Today in this new article we are tackling an urban legend that could be described as complex which is that of Banshee . Indeed, the latter has many representations and is often confused with other creatures from several folklore. Let’s discover his myth together.
Let’s start with the etymological analysis of the name Banshee.
It comes mainly from Gaelic Ireland and Scotland. Depending on the region where you are located, there are several possibilities:
- The first meaning that is certainly most common would be that in Gaelic ancient “bean sidhe”, “bean si” or “bean sid” (for Irish) or “bean sidh” (for Scots), the Banhee would be a woman come from the Other World: the sidh which in Celtic mythology especially among the Gael people would designate the kingdom of the dead. Other studies suggest that she would be part of a people living mainly in the hills or that she would be like a fairy.
- The second analysis of his name finds an explanation through the behavior of the latter. Indeed, if we continue interpretations still in Gaelic then Banshee, can also pronounce “bean chaointe” or “caointeach” and that would mean “the woman who screams funeral melodies”.
- Finally the last hypothesis of its etymology would take root in the South-East of Ireland, more precisely through certain dialects. Thus, the derivative of its name Badh is associated with a protective or warlike goddess in Celtic and medieval mythology.
You will have understood, just by the etymology, it is difficult to explain what is a Banshee because this creature is mainly present in the collective imagination. A question then comes to mind: how to recognize a Banshee?
Here again several interpretations will complicate our representation of the latter.
Especially since it can come in two forms: that of a young and pretty girl in tears, or that of an old woman completely the opposite of the first quoted. It would be a lonely being usually wearing a long old dress and barefoot. As for her physical description, she would be extremely pale and the features of her face are often described as being in an advanced cadaverous state. If we have any idea of his appearance, what about his intentions, his role? And above all what are the capabilities that a Banshee has.
The intentions or the role of the latter vary from one folklore to another:
- It is interesting to see that in Ireland every big family had a Banshee of its own and followed it in any country, even when moving. Several testimonies tell that when this creature visited a family, she often directed a black cab and would then be responsible for driving the soul of the deceased to the Other World. This rumor was confirmed in January 1804 by two soldiers in London who claimed to have seen a headless woman driving a coach and they were so traumatized that they had a long stay in a psychiatric hospital. Thus, here the Banshee is a protector of families.
- The other role of Banshee, which is certainly the most frequently encountered, is the messenger of Death. In the earliest stories, she accompanies defeated warriors on the battlefield to the realm of the dead. In the writings of modern times, and as already mentioned above, she warns the families of the death of one of their relatives and accompanies him to his last home.
- Another interpretation in Irish folklore would suggest that the Banshee would rather be the one who cleans the dead. Indeed, when people die in bloody battles, she would be responsible for washing their clothes covered with blood in the waterways. It would have a direct link with the goddess Badb or Morrigan who is responsible for cleaning the bloody clothes of people to die.
- Other myths related to the latter suggest that it would announce the death of a person if we hear him crying. Indeed, when I evoked in the section devoted to the etymology of its name “the funeral chant” it refers to the mourners who are wailing women during funeral masses to accompany the soul of the deceased and return him a last tribute. This practice would have existed for a long time but it was banned by the Catholic Church.
- Finally, the last representation of the Banshee and which is the most modern envisages the fact that it would announce the death by a cry. A scream has cut the breath which it would be impossible to confuse with an animal or human cry and which is heard in the night. When people perceive this cry, it means that someone in their family is dead or that it announces an imminent death of one of their relatives.
As for the abilities that a Banshee would have, everything would be like the gift of clairvoyance, which over time and times has evolved as a prophetic talent since this creature is capable of announcing the death of someone one but also the arrival of an imminent misfortune, a defeat on a battlefield or the arrival of an epidemic of great magnitude. It is even said that many banshees can meet when someone very important comes to die or when a great disaster happens.
Another question was asked: is the Banshee somewhere a White Lady?
It is true that most of the interpretations of the Banshee have a lot of similarities with the White Lady. However, there are some differences between the two since the White Lady can announce a happy event such as a wedding if the latter is dressed in white, it can also warn of the danger of a road in which during her lifetime she was the unfortunate victim of an accident. It is also important to note that the White Lady is somewhere a modern myth inspired by the Banshee and that in most countries like England, Wales, Ireland or France there is mention in the most places haunted by the presence of both White Ladies and Banshees.
Other creatures are related to the Banshee, for example the Sluaghs (picture on the left) who are spirits of the dead who could not have found rest and whose access to the Other World if we believe it Irish and Scottish myths would have been banned because they are considered evil, disruptive and destructive.
Finally some fairies, divinities and saints have characteristics that are quite similar to those of banshees.
Whatever your opinion on the existence or not of the Banshees, these have influenced a number of areas that it is as well in the literary, the seventh art, the painting to see the video games.
Credit-Image on the front page: Olivier (Journal du Paranormal)