Some friends and I were talking about what we did for Halloween when one of them, remembering my Irish heritage, suggested I should have gone as a Banshee. I asked if either he or anyone around knew what a Banshee was. No one knew. So, in preparation for Halloween, and in keeping with both my Irish blood and my crusade to educate the masses in history, mythology (and alcoholology), here is what a Banshee is:
Banshee (bean-sidhe) means ‘Faerie woman’. Many legends exist surrounding the Banshees and just how evil she is meant to be.
The first is that she is the ghost of a young woman who was brutally killed and died so horribly that her spirit is left to wander the world watching her family and loved ones warning them when a violent death is imminent.
Another type of Banshee appears as an old woman in rags with dirty grey hair, long fingernails and sharp pointed rotten teeth. Her eyes are blood red and filled with so much hatred and sorrow that to look into them will cause instant death. The Banshees mouth is permanently open as she emits a long and painful scream to torture the souls of the living.
According to legend there are a few Banshees that relish in taking a life and will stalk their victim wailing and screaming at them to the point that the victim goes insane or dies. It has been claimed that the Banshee has ripped many a brave man to death with her bare hands. This is naturally the type of Banshee portrayed in Hollywood ‘horror’ films.
Ireland actually has a much less gory view of the Banshee. She does attach herself to families often with an O or a Mc in the surname such as O’Brien or McNeill etc, and she does indeed foretell a death in the family.
The Banshee does not ‘bring’ death but warns that death is near and this gives the family a chance to prepare -and it is not necessarily a violent death. It may be of a family member that has lived to 95 years of age! She is there as an escort to ensure that the loved one passes safely to the other side.
Stories have been passed down through generations of families of their personal experiences with their own Banshee and my family is no different.
I remember being told of a great-uncle who was walking home one cold blustery night (probably three sheets to the wind after partaking of wee bit to keep the cold out) and on arriving home told my grand-mother that he had tried to comfort an old woman, dressed in black with a veil over her face, who was crying and wailing outside the house but every time he went over to her she moved away and kept pointing at the house.
My grand-mother knew straight away what this old lady represented and sent my uncle to bed telling him she would have a look. Needless to say she didn’t dare look herself. Three days later my grand-mothers brother died peacefully in his sleep. As children we used to plague my grand-mother to recount the story of the night her brother tried to invite the Banshee in for tea!
The Banshee may sometimes only be heard keening (an Irish word used to describe the wailing that women used to do over the body of a deceased person to ward off evil spirits) but when the Banshee 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.
Some people believe on nights with really bad thunderstorms, the Banshee arrives in a black hearst drawn by 6 black, headless horses to take the spirit safely to "the other side".
Of course no-one wishes a visit from a Banshee no matter how alluring she is but she does serve a purpose to the family by letting them know that a death may be near.
So, now you know what a Banshee is. If you happen to see one, it might be a good idea to get on the phone and buy one of those “you can’t be denied” life insurance plans right away….
Today is a good day for firm deisions! -Or is it?
Live Long and Prosper....