Banshee or ‘Bean-sidhe’ is Irish for faerie woman – ban (bean), meaning a woman, and shee ( sidhe), meaning faerie. The banshee can appear in one of three guises: a young woman, a stately matron or a raddled old hag. These represent the triple aspects of the Celtic goddess of war and death, namely Badhbh, Macha and Mor-Rioghain.
There are many Irish families that believe they have Banshees attached to them. According to legend she appears at the family home during the night and wails, this is a chilling warning to the family that one of their loved ones is about to die. It is said she can cry for several nights in a row. According to Irish folklore she can only cry for five major Irish families,the O’Briens, O’Neils,the O’Connors the O’Gradys and the Kavanaghs.
She is a solitary Fairy woman, and most of the legends describe her to be dressed in a green dress with a grey cloak and has piercing red eyes (from all of her centuries of crying) and grey scraggly hair.It is said she has followed Irish families across the world so it would be possible to hear her in America and England where true Irish families have settled. She is known in Scottish folklore as the Bean – Nighe “The washer woman” when seen it is said she is washing the blood stained clothes of the person who is going to die.It is also said that she attends the funeral of the person who passed and that her wails can be heard among the sorrowful cries of the family members left behind.
The Cry of the Banshee
As the moon at midnight moves through the starry sky
Out there in the bog land the Banshee’s shrill cry
The one seldom heard and that human eyes cannot see
Some say the ghost of one who died in agony.
‘Tis said the cry of the banshee is a brief loud shrill screech
That into the depths of the soul seem to reach
And those who have heard it will never forget
That loud ear piercing scream ’til the day of their death.
To those who have heard it fear of the night it does bring
The cry of the banshee is a terrifying thing
The most terrifying scream that they ever did hear
A cry that instil in those who hear it fear.
The cry of the banshee is a blood curdling cry
It pierces the silence of the midnight sky
And those who have heard it never leave us in doubt
That at midnight from their homes they never more venture out.
by -Francis Duggan
I myself have been lucky enough not to hear the chilling wails of the Banshee, but have heard many stories from family members and their experiences. If any of you out there have any experiences or stories about the Banshee I would certainly love to hear them.