The Banshee, from the Irish bean-sídhe ("woman of the síde" or "woman of the fairy mounds") is a female spirit in Irish mythology, usually seen as an omen of death and a messenger from the Otherworld. Her Scottish counterpart is the bean shìth.
According to tradition, the Banshee can only cry for five major Irish families: the O'Neills, the O'Briens, the O'Connors, the O'Gradys and the Kavanaghs. Intermarriage has since extended this select list. Individuals have described the Irish Banshee in numerous ways. Many describe this mythical creature as a young, beautiful woman. Then, there are some that describe the Banshee as a matron. In some tales, the figure who first appears to be a Banshee is later revealed to be the Irish battle goddess, the Morrígan. The hag may also appear as a washer-woman who cleans the blood stained clothes of those who are about to die. Although not always visible, her mourning call is heard, usually at night when someone is about to die and usually near woodlands. The Banshee may also appear in a variety of other forms, such as that of a crow, hare and weasel, most any animal associated in Ireland with witchcraft. Banshees are frequently described as dressed in white or grey, often having long, fair hair which they brush with a silver comb.
In 1437, King James I of Scotland was approached by an Irish seeress or banshee who foretold his murder at the instigation of the Earl of Atholl. This is an example of the banshee in human form. There are records of several human banshees or prophetesses attending the great houses of Ireland and the courts of local Irish kings.
The Irish Banshee, according to the people of Ireland, may come in the form of one of many different animals. This is partly due to the fact that the actual female version of the Banshee is not always seen in that form, however, several animals have been said to emit the same sounds as the mythical creature makes when forewarning of tragedy. This sound is called the "Mourning Call". In some cases, no animal or female figure is seen, but the call can be heard coming from the dark, mysterious depths of the forests located throughout Ireland.
The Banshee of Ireland is a very interesting legend. All throughout history, there have been accounts regarding the sightings of this mythical creature. Is she real? There is no physical evidence apart from witness accounts and tales passed from one generation to another, but for those in Ireland, this is a very real mythical creature. For the rest of us, it is truly one of the world’s greatest unsolved mysteries.
|The term banshee is an anglicisation of the Irish bean sídhe or bean sí, or the Scots Gaelic bean shìth, – both meaning “woman of the fairy mounds” or “woman of peace”|
One of the Banshee Legends
There was an Irish gentleman who had a beautiful daughter, strong and healthy, and a splendid horsewoman. She always followed the hounds, and her appearance at the hunt attracted unbounded admiration, as no one rode so well or looked so beautiful.
One evening there was a ball after the hunt, and the young girl moved through the dance with the grace of a fairy queen.
Three times the voice came, and three times he heard the words; but though it. was bright moonlight, and he looked from the window over all the park, no form was to be seen.
Next day, his daughter showed symptoms of fever, and exactly in three weeks, as the Ban-Sidhe had prophesied, the beautiful girl lay dead.
The night before her death soft music was heard outside the house, though no word was spoken by the spirit-voice, and the family said the form of a woman crouched beneath a tree, with a mantle covering her head, was distinctly visible. But on approaching, the phantom disappeared, though the soft, low music of the lamentation continued till dawn.
Then the angel of death entered the house with soundless feet, and he breathed upon the beautiful face of the young girl, and she rested in the sleep of the dead, beneath the dark shadows of his wings.
Thus the prophecy of the Banshee came true, according to the time foretold by the spirit-voice.
The Scream of the Banshee
Ireland's Infamous Banshee - Destination Truth Live : New Season
Join Josh's team and special guests as they search for Ireland's infamous banshee in a four hour live event on St. Patrick's Day. Thursday March 17 at 7/6c.
The Banshee - Pagan Ireland
"Who sits upon the heath forlorn,
With robe so free and tresses torn?
Anon she pours a harrowing strain,
And then she sits all mute again!
Now peals the wild funeral cry
Another Banshee Legend
In about the middle of the nineteenth century lived the Reverend Charles Bunworth of Co. Cork. Mr. Bunworth became deathly ill. His wife was not too worried because it looked like his health was improving.
A servant of the household knew his master was going to die. He heard the dreaded wail along with several others. He tells his story;
“As I came through the glen at Ballybeg, she was along with me screeching and keening, and clapping her hands, by my side every step of the way, with her long white hair falling about her shoulders, and I could hear her repeat the master’s name every now and then as plain as ever I heard it. When I came to the old abbey, she parted from me there, and turned into the pigeon field next to the berrin ground, and folding her cloak about her, down she sat under the tree that was struck by lightning, and began keening so bitterly that it went through one’s heart to hear it.
Mrs. Bunworth dismissed this as superstition because her husband's health was getting better.
A few nights later a low moaning accompanied by the sound of clapping was heard outside of Mr. Bunworth’s window. Two men visiting the house immediately ran outside to find the source of the sound. They found nothing and heard only silence. Meanwhile the people still in the house kept hearing the wailing and moaning and clapping. This continued for hours. All the while Mr. Bunworth began slipping away. He was dead by the morning.
This just goes to show you that once someone has heard a banshee, death is not far behind.
Why the Legends?
These funeral singers were known as “keeners”, and their services were highly prized. From the natural honoring of the dead, the legend of the Banshee began.
As time passed, the myth of the wailing Irish spirit became more colorful and supernatural.