Blog by Gifts of Ireland

What is a Banshee? Ireland's Loud Legend

What is a Banshee? Ireland's Loud Legend

You can bet that many of the ghost stories you hear around Halloween actually trace their origins back to Ireland. Across the world, many countries have stories and legends of fair folk, but the Emerald Isle is known for its strong and traditional stories that have been passed down through generations.

What is a Banshee?

The Banshee who is a fairy spirit, is Ireland's famous harbinger of death. Banshee comes from "ben-side" or female fairy. She has also been named “Women of the Fairy.” The Banshee is a disembodied spirit and can appear in many different forms. The two most famous being: a beautiful young women with stark white hair and blood shot eyes and the other being an old women with long grey hair and a veil covering her face.

Throughout history, the Banshee has gotten a bad reputation as a being that causes death. However, according to the legend she is the warning of it instead. So we need to go easy on the poor woman!



Where does the Banshee come from?

The Banshee’s origins can be traced back to the 8th century. The stories seem to come from the tradition of women singing sorrowful songs when someone would die. The women accepted alcohol as payment and seen as sinners for doing so. The women were labeled “keeners,”. It is said that they became banshees as it was their doom for being sinners. If spotted, the banshee will disappear and vanish into thin air.


Where does the Banshee come from?

In legends it is said that the fair folk of Ireland were once the Tuatha de Danann, a race of people who possessed incredible powers, some even were credited to have “god like powers.” According to legend it is said they ruled the Emerald Isle in the 19th century BC until they were driven underground by the Celts. It is said that underground the Tuatha de Danann became smaller and were now known as the Daoine Sidhe which can be roughly translated to “people of the mounds” also known as some of the Irish myths and the legends I’ll explain to you in this blog. It is said that the Hollow Hill is where the realm of the fairies and other counterparts reside.


What does a Banshee sound like?


The Banshee is known for her songs and her shrieks when she is heralding death. Legend states that when the Banshee would manifest themselves that she would appear in a beautiful manner and sing enchanting sorrowful songs in the names of concern and love for their families. The song was said to only be heard by the family member whom it is intended for three days before their death. However, in different parts of Ireland, they interpret her sounds differently. In Tyrone for example they say it sounds like two boards rubbing together. According to tradition, the Banshee can only cry for five Irish family names: the O'Neills, the O'Briens, the O'Connors, the O'Gradys and the Kavanaghs.


Famous Banshees in Folklore

Two popular stories that accompanies the legend is the story of Clíodhna of Carrigcleena and Aibell of Craglea. Clinda is a very powerful banshee and she rules over the fairies of South Munster. Some Irish myths call her a goddess of love and beauty. She is loved by the families of Munster and is associated with many of the old families. Clíodhna and Aibell are said to be rivals, with Clíodhna turning Aibell into a white cat. Aibell is the banshee that has control of North Munster. Criag Liath is said to be her dwelling place. Aibell had a magic harp and it is said that if you heard its song you would not live long afterwards. 


So, there you have it. The Banshee. Is she real? Well that's up to you. But, when you lay in bed silently during the night, listen out for the wailing and see if anyone close to you dies a couple of days later!


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