Samhain, the Pooka, and Mrs. Muir

Samhain (pronounced saw-hin) is the Celtic day when the division between this world and the Otherworld is thinnest. In the Celtic calendar, Samhain begins at sunset October 31st.  During Samhain, the creatures of the Otherworld, ghosts, faeries, and other supernatural beings, are able to cross into this world more easily.  One such creature is the Pooka, a shapeshifter, who can appear in any number of guises: a horse, a donkey, a bull, a goat, or an eagle. And, of course, a giant white rabbit.

harvey

The most familiar Pooka is Harvey, the constant companion of the ever tipsy Elwood P. Dowd. Harvey is a benevolent Pooka and solves everyone’s problems. Two love stories are nurtured. An attempt to institutionalize Elwood is defeated. And Dr. Chumley is transported to the mystic paradise of Akron, Ohio. Not incidentally, Harvey was written by Irish-American Mary Agnes McDonough Coyle (“fine Irish name” my grandmother would have said). This comedy of errors is the epitome of deux ex machina but to the Irish, the supernatural is neither remote nor a contrivance.

One of my favorite ghost stories is the Ghost and Mrs. Muir by Wexford writer Josephine Leslie writing under the name R.A. Dick. It’s not a mystery, I admit, but it is relevant to the Mysteristas. It is a story about a woman writer in a man’s world trying to get published. If you Mrs. Muirhaven’t seen it lately, give it a watch. You’ll see humor you hadn’t notice before.

More examples of Irish ghost stories include: Ghosts of Belfast written by Belfast writer Stuart Neville (Soho, 2010), the story of a modern day IRA (retired) hitman haunted by the ghosts of those he killed.  Are the real ghosts or is he mad? Does it matter? In Whisperers by Dublin writer John Connolly (Atria, 2010), Iraqi antiquities are stolen and traded by American veterans thus invoking some very dark forces who do not necessarily adhere to our sense of justice.

What is amazing about these contemporary writers is how they incorporate the supernatural without destroying suspension of disbelief and without crossing into horror or fantasy. They simply write contemporary thrillers in which some of the characters aren’t human.

Sure, no problem.

I wrote a ghost story the other day. Just for me and my writing group. Maybe it’ll morph into a book idea someday. Maybe not.

So lovely Mysteristas, do you have a favorite ghost story? Have you written one?

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12 thoughts on “Samhain, the Pooka, and Mrs. Muir”

  1. I find it very hard to avoid at least a bit of the supernatural in my writing (could be due to Irish ancestry; I don’t know, but I just finished writing a romance that deals somewhat with Irish troubles 200 years ago. It was one of those books one just has to write). I don’t have a favorite ghost story, but I will have a look at the ones you mentioned. I did write a ghost story, though — entirely unintentionally, as it was supposed to be a romance/mystery, but the ghost showed up and I liked her a lot, so kept her. It’s called The Christmas Knot, and it’s a slightly Gothic Regency mystery novella.

  2. “The mystic paradise of Akron, Ohio.” Hee-hee! The Irish seem to have a rich folklore of supernatural stories. Maybe the Irish countryside is just a perfect backdrop to it. I haven’t watch “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” in a long time. Perhaps I should remedy that.

  3. I love ghost stories! My first published story was a ghost story that I wrote about a local legend. It seemed real to me because it was part of our family’s storytelling culture. Because these stories tend to be very dark, I use a pen name for them (Minta Monroe). Minta has another dark ghost story coming out next year for Halloween.

  4. Yes, in fact I just put The Christmas Knot up for pre-order on Amazon (but I have to change the cover, which doesn’t work well in thumbnail size). It first came out in a boxed set earlier this year.

    When I was visiting in Northern Ireland (Derry), a friend there had a local librarian compile a list of ghost sightings in the area. There were plenty!

    Sue/Minta, I will look up your stories. 🙂

  5. I am not a big reader of ghost stories. I think my reading tastes were molded by reading stories where the “ghost” was so extreme that the whole thing seemed comical, and not in an entertaining way. But yet, everyone has different interests and tastes in books. That is why there are so many different characters, books, writers, and topics. That’s fine with me, Write on!

  6. This is very interesting. I remember watching THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR on tv. Also love the film GHOST, though that was more rom com, basically, wasn’t it?

    And I want to read your ghost story someday (tell us when you publish it)!

  7. Pookas… they always gave me the wee bee-jeebies, the cat ones and horses are famous in Ireland. I love the Ghost and Mrs. Muir, book isn’t as good as the movie, which is romantic and funny. I’ve written a couple of ghost stories in my Regency romance series, The Honorable Gentlemen. Nice article, I enjoyed it. 😉

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