Myths, monsters and magnificent folklore


Myths, monsters and magnificent folklore

Kellan Larson, Business Manager

A pale white face. A shriek in the night that echoes through the grassy hills and fields. A classic creature of ancient Irish folklore: the Banshee. Nowadays she is a known face in pop culture and horror films, but the real banshee may not as terrifying as she is made out to be. 

According to actual Irish legend, she appeared as either a beautiful young woman or a disgusting hag, weeping at the funerals of noble families(generally with the surnames beginning with O, Mc or Mac). She was not evil, nor was she considered dangerous. Able to both predict your death and help you prepare for the inevitable, she was actually a helpful creature.

A woman could become a banshee for various reasons; as a punishment for things she may have done in her life, or if she died a particularly violent or dramatic death. They warned the living of their fate by a mixture of screaming, crying, and clapping, known as keening, which is a traditional Irish mourning ritual. 

The banshee is also said to have been ancestor of the noble family she served, and she was a protector of both the family and their land. There is a a strong connection between the banshee and an ancient Irish warrior goddess, Bodb, who had the power to predict notable warriors’ deaths, and did so by keening. She also had the power to turn into a crow, which is also a power attributed to some banshees.

Women and mourning are strongly connected in ancient Irish culture as well. Keening was seen as necessary for the dead to pass on to the next life, and there were actually women who performed keening at funerals as a profession. These women were seen as especially spiritual, and respected throughout the community. These women did not have to adhere to the normal social standards. They were known for traveling barefoot and wearing tattered clothes, and preferred to walk through fields and the countryside rather than take the paths and roads. They kept an air of mystery and wonder about them, which may have lead to some of the banshee myths.

Irish folklore is rich and interesting, and the banshee is just one amazing creature from a treasure trove of stories and myths.