The Banshee is the ghost of a young woman who was brutally killed and died so horribly that her spirit is left to wander the world warning when a violent death is imminent. The word comes from the Gaelic Bean Sí, literally - Fairy Woman.
She 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 told that the Banshee has ripped many a brave man to death with her bare hands. This is the type of Banshee portrayed in Hollywood horror films.
Here in Ireland we have a much less gory view of the Banshee. She does attach herself to families usually 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 106 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 ‘O’s and ‘Mc’s of their personal experiences with their own Banshee. I remember being told of an uncle who was walking home one cold blustery night and on arriving home told my grandmother 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 grandmother 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 grandmothers brother died peacefully in his sleep.
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.