The Banshee

bansheeSightings of banshees in the Ballsbridge area, reported as recently as September of this year stirred me to write an article about it.

The name banshee originates from the Irish word bean sí or woman of the fairy mounds. She’s not always seen, but her mourning call is heard, usually at night when someone is about to die.

The banshee appears in different forms, sometimes she appears as an ugly, terrifying old hag, but sometimes as a very beautiful woman. She has been known to take the forms of a hooded crow, hare or weasel — animals that are often associated with witchcraft.

Back in the olden days, when a person died a woman would caoin (cry) for them or wail at their funeral. These women were sometimes called ‘keeners’ and the best keeners would be in much demand.

Legend has it that for certain great Gaelic families the lament would be sung by a fairy woman; they could predict the death of a person who had died far away even before news of their death had come. The wailing of the banshee was the first warning to the household that death was approaching. When lots of banshees appeared at once (besides that being particularly terrifying) it actually symbolised the death of someone great or holy.

Seanchaís over the years have called the banshee a fairy, a ghost, a murdered woman, or a mother who died while giving birth. She dresses in white or grey and has long, pale hair which she brushes with a silver comb.

Old wives’ tales will tell you that if you ever see a comb on the ground, NEVER pick it up or the banshee will come for you. The one seen recently in the Ballsbridge area was a younger woman reported to be dressed in white, with long pale hair and a silver comb. She was wearing a grey cloak.

Another NewsFour reader I spoke with said he was on his way home one night when he heard a loud screech of a banshee. He admitted it could have been a barn owl, which are well-known for their chilling screech, but as he said himself there have been no barns or grain stores in that area for over a century. Another ‘witness’ described how a picture of her father fell off her sitting room wall moments before she heard a deafening, piercing scream. Her father died the next day.

By the Bogeyman Jason McDonnell