Puck is the personal name of a nature spirit in the folklore of Britain, Ireland and Wales known for his mischievous and trickster ways. In medieval times, under the influence of Christianity, Puck was associated with the Devil, as were all pagan deities and spirits.
In folklore, puck is a term; for a type of spirit. Shakespeare popularized it as the name of a character in his play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A puck is also known as a puca, pouk, phouka and pwca (Welsh). Puck’s traits correspond also to those of the pixie or piskey of England’s West Country lore.
Puck is a shape-shifter and is often seen as a black animal or a black half-animal. He is most often depicted as a misleader, especially leading travelers astray. When he is so inclined, he favours humans by enabling them to understand animal speech and by protecting them from evil spirits. If treated well, household pucks, like brownies, will clean up the house during the night and also do yard work. Ungrateful people invoke Puck’s wrath. He also bedevils grave robbers.
In Christianized English lore, Puck was viewed as having a particularly malicious nature and was equated with the Devil. Hell was called “Puck’s Pinfold.” Puck is also known as robin Goodfellow, another type of bogey, or wicked spirit, who was popular in England in the 16th and 17th centuries. rudyard kipling, however, portrayed him as a nature spirit in “Puck of Pooks Hill.”
To contemporary Witches, Puck is seen more in his original form as an “Old One” and a spirit of the land. English Witch Paddy Slade, who has a special relationship with Puck, says of him:
Puck is the Lord of the Greenwood, the Spirit of Albion, the Spirit of the Island of Graymayre. He is probably the last of the Old Ones, those who inhabited the Island in the days before the users of iron came. He keeps the Old Faith and does not suffer fools, which is why he is thought of as tricky; but is a good and true friend to all who try to keep the Old Ways honestly. He will teach the language of the wild creatures and of the trees, but he must trust you first.
Slade’s “Wild rite of the mother” features Puck. He speaks the following words (the first two sentences are taken from kipling; the remainder is Slade’s composition):
I am the Old One. my voice is deeper than three cows lowing.
I keep the Wild magic. I am Pan. I am Herne. I am the Lord of the Greenwood, Friend of Trees and Wild Creatures. I come with the Wolf, the first teacher to this rite. I bring the Stag of Seven Tines to stand Watch Ward.
(The rite then describes the music of the Earth.)
Deep in the rocks; deep in the Woods; Underground and Overground. Under the sky and beneath the Sea, the Pulse is Beating. The Earth Sings.
You can hear it if you listen. The Crystals in the rocks tune to it. The Plants and Trees grow to it. The waters flow to it.
- Nature Spirits.
The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft and Wicca – written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – Copyright © 1989, 1999, 2008 by Visionary Living, Inc.