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THE SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE

In Celtic lore, Banshees are female spirits or wraiths. These ghostly wailing women often appear to people as an omen of impending death and, are often heard wailing loudly at their funeral. Most often a Banshee will appear as a young women with pale bluish skin and long hair that floats Ghost-like on the wind.

The Banshee Moans to warn of a comming death.

"Banshee": A female spirit whose wailing foretells a death. A harbinger of someone's death.

Story By Myles Ferguson, Artwork Ricardo Pustanio

 

Since I was a child my family always talked about the howl of the Banshee. The tales I( heard were often told at family gatherings at Saint Patrick's day. Often an aunt or uncle would relate to us the story of how the heard a Banshee shriek and the neighbors was found dead the next day.

Banshee comes from the Irish words "bean," woman, (ban) and "sidhe," fairy, (shee.) It is said that Banshees come to only those with a strong Celtic lineage. If your last name begins with Mac, Mc or O and your family originates from Ireland this could apply to you.

In Irish legend, a banshee wails around a house if someone in the house 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. I grew up in a strong Irish community in New York and the stories of Banshee's and their activities were heard more then too, to often.

Traditionally, when a citizen of an Irish village died, a woman would sing a lament at their funeral. These women singers are sometimes referred to as "keeners".

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 appear before the death and keen. When several banshees appeared at once, it indicated the death of someone great, powerful of respect and station in life or reknowned. Thestories told to ne 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 would or could become a Banshee if she did not recieve a good Catholic burial.

Banshees are frequently described as dressed in white or grey clothes of the garve, and often having long tangled, fair 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.

These creatures as told to me by my grand mother are nothing but shadows, floating amongst our realm with no purpose but that of their master The Lord of Death. They feed on humans grief, their emotions and their own strength, without these they would cease to exist. The classic depiction of a Banshee is identical to the image of a tall, humanoid figure shrouded in a black cloak, under which no face can be seen except by the one or family of the soon to be deceased.

I have also been tod that Banshee's is a warning spirit for one to get their affairs in order that they come to a place several nights. The first night only the person who is to die hears a loan moan, the second night the family hear her wailing for an hour or more at midnight, the third night she comes and shrieks so all in he vicinity know a death will occur that night.

It is also said that the cry of the Banshee will set one to have cold sweats and a great sense of fear when heard. The sound echo's in a mysterious way. when the death is in a few days it is low when near it is loud and piercing to the ear.

Banshee Encounters

In 1437, King James I of Scotland was approached by an Irish Banshee who foretold his murder by the instigation of the Earl of Atoll.

One of the strangest Banshee stories of all had its beginning in Dublin - at 2.30 am on 6th August, 1801, when Lord Rossmore, Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in Ireland, died at his home.

The evening before he had attended a vice-regal party in Dublin Castle. To the people he met there, including Sir Jonah and Lady Barrington, he seemed in the best of health, and stayed at the party until near midnight. Before leaving, he invited the Barringtons to join a party he was holding in his house at Mount Kennedy, Co Wicklow. In fact for a man of his background and position, he had spent a fairly ordinary evening - one that seemed to contain no hint at all of the strange things to come.

At two o'clock in the morning, Sir Jonah Barrington awoke and heard what were described as 'plaintive sounds' coming from outside the window, from a grass plot underneath it. He was to remember the Banshee-like sounds all his life. Lady Barrington heard the sounds, too, and so did a maid. Finally, at 2.30 am., Barrington heard a voice call 'Rossmore! Rossmore! Rossmore! and then there was silence. Next day, the Barringtons were told that Lord Rossmore was dead. His servant had heard strange sounds coming from his room, and rushing in, found him dying. He died at 2.30 am.

'Lord Rossmore was dying at the moment I heard his name pronounced', Sir Jonah wrote later.

It was a most terrifying experience from Sir Jonah. To the Irish staff, however, it was no mystery, for they knew it was the Banshee Barrington had heard.

Banshee tales in the United States are often heard of and spoken about in cities like New York New Orleans and other cities as such with high percentages of Irish or Scottish people. The stories are often passed down through the generations. But as of lately new tales of screaming or wailing banshees emerge.

In 1840 New Orleans was the third largest and most wealthy city in the nation and the largest city in the South. Its bustling port and trade economy attracted numerous Irish, German, and Italian immigrants.. the intermingling of the Banshee became part of the New Orleans Voodoo Pantheon and the Cajun bayou tales of these crying or yelling specters are still told and said to be encountered to this day.

In New Orleans and the surrounding areas it is called the irish Shreiker, the Cajun wind demon, and the Voodoo Death Screamer or Soul Taker.

The same goes for cities like Boston, Philadelphia, New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco, Charleston, and Savannah. each has a tale or two concerting the Banshee and it's hold on the irish descendents in the United States.

