Monday, December 6, 2021

The Infamous Irish Wailing Banshees

 by Me’Doña Summers

Shhh…Did you hear that?

Anyways, have you ever heard of the saying “screaming like a banshee”? Well, if you haven’t, the saying is usually used when someone is screeching or yelling loudly; that’s what banshees do. It might help to know what Banshees are. Banshees are spirits in Irish folklore that appear when a family  member is about to die. They alert others in the family with wailing and clapping, not scary at all. They are typically women who wear white or grey cloaks and look like they are suffering a terrible loss. She can vary from an old woman to a young, beautiful spirit.

Waiting and Wailing Banshees

In Irish or traditional Gaelic language, the original translation for banshee is “Bean sí” meaning fairy spirit. Different fairies have different special powers. Banshees are fairies, just very…intimidating. “Bean Sidhe” meaning woman of death. Many believe banshees originated from Keeners. Keening is a part of the Irish death ritual. Keeners are women who wail and sing to help guide spirits to the otherss ide. They normally sing and wail at funerals. Keeners do it to help bring comfort to the mourning family.

Some of the earliest encounters date back to the late 1800s after the great famine that ended in 1852. Back then, people were dying because of disease and starvation. There were a large number of deaths, so the sound of a wailing woman was not uncommon. According to an article blog post by Eileen Moylan, Banshees are seen and heard typically by the old Irish families or ancient Gaelic nobility, such as O’Connors and O’ Neills, etc. Basically any last names that begin with O, Mc, or Mac. Eileen Moylan is an Irish native jeweler, who makes authentic Irish historical jewelry for Irish natives. One of her clients stated in the blog post, spoke about their encounter with a Banshee, guess what their last name was, O’Connor


White Barn Owl
In some of the sources, stories like those listed in the previous article were dismissed because the natives back then agreed to disagree. A lot of the stories are similar in ways like the rattling in bushes or the timing in the screams. Some people were starting to think that animals were making the noise, a common animal that makes a similar screeching noise are the barn owls native to central and southern Ireland. 

It could be a Banshee, or it could be a Barn owl. If you heard this SOUND,
what would you think?

Works Cited: 

“Barn Owl” BirdWatch Ireland, 2019,
Crocker, Thomas Crofton “Bunworth Banshee.” Photograph. Wikimedia Commons. Wikimedia
Foundation, 1825. Web. 11 Oct. 2013.

Moylan, Eileen. “Ireland’s Best Known Spirit- The Banshee” Claddagh Design, 12 Mar. 2018,

Prowse, R. “The Banshee Appears” Photograph. Wikimedia Commons. Wikimedia Foundation, 1
Sept. 1862. Web. 23 Oct. 2021.

Ruxton, Dean. “Ireland’s banshee: a delusion of peasants or a spirit with a mournful wail?” The
Irish Times.
5 May 2019.

Wilson, Alan D. “Barn Owl (Alberta).” Photograph. Wikimedia Commons. Wikimedia
18 June 2020. Web. 25 Oct. 2021

Links for Further Research:

“Banshee.” Wikipedia, 28 Oct. 2021. Accessed 20 Oct.
2021. This Wiki page gives a good starting point to further the banshee research.

Plumb, Harold. Often asked: Banshee Indian tribe,
Accessed 25 Oct. 2021. This source is a good example on how the banshee mythology
influences and changes other cultures.

Zarka, Emily. “Banshee: Ireland’s Screaming Harbinger of Death” Monstrum. YouTube, 25 Sept.
2019, This YouTube video has a lot of information on
Banshees. It provided more information that could not be obtain with internet research.
alone It is also entertaining to watch.

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