The Banshee

Irish-Banshee

Photo from Ancient Origins

What is a Banshee?

According to Wikipedia, a banshee “is a female spirit in Irish mythology who heralds the death of a family member, usually by wailing, shrieking, or keening.” (Wikipedia)

Origins

In Gaelic lore, the Banshee is known as ‘beansidhe.’ This means ‘woman of the fairy’ that was meant to warn members of certain ancient Irish families when it was their time of death. These families were of the Celtic lands that had not been overrun by Norse, English, or Norman invaders.

“The origin of banshees is not entirely known, though it does seem to be an Irish creation.” –Ancient Origins

One of the most famous theories is that the myth came from the cry of a barn owl. Centuries ago when there was battle, the armies would start at dawn. They would disturb the owls who were just settling down to sleep. The owls would fly away while screeching. Their screeches sometimes alerted opposing armies causing them to have early confrontation. Because of this, a lot of men died so the owl’s screech was seen as a warning of death.

400px-Banshee.jpg

Photo from Wikipedia

Centuries ago in Ireland and Scotland there was a woman known as a ‘bean chaointe.’ These women would weep and wail for the dead. This would happen a lot with family members of the deceased because of their grief but some families would actually hire a ‘bean chaointe’ for the funeral or wake. This could be a part of how the myth of the Banshee got started. (Ancient Origins)

There are stories about the Banshee (also known as the Aes Sidhe), that she would come and weep for members of truly noble Irish families. But ‘Sidhes’ or Banshees are spirits so they could tell right away if someone from an Irish family had died. The story goes that once the Banshee knew of the deceased they would wail and the sound of their cry would travel across the hills of Ireland all the way to the family. Then the family would know right away that their family member had passed.

It was also said that if the person who died was holy or extraordinarily great, then several Banshees would come together to sing in unison for the deceased. But before death had struck, the Banshee was also known to warn the family.

 

“Most of the time the first person to hear the banshee’s screech is the person who is about to die.” – Ancient Origins

 

Banshees have also been depicted in more devilish ways. A lot of people fear the myth of the Banshee. People have been told that if they hear the Banshee’s cry that they will die or a member of their family will. (Ancient Origins)

Sightings

The Banshee has been described a few different ways. Some say the Banshee appears to be an older woman in black with long, gray hair. Also, who appears to have a veil covering her face. Another is that the Banshee is an older woman with long hair and red eyes, who wears a green dress. (Ancient Origins)

“Sightings of Banshees have been reported infrequently.” – Historic Mysteries

One of the most well-known sightings happened in 1473. King James I of Scotland came across an Irish seer. The Irish seer warned him of his assassination. Not too long afterwards, he got trapped inside of a sewer tunnel and died from a fatal injury. His death was thought to have been caused by an enemy. Many believe that this seer had been a Banshee.

One more recent Banshee sighting was in 2014. Someone thought they heard a cat call in the middle of the night but it had turned into a terrifying, screeching noise. The person who reported it, said it became a loud scream that sounded like it was getting closer and closer. They said from inside their home, they could see a woman on the street with her head back, screaming. The police showed up not long after and the Banshee had disappeared. One of the officers actually suggested it was a Banshee. Later on that night, the reporter said a member of their family had passed away. (Historic Mysteries)

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Photo from Fairyist

Banshee sightings are still being reported to this day. Whether or not the stories are true, I hope I never see or hear one.

Do you believe in the Banshee?

 

Sources

Ancient Origins

Kerry Sullivan

December, 2016

 

Historic Mysteries

Les Hewitt

December, 2015

 

Wikipedia

March, 2018

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