HHS Classics - Banshee
This week we will talk about the infamous Banshee!! This mythical spirit appears in everything from Scooby Doo to Supernatural, but what is a Banshee really?
A Banshee is a female fairy, or spirit which originates from ancient Irish mythology. Stories of the Banshee go as far back at the 1380s. The Banshee is a sign to warn the death of a person, usually heard by their family members, by screeching, shrieking or keening. Keening is a form of song singing which is a significant part of the mourning culture of ancient Ireland. The Banshee will keen to warn the death of the original Irish clans who include Fitzgerald, O’Neil’s, O’Conner’s and the O’Grady. They would have a female spirit or Banshee was a friend or a deceased member of these ancient families, hence why she grieves the loss of member. The Banshee is attached to these and other families and follows them and mourns at their funerals and wakes.
Some legends suggest that a Banshee is the spirit of a young girl, who died a traumatic death and is attached to her family. Other stories suggest Banshees are evil and will wail until a person cannot handle it anymore and commits suicide or they go insane.
Normally a Banshee looks like an old, withered away woman, who may be a ghostly pale colour, with long hair and pale. She is sometimes described as tall, depending on which region the story comes from but is mostly considered to be small. It can be a bird like creature as well and the sound of fluttering wings can be heard when the Banshee is around.
Since the 8th century the more important the deceased person was, the more mourners and Keeners would be present at their funeral so people would hire women to keen at funerals. Talented keeners would be paid very highly with money or alcohol. Normally Keeners were women who were outcast and alcoholics; which may add to the mythology of the appearance of the Banshee.
Ancient Irish mythology gives the Banshee further significance, aside from just being an omen of death. If a person lived a life where they were selfish, cruel and greedy, their soul would stay very close to the realm of the living. It was the responsibility of the Banshee to ensure the souls of these people were punished by keeping them close to the Earth. The Banshee, inversely, also ensures the kind, generous and giving souls were moved on to a happy after life.
So that's the Banshee!! I don't ever want to see one, or hear one. And I know I would be freaked out if I ever even saw one like that!! If you would like to listen to an in depth podcast on the Banshee, Graveyard Tales have done an awesome job on it. Episode 39 will go into depth and detail about this creepy creature. Y'all come back now here!!