The Legend of the Irish Banshee

An Irish Banshee Sits Dolefully by a River

Banshee, (in Gaelic, beaní-sidhe) means 'Faerie woman' or 'woman of the Faerie mound'. There are many legends about the Banshees and just how evil they are supposed to be.

Some of the legends depict the Banshee as the ghost of a young woman who was brutally killed, and her death was so horrible that her spirit is left to wander the world, as she watches over her family and warns them if a violent death is imminent.

Another type of Banshee manifests as a dirty old woman wearing rags, with unkempt grey hair, talon-like fingernails and sharp pointed rotten teeth. It is said that to look into her blood red eyes of hatred will cause instant death. This Banshee's mouth is always open as she continually lets out a long, mournful scream to torture the souls of the living.

It is told that there are some Banshees that particularly enjoy taking a life. She will stalk her victim while letting out a scream to the point that the person either goes insane or dies of fright. It has also been told that some Banshees rip many a brave man apart with their bare hands. These are the type of Banshees that are portrayed in horror films.

In Ireland they have a much more tame view of the Banshee. She attaches herself to families, usually with an O or a Mac in the surname, such as O'Brien or MacRaghnaill, and she fore-tells of a death in the family.

Irish legend shows that the Banshee does not bring death but warns that death is near and to give the family time to prepare. The imminent death is not necessarily violent and may be a family member who has lived more than 100 years of age. She is there to escort that loved one safely to the other side.

Many stories have been passed down through generations, especially from the families of 'O's and 'Mac's. One such story has been told of an uncle, walking home one cold and windy night, and was probably three sheets to the wind. When he arrived home, he said that he had tried to comfort an old woman dressed in black with a veil over her face, who was crying outside the house. Every time he went over to her she moved away and kept pointing at the house.

Everyone in the household knew immediately that this old lady represented imminent death and sent the uncle to bed. Needless to say they were too afraid to look for themselves. Three days later the uncle died peacefully in his sleep. The children of the house used to beg to hear the story of the night the uncle tried to invite the Banshee in for tea.

Sometimes the Banshee may only be heard wailing but, when she decides to appear, she may take the form of the following:

An old woman dressed in black with long grey hair and covering her face with a veil.

An old woman with long white hair, red eyes and dressed in a green dress.

A deathly pale woman with long red hair dressed in a white dress, sometimes a shroud.

A beautiful woman wearing a shroud.

A beautiful woman with silver-white hair wearing a long shimmering silver dress.

A headless woman naked from the waist up and carrying a bowl of blood.

No one wishes a visitation from a Banshee, no matter how alluring she may appear. She is there for only one reason - to notify the family that they should start making plans for a funeral.

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