The Banshee – Also Known as The Wailing Woman

By | 2017-10-13T15:43:10+00:00 October 11th, 2017|Irish Knowledge|0 Comments

Growing up in Ireland we were often told stories that contained the terrifying Irish character, The Banshee. To say we were scared would be a very large understatement.

After hearing some of the stories of The Banshee, going to bed as children, some nights laying awake waiting terrified incase we were to hear a tap on the bedroom window, her terrifying wail or see her eerie presence through the gap in the drapes.

It is a tale all Irish people are familiar with, even depicted in famous Irish movies from our childhood, such as Darby O’Gill and the Little People. As I child I was completely terrified of this movie.

The Banshee has made appearances in recent television shows such as ‘Teenwolf’ however they did not comment on the Irish origins only that of her mystical wailing powers and premonitions of death.

The Banshee means “Fairy Woman” or some say “Woman of the Fairy Mound” and is a common presence and theme in many Irish stories and within Irish Mythology.

She is said to live in places that are associated with Fairies such as the Fairy Mounds that dot our beautiful landscape. If The Banshee has been called to service because of a Piseog, an Irish Curse, she will resides in the place associate with those that have been cursed.

She widely associated as the foreteller of death, and could be identified by her wild and terrifying shrieking, also known as keening.

screaming banshee

She is portrayed in many different ways taking different forms sometimes appearing as an old hag, a beautiful young woman or a stately aristocratic woman.

The most common legends seem to represent her as an ugly hag with long red hair that can look like flames, dressed in black or green. Some sources say she is the Irish Mythological battle goddess and goddess of War, Morrigan.

The Banshee is not traditionally a bringing of death but is a foreteller of death. She would be heard singing her lament of death or wailing before a family member was about to die.

Some say The Banshee only sounds for those of pure Irish descent and is associated strongly with those names beginning with O and Mac. Legend says that 5 great Irish families have their own Banshee; these 5 families are the O’Neill’s, The O’Brien’s, The O’Grady’s, The O’Connor’s and The Kavanagh’s.

The Banshee is said to be a result of a wrong done to a woman by a member of a family and the curse of The Banshee will follow that family for eternity. As these family’s married the curse of The Banshee infected families throughout Ireland.

The tale of The Banshee is one that will forever haunt this beautiful land and while these restless spirits predict they are not usually associated with causing death.

It is said throughout Ireland that those who are about to die will not hear her cries; only a close family member will hear her warnings.

There have been tales where a large amount of Banshee wail together to predict the death of important people and mass tragedy.

About the Author:

Sinead is the head of our Historical and Cultural research team. Sinead studied Archaeology with modular Anthropology, and has Post Graduate qualifications in Heritage Management, including History, Museum Management and Religious Studies.

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