The Legend of The Banshee

BANSHEE PAINTING

Banshee is Irish for fairy woman. In Gaelic folklore, she's an other world female spirit whose crying portends the death of a person of Celtic lineage.

The Banshee may also appear as a washerwoman, and is seen apparently washing the bloodstained clothes of those who are about to die.

She is rarely seen and descriptions of her can vary from a beautiful young woman to an old crone. As a beautiful young girl, constantly combing her long, red golden hair and wearing a green kirtle and scarlet mantle, her eyes red with centuries of crying.

She is very proud of her hair and it is said that when she died she was too bad to go to heaven and too good to go to hell, so God sent her to this Earth to cry after certain people when they die. She makes her path through the fields and on the hills. She goes around at night crying and keening and her cry is like the cry of young girl.

Despite her grim reputation, seeing her or hearing the Banshee is not what actually causes the death. In fact, the Banshee is traditionally a very kind woman. As poet and historian W.B. Yeats commented, "You will with the Banshee chat and will find her good at heart." Perhaps her appearance and wailing before a death are efforts to protect her family from a death she cannot prevent.

An omen that sometimes accompanies the Banshee is the coach-a-bower (coiste-bodhar) an immense black coach, mounted by a coffin and drawn by a headless carriage man.

Belief in the Banshee is still very common in Ireland and her cry is even heard among Irish emigrants abroad.

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