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The Banshee

A Banshee is a fairy in Irish legend and her scream is believed to be an omen of death. The scream is also called ‘caoine’ which means ‘keening’ and is a warning that there will be an imminent death in the family. As the Irish families blended over time, it is said that each family has its own specific Banshee.

A Banshee is a disembodied spirit and appears in any of the following forms: a) A beautiful woman wearing a shroud b) A pale woman in a white dress with long red hair c) A woman with a long silver dress and silver hair d) A headless woman who is naked from the waist up and carrying a bowl of blood e) An old woman with long white hair wearing a green dress and frightening red eyes f) An old woman with long grey hair dressed all in black with a veil covering her face.

Historians traced the first banshee stories to the 8th century which were based on a tradition of women singing a sorrowful song to lament someone’s death. These women were known as ‘keeners’ and since they accepted alcohol as payment, they were thought sinners and punished as doomed to become Banshees.

According to the mythology of the Banshee, if she is seen, she vanishes into a cloud of mist with a noise like a bird flapping its wings. Banshees never cause death – they only serve to warn of it.

Not all Banshees are cold and impassive creatures. There are some that had such strong ties to their families they continued to watch over them in death. When they manifest themselves, these Banshees appear as beautiful enchanting women that sing a sorrowful, haunting song full of concern and love for their families. This song is heard a few days before the death of a family member and usually only by the one for will die.

There are angry and vengeful Banshees that during their lives had reasons to hate their families. They manifest as distorted and frightening apparitions filled with hatred. The howls emitted by these Banshees are enough to chill you to the bone and rather than warning a family member of their imminent death, these Banshees are delighting in vengeance via the death of someone they loathed.

In other Irish mythology stories, the Banshee is the ghost of a young girl who suffered a brutal death and her spirit remains to warn of an imminent a violent death to her family members. This Banshee appears as an old woman with rotten teeth and long fingernails wearing rags with blood red eyes. Looking directly into her hate-filled eyes brings about immediate death. Her mouth is always open as the piercing scream torments the living.

According to other tales, some Banshees derive pleasure from taking a life and actively find their victims and wail constantly until the person commits suicide or goes insane. There are even Banshees that tear people to shreds. This violent, bloody banshee features most commonly in modern horror films.

It is important to remember the role of the Banshee isn’t to bring or reliever death but warn a family member so they have time to prepare for the inevitable.