“Quit screaming like a banshee!” Anyone else’s parents ever say that to them? No? Just me? Apparently, I had quite the lungs. I could holler with the best of the banshees. But I hope my similarities with the banshee ends there.
There are actually three different types of Baen Sidhe, as it’s spelled in the Gaelic. They’re part of the extensive fae family (we’ve talked about the fae—fairies—before. That post is still in the archives).
The Baen Sidhe is the traditional Irish or Scottish spirit who moves around, singing a lament and crying tears of blood, grieving the death of one to come. A foreshadower of imminent death. Sometimes she’s old and haggard, other times she’s young, beautiful, but always horribly grieved.
There are several old clans in both Scotland and Ireland that claim to have family members who became part of the Baen Sidhe. These relatives then come back among the living to herald the coming death of family members—a warning to prepare for the inevitable (www.differenttypes.net).
The second banshee is the Baen-Nighe—a gnarled old woman who sits by the side of a body of water (usually a lake or a river), doing her washing. But the clothes she’s washing are full of blood. Of the doomed. She’s a precursor of death that shows up when somebody is about to die. She wails as she washes. What a charming job. It’s also said that if one can get between a Baen-Nighe and the water before she sees you, she’ll grant you second sight (knowing the future before it happens).
The third banshee is the Baen Chaointe. This banshee remains hidden among the banks of running waters. There she mourns. Frequently these banshees are associated with soldiers coming home from war—they mourn the fallen. It’s also said that Baen Chaointe showed up to warn Clan McDonald before the Massacre of Glen Coe (www.differenttypes.net) in 1692 (www.britanica.com).
It’s said that the common barn owl may be cause for belief in the banshee’s wails. Perhaps the cry of a Highland cat may be a culprit? Perhaps the scream of a dying animal? But it does stand to question—where did the links between the wails and the deaths come from?
What do you think? Pop up to the top of the article, click the grey “Comments” button and tell me—do you think the Baen Sidhe still wails her warnings?
There are lots of books on myths and legends of Irish lore, and there are quite a few paranormal featuring the Banshee, I just haven’t read them. ;). If you have a good one to recommend, let me know!
Creative Writing Prompts
There. The hag sat by the river. Her hands and her washing red with blood. I needed the second sight she could grant. Now was my chance.
I heard the wail of the banshee. My blood ran cold. Did she wail for me?
“It’s true. I heard it last night. The cries of the Baen Sidhe.” We looked together down on our dead friend.