Faerie Folklore: The Banshee (Bean-sidhe) and the Leanan-Sidhe
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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?
More Faerie Folklore by Kitty:
- Faerie Folklore: Fairies are Shapeshifters
Faeries are elusive and are masters at hiding from humankind. One of the ways they are able to hide from us is by shapeshifting. But the idea that faeries are shapeshifters isn't a new one. Faeries have been shapeshifters for centuries and centuries,
- Faerie Folklore: The Changeling
The ancient peoples of Europe, specifically the Celtic people, believed in the "wee folk" or the "fae", but they not only believed in them...they feared most of them. The faeries gave the ancient people reasons to fear them, as they were mysterious a
- Fairies: Legends and Lore of the Fairy from Europe
Learn about the legends of the wee folk, the fairies from Europe. Irish Fairies, Scottish Fairies, English Fairies, and Italian Fairies. Learn about the different types of fairies of legend in Europe.
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