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Pooka: Radical creativity and the edge of perception

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Rachel Armstrong



This is the final published version of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Organs Everywhere, 2017.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


As night falls in the Bog of Allen, which stands between two rivers—the Liffey and the Shannon—in Ireland, a tale of the pooka2 is sometimes told around peaty hearths. The story starts with the familiar figures of a farmer—let’s call him Pat— and his faithful sheepdog, Rex. They’re down at the local pub after a long day in the field. Pat finishes his Guinness and whisky chaser, while Rex has been asleep under his master’s stool for most of the night. When the bell for last orders is rung, the farmer decides to avoid the rush of traffic and the habitual dance with the breathalyzing Garda lying in wait. Instead of taking the main road home, Pat turns down a lane that seldom sees a car. Although it is dark and densely lined by hawthorn trees, the narrow road seems a safe bet for a tipsy man who can get along perfectly well at his own pace, without the pressure of cars backing up behind him. Still, the track is treacherous. It is rickety and patchily tarmacadamed owing to the scars left by the swelling and fall of the bog, which has pried up potholes in its surface like a can opener. The now lively sheepdog obediently keeps pace with Pat, dropping just a little behind the farmer’s back wheel. And so they run together—dog behind man. The canny animal anticipates that at any moment, as the old man steadies his wheel around the dips, he’ll make a wrong call and come to a sudden, uncomfortable stop. Pat concentrates on the job at hand and at some point realizes that he can no longer hear his sheepdog panting. He whistles sharply and glances downwards to check on his loyal companion but, instead of a keen-eyed friend, Pat meets the glare of a hellhound—its snout curled back into a foaming snarl, coals glowing in its head that stare as menacingly at the man as Death itself.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Armstrong R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Organs Everywhere

Year: 2017

Issue: 5

Pages: 46-49

Online publication date: 13/07/2017

Acceptance date: 05/01/2016

Date deposited: 16/03/2016

Publisher: Organs Everywhere