You can try and cover your ears, but there’s no escaping the shrill wailing of a banshee! Hopefully, her cry isn’t meant for you.
Banshees are female ghosts or ‘faerie women’ who wail and shriek to herald the death of a family member. They are most often found in Gaelic lore and appear in one of three forms: an ugly and terrifying old hag, a young woman or matron. These supposedly represent the three Celtic goddess of war and death, Badhbh, Macha and Mor-Rioghain.
In Ireland and parts of Scotland, these banshees would be the first warning that a family member had died, even if they lived far away. In some cases, the banshee would appear before their death to warn someone if they are about to die! She does not bring death itself as many might believe.
It is said a banshee can take the form of a hare, crow or weasel – animals associated in Ireland with witchcraft. In some cases, she appears as a mist-like cloud.
Her screech is so terrible, it can shatter glass.
Banshees are said to often comb their hair with a silver comb, a detail also related to the centuries-old traditional romantic Irish story that, if you ever see a comb lying on the ground in Ireland, you must never pick it up, or the banshees (or mermaids — stories vary), having placed it there to lure unsuspecting humans, will spirit such gullible humans away.
While the Banshee is unique to Irish mythology, there are similarities with the Bean Nighe in Scotland. Like the Banshee, the Bean Nighe is a messenger of death. She is often found alongside rivers, wailing and washing the ‘shroud’ of a person about to die.
When it comes to Slavic Mythology, they have a creature called the Drekavac. It is an undead beast and said to come from the souls of unbaptised children. Known for its screams, it is said to be found at cemeteries in the form of a child, which apparently implies imminent death.
Banshees are not as common in popular culture compared to other mythological creatures. However, they have appeared in both TV series Charmed and Teen Wolf.
Did you know? Sightings of Banshees have been reported as recently as 1948.