The Banshee is a spirit that screams and howls to tell someone of their impending time of death. However the Banshee can only cry for five of the most famous Irish clans – (O’Neills, O’Briens, O’Connors, O’Grady’s, Kavanaghs).
She usually appears as a grey-hooded young woman, old woman or old hag.
Although she can’t always be seen she can always be heard by her scream at night which indicates someone is going to die!
The banshee can also appear as a crow, a stoat, a hare or a weasel which are all closely connected to ancient Irish witchcraft.
The Banshee ban-shee), from the Irish bean sí [bʲæn ˈʃiː] (“woman of the síde” or “woman of the fairy mounds”) is a feminine spirit in Irish mythology, usually seen as an omen of death and a messenger from the Otherworld.
In Irish legend, a banshee is a fairy woman who begins to wail if someone is about to die. Similar creatures are also found in Welsh, Norse and American folklore. The aos sí (“tumulus folk”) are variously believed to be the survivals of pre-Christian Gaelic deities, spirits of nature, or the ancestors. Sightings of Banshees have been reported as recently as 1948.
In Irish legend, a banshee wails nearby if someone is about to die. There are particular families who are believed to have banshees attached to them, and whose cries herald the death of a member of that family. The most common surname attached to the banshee was Mac. They were also associated with the Airlie clan. Accounts of banshees go back as far as 1380 with the publication of theCathreim Thoirdhealbhaigh (Triumps of Torlough) by Seean mac Craith. Mentions of banshees can also be found in Norman literature of that time. The Ban Si was also known to wail at the crowning of the true king. Such a cry was reported to be heard at the crowning of Brian Boru. (a banshee is sometimes a cute woman or a old hag)
Traditionally, when a person died a woman would sing a lament (in Irish: caoineadh, [ˈkɰiːnʲə] or [ˈkiːnʲuː], “caoin” meaning “to weep, to wail”) at the funeral. These women are sometimes referred to as “keeners” and the best keeners would be in much demand. Legend has it that for five great Gaelic families — the O’Gradys, the O’Neills, the O’Briens, the O’Connors, and the Kavanaghs — the lament would be sung by a fairy woman; having foresight, she would sing the lament when a family member died, even if the person had died far away and news of their death had not yet come, so that the wailing of the banshee was the first warning the household had of the death.
The O’Briens’ banshee was thought to have the name of Eevul, and was ruler of 25 other banshees who would always be at her attendance. It is thought that from this myth comes the idea that the wailing of numerous banshees signifies the death of a great person.
In later versions, the banshee might appear before the death and warn the family by wailing. When several banshees appeared at once, it indicated the death of someone great or holy. The tales sometimes recounted that the woman, though called a fairy, was a ghost, often of a specific murdered woman, or a woman who died in childbirth.
Banshees are frequently described as dressed in white or grey, often having long, pale hair which they brush with a silver comb, a detail scholar Patricia Lysaght attributes to confusion with local mermaid myths. This comb detail is 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. Other stories portray banshees as dressed in green, red, or black with a grey cloak.