Celtic Cross

The annual celebration of Saint Patrick's Day is the most widely recognized symbol of the Irish presence in America. In cities throughout the United States, this traditional Irish religious holiday becomes an opportunity to celebrate all things Irish, or faux Irish. The largest celebration of the holiday takes place in New York, where the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade draws an average of two million people. And in questioning a person or two the Banshee is always talked of in high regards.

You can't stop a Banshee or control one is what the majority states. unless you place a Celtic cross or a four leaf clover over your door and under your pillow. but all say this has a minimal effect for when it is your time nothing can stop the Banshee from waling or crying out the name of the person who will die.

The Banshee holong in the night!

Some say the cry of the Banshee sounds like the shrill screams of a screech owl others like the low moan of dog or wolf in pain. The cry has also been likened to that of a moaning or shrill wind heard on a calm night.

Banshees are common in Irish and Scottish folk stories such as those recorded by Herminie T. Kavanagh. They enjoy the same mythical status in Ireland as fairies and leprechauns. Banshees continue to appear in modern fiction that deals with mythology, folklore or the supernatural. Sometimes the name "Banshee" is given to a character or object in a comic book, role-playing game, or video game, usually when part of the character's or object's power is based upon making a loud, screaming noise.

In European pagan beliefs, the wraith or Banshee is seen as a spirit of evil vengeance. They are said to be ghostly figures with long, sharp fingers. Wraiths are considered rare amongst the spirit realm, for they consist of pure revenge; yet not all wraiths will be truly vengeful, in that some are merely enraged to the extent of destroying anything they encounter.

In other corners of the world, the wraith is considered to be the reflected image of a person, seen immediately before death. This side is supported by elders' stories.

 

The shamrock, a three-leafed clover, has long been symbolic of Irish culture. According to legend, the shamrock was called the "seamroy" by Celts, was a sacred plant to the Druids of ancient Ireland symbolizing the rebirth of Spring. Legend also has it that St. Patrick used the shamrock in the 5th century to illustrate the doctrine of the Holy Trinity as he promoted Christianity in Ireland.

In the 19th century the shamrock became a symbol of rebellion with the risk of death by hanging for anyone found wearing it. This let to the now popular phrase "the wearin' of the green." With its deep Irish history, the shamrock is now the most recognized symbol of the Irish. This is especially true on St. Patrick's Day, when everyone is Irish for a day.

While the classic shamrock has three leaves, occasionally a fourth leaf will appear, making a "four-leaf clover," believed by many to bring good luck to the person who discovers it.

Banshee's are seldom seen but always heard by the family or community where the person of whom it comes to foretell their death resides.

A Banshee wraith is also described as an image seen immediately before one dies, as if it were a premonition of the "Grim Reaper" figure.

the Banshee screams your name!

The word "wraith" is first attested in 1513, with the meaning of "ghost or spectre" (that is, an apparition of a living or once-living being, possibly as a portent of death). In 18th century Scotland it was applied to aquatic spirits. Over time, it came to be used in a metaphoric sense to refer to wraith-like things, and to portents in general.

The bean nighe (Scottish Gaelic for "washer woman"), is a Scottish fairy, seen as an omen of death and a messenger from the Other world. She is a type of bean sìth (in Irish bean sídhe, anglicized as "banshee").

As the "Washer at the Ford" she wanders near deserted streams where she washes the blood from the grave-clothes of those who are about to die. It is said that mnathan nighe (the plural of bean nighe) are the spirits of women who died giving birth and are doomed to do this work until the day their lives would have normally ended.

In the ancient Celtic epic, The Ulster Cycle, The Morrígan is seen in the role of a bean nighe. When the hero Cúchulainn rides out to war, he encounters the Morrígan as a hag washing his bloody armour in a ford. From this omen he realizes this battle will be his last.

A bean nighe is described in some tales as having one nostril, one big protruding tooth, webbed feet and long hanging breasts, and to be dressed in green. A mortal who is bold enough to sneak up to her while she is washing and suck her breast can claim to be her foster child. The mortal can then gain a wish from her. If a mortal passing by asks politely, she will tell the names of the chosen that are going to die. While generally appearing as a hag, she can also manifest as a beautiful young woman when it suits her, much as does her Irish counterpart the bean sídhe.

The Morrígan ("terror" or "phantom queen") or Mórrígan ("great queen") (also known as Morrígu, Morríghan, Mor-Ríoghain, sometimes given in the plural as Morrígna) is a figure from Irish mythology who appears to have once been a goddess, although she is not explicitly referred to as such in the texts.

In the later Irish version she is usually seen as a terrifying figure. She is associated with war and death on the battlefield, sometime appearing in the form of a carrion crow, premonitions of doom, and with cattle. She is often considered a war deity comparable with the Germanic Valkyries, although her association with cattle also suggests a role connected with fertility and the land.

In modern times she is often interpreted as a triple goddess, although membership of the triad varies: the most common combination is the Morrígan, the Badb and Macha, but sometimes includes Nemain, Fea, Anann and others.

 

 

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