Phookas (or Puca, Puka, or Pooka) are one of the nastiest and feared of the Fae. It’s a shape shifting trickster, with a wild and potentially malevolent sense of humor who likes toying with humans but who does not possess human empathy or emotions as we would understand them.
He is a descendant of Pan, and not in a story way, but literally has descended from Pan, the wild, baccanalian half Goat creature. Pan eventually became Puck, who was immortalized in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Puck of course became Phooka. Indeed Puck IS a Phooka and if you think about Puck you basically have the creature: a small, goblin-like creature who is a practical joker whose jokes can range from mildly annoying to rather deadly.
Another well known wider cultural reference to the Phooka is of course the famous (and wonderful) movie Harvey, with Jimmy Stewart.
In the movie, Harvey is rather benign, and indeed one aspect of the Phooka is that it sometimes can take a liking to a person (or child) and become their invisible friend, visible only to them. However, the Phooka is also much more dangerous.
They have shaggy black hair and yellow eyes, and while they are humanoid, they usually appear as an animal. Of of their favorite manifestations is as a horse. They will try to entice humans to ride them, at which point they will take them on the ride of their lives, fast, fierce and wild, depositing them at the in a ditch or lake at the end. Sometimes the Phooka will simply sneak up on a person, stick their head between their legs, and before they know it, the unsuspecting human is on a wild ride which will not stop until the lake.
Other animals fear it, and one sign that a Phooka is about is that the hens will cease giving eggs and the cows cease milk. If this happens, be careful, the Phooka is about. Another sign is a large, black haired creature, unusually large and wild looking, or non native to the area being seen about.
If sleeping indoors, as opposed to a hollow tree, they will often sleep under the bed. If you are convinced there is constantly something under your bed at night, it is quite possible a Phooka has taken up sleeping quarters there. They are very vengeful when angered and will set about to systematically ruin your life if you manage to piss them off. If less angry, or even just bored, they may just stay with you for a time, taking up residence in your closet or under your bed and endlessly bother you.
They should never be allowed to taste human blood. Many don’t set out to taste blood, but if they should happen to do so, they may become obsessed with the taste, and systematically hunt down the person who’s blood it is and consume them.
With all that said, they are not normally exceptionally dangerous. They’re unpredictable, but can be harmless enough. In some places a small section of the crop is left for them. Whatever part of the harvest was not collected during the main harvesting days, you do not go back for. This is now Faery crop, the Puca’s share.
After the harvest, November 1st is Phooka Day, and he can be counted on to behave himself on this day. Indeed, on November 1st, sometimes a great black steed would emerge from a hill in Leinster and speak to the people there, giving them prophecies for the next year. The people would then leave gifts and presents at the hill.