tall invisible rabbit! Rabbits have not always been seen as only helpless, timid creatures with fluffy tails and twitchy noses. The Celtic púca is a shape-shifting dark-furred creature of the mountains and hills, often in the form of a rabbit, and is said to appear on the first of November, All Souls Day, to providing prophecies and warnings to those who consult it. Considered to be bringers both of good and bad fortune, the dark rabbit could either help or hinder communities. After the days of harvest and celebration, anything remaining in the fields would be considered "puka", 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 creature! So today, just in case, heed your bunny rabbit!
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.