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Faerie Folklore: The Banshee (Bean-sidhe) and the Leanan-Sidhe

Updated on January 29, 2015
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Kitty has been independently researching and studying the fae for over 15 years. She enjoys sharing what she's learned with her readers.

The Banshee in Faerie Folklore

The Banshee is quite a popular term in modern culture, due to heavy metal bands and other horror stories weaving the name of the Banshee into their spoils. The Banshee is actually considered to be a part of the Irish faerie folklore and has been spoken about for centuries. She is usually considered more of a malevolent faerie, but in my opinion, she is just misunderstood and unappreciated.

The Banshee's original name was actually spelled as such: Beansidhe. Other names for the Banshee include Washer at the Ford and Washer of the Shrouds. She is related to Scotland's Cointeach, which can be translated to "one who keens". There are literally dozens of similar stories of mourning or wailing faeries, announcing death, seen in cultures all around the world. The Banshee just seems to be the most well-known, and she is the Irish version.

The old Irish noble families of Milesian descent were said to have been haunted by the Banshee, directly before someone in their family was to pass away. Some Irish folk believe that there is more than one Banshee, while others believe there is only one. The Beansidhe is usually heard and not necessarily seen. On the rare occasion that the Banshee has been seen in Ireland, her appearance gives off a haunting glow and it looks as though she was pulled out of a mossy grave or perhaps a peat bog. Some claim she resembles "an old hag with long, stringy hair, while others say she is the ghost of a beautiful noblewoman who died during childbirth". However she looks...she is best known for her mourning wail. The wail that the Banshee produces is one of terrifying volume and sound, though the actual way the Banshee sounds hasn't been set in stone...it tends to vary.

The Banshee in Irish faerie folklore is one of those faeries that the Irish feared very much. Basically, if you heard the wailing from one of these faeries, it meant that someone close to you would soon be passing away...not a very sweet thought, is it? While most of the Irish folk feared the Banshee, some have claimed that her wailing wasn't frightening in the least...but actually beautiful and comforting.

The origins of the Banshee have been lost over time, but many believe that she could be a sort of mother goddess form from the Irish Otherworld - Tir Na Nog.

Never has the Banshee been known to attack any human being, though her appearance throughout time varies from terrifying to seductively attractive (in rare cases). She has been seen in Scottish faerie folklore sitting near the door of the person who is getting ready to pass on, and in Cornish faerie folklore she has been seen outside the window of the person who is getting ready to die. Some say she flaps her "wings" against the window, and this sound has been mistaken as crow's wings throughout the centuries.

Some say that the faeries can actually shift into animals, so I presume that the Banshee could actually shift into the form of a crow and that is why the crow is also associated with death in folklore.

Would you be frightened by the sight or sound of the Banshee? Could the sound of the Banshee simply be the misconstrued sound of a dying or mating animal, or did and does the Banshee exist in the other realm...even to this very day?

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Faerie Folklore: The Leanan Sidhe

The Leanan Sidhe is another faerie of Irish faerie folklore. She could perhaps be a benevolent faerie, as she is said to inspire poets and artists...but at the same time, she is also considered malevolent because the price the poet or artist pays for inspiration is death or captivity.

The Leanan Sidhe is a beautiful faerie, but is also said to be a vampire faery of sorts. There is said to be only one of her...no other Leanan Sidhe has been sighted or told of from The Isle of Man. It is said that as she is a vampire faerie, she enjoys drinking the blood of her victims. However, she doesn't just bite her victims and suck the blood out like a normal vampire does...she actually drinks her victims blood from a large red cauldron. This cauldron is said in legends to be the source of her power and good looks. The creativity that she inspires in poets and artists is said to be sourced from this red cauldron of blood...of the utter life force of humans.

It is said in Irish legend that if one is under the lure of the Leanan Sidhe, the only way to escape her punishment is to call out to the Irish Sea God known as Manann.

The origins of the Leanan Sidhe are not fully known any longer; however, many believe that she, like many other Irish faeries, is a demonized version of a once-powerful ancient Irish deity (goddess).

She has a similar name in a Hebrew legend and is known as Estrie.

