What does Otterpooka mean?
"After this he'll be a perfectly normal human being and you know what stinkers they are."
-- cab driver from "Harvey"*
* "Harvey" (1950) is a movie about a pooka starring Jimmy Stewart. It is a must see. A link to information about "Harvey" can be found by clicking on the movie poster further down on this page.
OT-ter -- also sea otter, river otter, giant otter
Any of various largely aquatic carnivorous mammals (as genus Lutra or Enhydra) that are related to the weasels and minks and usually have webbed and clawed feet and dark brown fur
The otter is known to represent a number of emotional and spiritual traits, in large part due to their own unique personalities: joy, laughter, lightness, dynamic energy, playfulness and the importance of playtime, freedom from jealousy or suspicion.
POO-ka -- also puka, pwca, phooka, buca, bwca, bookha
[Ir. phooka, puca] An Irish Goblin, the Phooka probably had his roots in Scandinavia before being brought to Wales and Ireland. His Nordic name is Kornbock (which prefers a goat body) and Welsh call him Bookha or Bwca (which typically has a pig or horse body).
In essence, the pooka is a mischievous spirit from Celtic lore which usually takes the form of a larger than life animal. While they can be quite pleasant and helpful, like all fairies they are prone to telling lies and cannot be trusted. The pooka is a representation of the common trickster figure in mythology and folklore. He is quite fond of jests and pranks of all sorts.
In Ireland the Phooka typically chooses a horse body, however he is a shape shifter and sometimes becomes a goat, a bull, a dog, or an eagle (among other beasts). His head is that of a human male. They are pranksters, like most goblins, and appear to weary travelers as docile ponies. Once their victim has climbed aboard, the phooka takes the hapless rider on a wild ride across the wettest and most loamy country before depositing him in ditch or tossing him headlong into the mire. His eagle form has also lended itself to a similar trick.
The Irish believe that should the sun shine though it be raining, the Phooka will be abroad that night. In Ireland, the Phooka never enters human houses, however in Wales the Booka have taken their cue from Santa Claus and sneak in through the chimney.
In some areas of the country, the pooka is rather more mysterious than dangerous, provided it is treated with proper respect. The pooka may even be helpful on occasion, issuing prophecies and warnings where appropriate. For example, the folklorist Douglas Hyde referred to a 'plump, sleek, terrible steed' which emerged from a hill in Leinster and which spoke in a human voice to the people there on the first day of November. It was accustomed to give "intelligent and proper answers to those who consulted it concerning all that would befall them until November the next year. And the people used to leave gifts and presents at the hill..."
The name Pooka belongs to a variety of seemingly very different beings. Often in Ireland it is the generic name for any haunting spirit or ghost. More widespread though is the Phooka as an animal spirit. It has a large number of forms, but the animal is always large, black and of high intelligence (often various embellishents such as red eyes are added). When a horse or pony, or indeed any animal, the Phooka likes to encourage humans to ride upon the seemingly friendly animal, at which point it bolts off in a usually successful effort to scare them witless, finally dumping them on the ground or in a stream. In parts of Ireland the name "pooka" is given to a person taken to telling tall stories ie, "taking you for a ride".