Taibhse, the Púca and Other Spirits, The (1)

Taibhse, the Púca and Other Spirits, The (1)

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  • Teideal (Title): Taibhse, the Púca and Other Spirits, The (1).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 840121.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): lore.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): unavailable.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 31/01/1984.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): evening class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Joe describes the taibhse as a faceless person with two balls of fire coming out of his mouth, and two balls of fire coming out of his ears. The only way he can be killed is with a black-handled knife1, which cannot be withdrawn once you’ve stabbed him, or you’ll never be able to kill him again.

The púca is a ‘quare fellow’ who is out to destroy anything you do. He wants to attack your cattle or ruin your crops. He can take any form — a chair, even a cup of tea. To combat his efforts, people put cinders from the fire into the crops at certain times of year — at the end of June and at Hallowe’en — to protect them from the púca.

Also at Hallowe’en, children take a cabbage or a turnip from a neighbour’s field — not from their own — and throw them against the doors of their neighbours to remind them that the púca is about and they should take measures against him. The púca is also associated with the Death Coach, another hazard likely to manifest itself on Hallowe’en.


1. For a story and song featuring the use of a black-handled knife, see Children Stolen by Fairies and Tháinig Bean Cois Leasa.

2. To this day, the midsummer festival of Saint John’s Eve, on the 23rd of June, is an occasion for bonfires in many parts of Ireland — not least in the west. The original editor of these archives recalled visiting a lady in Conamara on that date in 1977 or ’78. She had a small fire lit in front of her house and was walking in a circle round the fire with her rosary beads in her hand, saying some prayers. Subsequently, she took some of the embers of the fire back into the house, where she used them to kindle the fire. She also rubbed soot from the fire above the doorway to the scioból (shed; in this case a cowshed) as protection for her cows.

Elements of fairy lore appear in a number of other items in Joe’s repertoire.