© 2011 Nicole Canfield

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  • kittythedreamer profile imageAUTHOR

    Nicole Canfield 

    6 years ago from Summerland

    Wesman - Cool! I think Texas is beautiful in many areas. Could definitely be bobcats...and sure there are ancient things in Texas...just maybe not the buildings. ;) Thanks for reading!

  • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

    Wesman Todd Shaw 

    6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

    It's North and East Texas...so not much is truly "ancient." - just long unlived in. Kaufman County.

    Probably bobcats. I've never seen one, but that doesn't mean that they're not all around - they're surely clever enough to stay out of sight.

  • kittythedreamer profile imageAUTHOR

    Nicole Canfield 

    6 years ago from Summerland

    Wesman - Where do you live, sir? A bobcat probably does make quite a similar sound...but not the exact sound of a banshee. I love dilapidated & abandoned farm houses and barns...I find them eerily beautiful. Thanks for reading & sharing!

  • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

    Wesman Todd Shaw 

    6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

    I think there's one in the neighbourhood. Maybe a bobcat or a cougar though. I sometimes hear what sounds like someone screaming in agony in the dead of night...makes me rather alarmed, really. It's just damned frightening.

    There's an ancient dilapidated farmhouse several hundred yards away, and an old abandoned cabin not far from it...far from anyone's home.

    I've also heard that peacocks make such a sound...but I doubt there are any of those around here.

  • kittythedreamer profile imageAUTHOR

    Nicole Canfield 

    6 years ago from Summerland

    Thanks, Stephanie. How intriguing!

    Chatkath - Love that name for a puppy. Too cute. Thanks for sharing.

  • Chatkath profile image

    Kathy 

    6 years ago from California

    Used to have a puppy named Banshee (not sure why) but she did tear up many things as most do.) Very informative hub - Voted up useful and awesome!

  • stephaniedas profile image

    Stephanie Das 

    6 years ago from Miami, US

    Im pretty sure it was in the boonsboro or burkitsville area. Maybe it had something to do with the blair witch, but I do remember hearing about her. Supposedly she appeared to people before hurricanes several times. I'm in Frederick, so I'm not too far from the area.

  • kittythedreamer profile imageAUTHOR

    Nicole Canfield 

    6 years ago from Summerland

    Thanks, BizGenGirl!

    Josie - I'm happy to help your cranium enlarge. ;) Thanks!

  • JosieLee profile image

    JosieLee 

    6 years ago from New Mexico

    My brain has grown. I love this hub. Thank you for this informative hub. I shall vote up!

  • BizGenGirl profile image

    CapriCookie 

    6 years ago from Lake Stevens

    I love this hub all the way around! Great job. Voted up and all other options =)

  • kittythedreamer profile imageAUTHOR

    Nicole Canfield 

    6 years ago from Summerland

    stephanie - Where? I was born and raised in MD and would love to hear that legend! Thanks!

  • stephaniedas profile image

    Stephanie Das 

    6 years ago from Miami, US

    They say there is a banshee that has been seen in the hills near where I live (Maryland)...perhaps some Irish settlers came here long ago and brought her with them! I think it is interesting how legends about feminine spirits always oscillate between extreme ugliness and extreme beauty, both being seen as detrimental in their own way! Another great hub, voted up!

  • kittythedreamer profile imageAUTHOR

    Nicole Canfield 

    6 years ago from Summerland

    Thanks, pmccray! I agree, there's always interesting things to learn from others on hubpages.

  • pmccray profile image

    pmccray 

    6 years ago from Utah

    Again never heard of the Leanan Sidhe. That is why we share here at Hubpages. Thank you for sharing. Voted up and marked interesting.

  • kittythedreamer profile imageAUTHOR

    Nicole Canfield 

    6 years ago from Summerland

    Thanks! I appreciate it!

  • VAMPGYRL420 profile image

    Windy Grace Mason 

    6 years ago from The Eastern Shore of Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, U.S.A.

    Very well written. Thank you, kittythedreamer :)

  • kittythedreamer profile imageAUTHOR

    Nicole Canfield 

    6 years ago from Summerland

    Gryphin - Too cool! My grandmother's family is from County Cork. Thanks for sharing. :)

  • gryphin423 profile image

    gryphin423 

    6 years ago from Florida

    My family is from County Clare and the banshee is something we have always heard about. Scary stuff! Great hub!

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