Mythical Monday: The Pukwudgie, by Mae Clair

Before I lope off into Mythical Monday land, I wanted to mention that Dane Carlisle and Ellie Sullivan of my romantic mystery, ECLIPSE LAKE, are doing a character interview today at Jennifer Lowery’s blog. If you’d like to stop by and say hello, you can check the interview out here.

Now, about the strange creature in the title…

Interesting name, Pukwudgie. For some reason it makes me think of gremlins, or gnarled forest imps. Actually, those descriptions aren’t too far off base.

The Pukwudgie can be found in the folklore and myths of the Wampanoag people, Native Americans who occupied southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island beginning in the 17th Century. Legends describe the Pukwudgie as human in appearance but with a large nose, fingers and ears. They stand about two to three feet high, and have bodies covered in thick hair. Their skin is ashen or bluish-gray, and they favor natural materials which lend to camouflage for clothing—items like grasses, moss, tree bark, and reeds.

Despite its diminutive size, the Pukwudgie is a powerful being able to conjure the forces of magic. It can vanish at will, summon fire, and shoot flashes of light from its body. It also has the ability to shapeshift, its most common form that of a porcupine which walks upright. It delights in mischief and will often snatch children from unsuspecting parents. It also favors arrows tipped with poison that quickly cause a victim to sicken and die. Worse, those who perish at its hands remain trapped in its control for eternity.

3d Digitally rendered illustration of a Will O' the Wisp carrying a lantern through a misty swamp with dead treesThe Wampanoag call these departed spirits “Tei-Pai-Wankas.” Spheres of light, they are similar to the will-o-wisp and are used by the Pukwudgie to lure unsuspecting humans to their deaths. Those who follow a Tei-Pai-Wanka are mesmerized by its glowing form, unable to turn away. Easily enticed into swamps riddled with quicksand or compelled to walk off sheer cliffs, they suffer a grisly fate. If all else fails, a Pukwudgie is also able to inflict harm on a person simply by staring at them.

So how do you protect yourself against these nasty troll-like beings? (Supposedly, there are still Pukwudgie sightings today).

The best defense is to ignore creature and pray it won’t trouble you further. If that doesn’t work, you can recite the Lord’s Prayer, spread salt, or arm yourself with iron. Much like European Faeries, the Pukwudgie is repelled by all three defenses. You’re most likely to encounter one in New England or the Great Lakes Region, so be wary when travelling.

And at the very least, you might want to think twice before following any spheres of glowing light!  😉

20 thoughts on “Mythical Monday: The Pukwudgie, by Mae Clair

  1. I love the name of the wee beastie but it sounds an absolute horror. It’s interesting isn’t it that like some of the supernatural beings over here these creatures can lure people with light. Thanks for sharing.

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    • I guess it goes to show how attracted we are to light…I know I am. Especially anything with a luminous glow. I guess that means I’d be an easy target for a Tei-Pai-Wanka, LOL. I better be extra careful the next time I head to New England! 😉

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    • Apparently they were jealous of Maushop, a creation, giant and the affection the Wampanoag people had for him. Definitely nasty, crabby creatures–and not ideal for tourism in New England, LOL. 😀

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  2. Wonderful post. What a fascinating little creature, and not at all harmless and demure either. Big power can come in small packages. Love the name too. It sounds cute, but boy is that deceiving. I also like how the beings can shapeshift into a porcupine that walks on two legs.

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    • The name does sound cuddly and cute in one manner now that I think about it, LOL. Such a deceptive little thing. And of all the things to choose for shape shifting how old that it would choose a porcupine. I think I’d go with a wolf or a bear! 😀

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  3. These creatures cause a lot of trouble despite their size! I’ll try to keep my eyes averted if I ever glance their light.
    Where do you come up with all these topics for Mythical Monday? I’m impressed.

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    • Thanks, Emma! YOu know how I love delving around for anything mythical. I think I found this one on one of my online haunts…just a reference, and then I went on a Google search.The Pukwudgie was a new one on me, too! 🙂

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  4. It’s so much fun researching odd myths. I’ve got a whole book on magical and mythical creatures from just about every flavor of myth. It’s great fun just to page through and read about that one you can’t pronounce. 😉

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    • That book sounds wonderful! I’ve got an odd collection and love diving into them to discover new facts and tidbits. And there are quite a few I can’t pronounce, LOL. Great to meet someone else who appreciates myth! 🙂

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  5. Thank you for the info! I was researching this topic because I am writing a horror(ish) novel. But also I had a weird formative experience with a ghostly light.

    I used to live in Massachusetts seaside town when I was about 12. For a school assignment, I was making a map of my house. Behind our house was this wooden shed that was pretty old (the whole house was old, with big planks for floorboards and warped windowpanes) painted white with a clipper ship wind vane. I went inside so that I would know where everything was for my map (I was a perfectionistic child!). It had two rooms: the front room which my father used to store garden tools, and the back, which we didn’t use for anything because it was windowless and very,very dark. You couldn’t see your hands in front of you if you walked in. I remember walking into that second room on that particular day and seeing a misty, white globe hovering above the dirt floor. For a minute I was transfixed, but then I ran out of there in total fear.

    I’m an avowed skeptic, and I don’t believe in anything supernatural. I think in all likelihood my pre-adolescent mind hallucinated the light because that’s what brains do when they’re deprived of sensory information, and developing brains are known to be a little wonky! But when I recently heard about Tai-Pei-Wanka, it sent a shiver of fear down my spine. Again, I feel certain it was just a mild hallucination, but there is something very unsettling about that particular memory and something very unsettling about this particular myth. Kudos to the Wampanoag, they know good horror.

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    • HI, Christine. I’m delighted to have you visit my blog and share your story! Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply (I’ve been on vacation). I’m a fan of horror novels, so it’s great to meet you. And what a story you’ve shared! Even if what you saw was just a mild hallucination, it’s interesting that it’s hung around in your mind so long. I do think, as you said, developing brains create their own impressions at times. I have several vivid memories from my childhood of things I THOUGHT I saw but I know couldn’t have been there. And yet they remain….along with those shivers I remember.

      So glad you found my post informative and felt compelled to share your own experience with these creatures. I love things that fall into the realm of “what-ifs!”

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