Friday, October 9, 2009

Monstrous Profiles - #2 - The Banshee

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you profile number two, this time about the banshee.

It is late at night. You have returned to Ireland to visit your great-grandmother, is very ill and confined to bed. Despite the docto's best efforts, she seems to be only getting worse. The clock is slowly pushing it's way towards eleven p.m. (America time) as you sit there with your grandmother.

Suddenly, outside the window, you hear a strange wailing that chills your blood. The wails reach a shrieking crescendo loud enough to shatter glass.

If you hear these otherworldly shrieks, you've just encountered the banshee.

Name: Banshee, variations include Bean Shith and Lady of Death, among only a few others.
Location: Predominantly Ireland and Scotland.

This female spirit is best known for wailing around the house of someone who is about to die. The banshee can show up in multiple forms, including that of a hag but sometimes as a beautiful woman of any age the spirit chooses. She is sometimes said to show up as a washerwoman near a stream, washing the bloodstained clothes of the person who was about to die.

Traditionally, banshees were said to wail for only six Irish families, the O'Neills, the O'Gradys, the O'Briens, the O'Connors, the O'Learys, and the Kavanaghs; however, intermarriage, relatives, and descendants have all extended this list.

According to Associated Content, there are three types of cries the banshee emits:

The most distinctive feature of a banshee is her cry. Legend has it that she will wail around a house if someone in the family is about to die. The first night, only the one to die hears a series of low moans. They are warnings to get one's affairs in order.

The second night the family will hear her howling for an hour or more around midnight.

The third night the banshee comes and shrieks, with keening screeches that will break glass. Everyone in the vicinity knows that a death will occur that night. It is said that a banshee's wails will cause its hearers to break out in cold sweats and experience a great sense of fear.

It is possible that the legend of the banshee arose from a mixture of traditional Irish funeral customs and the peoples' belief in the supernatural. When a citizen in an Irish village died, a woman would sing or "keen" at the funeral. ... Possibly, the ritual and the superstition merged to create the legend of the banshee.

If more than one banshee is heard, it signals that a person of great importance is about to die.

According to some sources, there are two different types of banshees. The first is a friendly banshee.

A 'friendly Banshee' is one who in life, had strong ties to her family, and in death, felt the need to watch over them, and keep close to them. A friendly Banshee is not the horrible, scary thing we imagine. Banshees are rarely seen, but are said to at times show themselves. They are said to be seen as young, beautiful women, with pale faces, either black or golden hair, and long, flowing, white garments.

The song, because that is what it really is, of a friendly Banshee is sorrowful and longing. It is filled with love and concern for those she loves. It is a warning to her loved ones.

Then there is traditional banshee, a spirit that wails to warn of someone's impending death. But no matter whether the spirit is friend or foe, it still only appears to warn of death.

And to those of you with Irish ancestry, be warned. After all, the legends are vague on whether the spirit can travel from land to land. Who is to say that someday, you yourself won't hear a banshee?