Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Banshee

The Banshee of Ireland is the most widely known Irish fairy in the world, second only to the Leprechaun. This Irish fairy is always female usually described as a small, solitary old woman. She wails at the coming of death. The Irish consider it an honor to have her wail at their death, although she still scares the dickens out of them. Not just anyone’s death, the deaths of certain aristocratic families in and from Ireland. She has followed these families wherever they have settled in this world. She also keens for other Irish families that are musically gifted. After all, the fairies inspire Irish music. At the bottom of this page I will list the families she is attached to. Is your name on the list? Will she wail for you?

There are many descriptions for the Irish banshee, depending on what part of Ireland she is from. Some places she is described as wearing a white cloak with red shoes and long white hair that she combs with a red comb. In other places she wears a red dress with a red cloak with long brown hair. Sometimes she wears white cloths and has long golden hair. Besides red, sometimes the comb she uses in gold or silver. It seems about everyone that has seen her describes her differently.

Her wail is a long lonesome cry that comes on suddenly. Sometimes sounding like a crying dog. You only need to hear it for a second time to know that it is no dog. It is said to be the most lonesome cry in the world. Have you ever heard the cry of the banshee?

The Banshee of Ireland.
There are many, many stories of the banshee in Ireland. You're in luck for I've just managed to come up with one such story here for your reading pleasure.

In about the middle of the nineteenth century lived the Reverend Charles Bunworth of Co. Cork. Mr. Bunworth became deathly ill. His wife was not too worried because it looked like his health was improving.

A servant of the household knew his master was going to die. He heard the dreaded wail along with several others. He tells his story;
“As I came through the glen at Ballybeg, she was along with me screeching and keening, and clapping her hands, by my side every step of the way, with her long white hair falling about her shoulders, and I could hear her repeat the master’s name every now and then as plain as ever I heard it. When I came to the old abbey, she parted from me there, and turned into the pigeon field next to the berrin ground, and folding her cloak about her, down she sat under the tree that was struck by lightning, and began keening so bitterly that it went through one’s heart to hear it.
Mrs. Bunworth dismissed this as superstition because her husband's health was getting better.

A few nights later a low moaning accompanied by the sound of clapping was heard outside of Mr. Bunworth’s window. Two men visiting the house immediately ran outside to find the source of the sound. They found nothing and heard only silence. Meanwhile the people still in the house kept hearing the wailing and moaning and clapping. This continued for hours. All the while Mr. Bunworth began slipping away. He was dead by the morning.

This just goes to show you that once someone has heard a banshee, death is not far behind.

The Irish Banshee Abroad.
There is branch of the old Irish family O’Grady that moved to Canada. The O’Grady sept have always had their own prophet of death. Being far removed from Ireland they were surprised to hear a wail outside their door. It was a strange mournful cry full of the deepest agony and sorrow. Several people in the area heard the sound. A search of the grounds found no trace of anyone ever being there. A deep dread and terror filled the household.

The next day O’Grady and his son went out boating. When they did not return for dinner a search was made of the lake. At the exact time the sound of the cries of the previous night was heard, a group of people arrived at the house carrying the bodies of the father and son. Their boat had capsized too far from shore and they both drowned.

The banshee had performed her duty as the harbinger of death even though it was not on Irish soil. This is why she is known the world over. She travels with the families wherever they go. If you are Irish, did she follow your family?

Naming Names
The following is a list of families known to have the Banshee keen for them.

Adamson, Ahren, Barry, Bowe, Brady, Brennan, Browne, Caldwell, Carrol, Cartwright, Carey, Cassidy, Coady, Colahan, Conroy, Conway, Cooney, Coughlin, Cox, Cullen, Culleton, Cuskelly, Daly, Dawson, Dempsey, Dewan, Dillon, Doyle, Dowd, Duggan, Dwyer, English, Ennis, Fallon, Faris, Flanagan, Flynn, Fogarty, Fox, Gaffney, Gallagher, Galligan, Gannon, Gavigan, Geoghan, Geraghty, Gill, Glennon, Griffin, Griffith, Halton, Hanley, Hannon, Hayden, Hayes, Healy, Hegarty, Higgins, Holohan, Jennings, Jordon Keane, Keany, Keating, Keegan, Kehoe, Kenny, Kirwin, Lacey, Lawrence, Lee, Lonergan, Lynch, Lyster, Madden, Malone, Manning, Martin, Meehan, Miller, Monohan, Moran, Morrissey, Mullen, Mulligan, Murphy, Murry, MacBride, MacCarthy, MacCormack, MacDermott, MacDonnell, MacEntee, MacGoldrick, MacGovern, MacGrath, MacGuinness, MacGuire, MacKenna, MacMahon, MacManamon, MacNally, MacNamara, MacNiff, MacPartlan, MacQuaide, Naughton, O’Brien, O’Byrne, O’Connor, O’Donnell, O’Donovan, O’Gready, O’Hanlon, O’Keefe, O’Leary, O’malley, O’Neill, O’Reilly, O’Rourke, O’Sullivan, Peters, Potterton, Power, Quin, Roche, Roe, Rehill, Ryan, Rynne, Scally, Scott, Shanahey, Sherlock, Sinnot, Smith, Stafford, Steward, Strong, Sullivan, Sutton, Sweeney, Tully, Wall, Walsh.

If your name is not on the list don't fret about it. Your family may be one touched by the fairy music. If so the Banshee may still cry for you. After all she wailed for Mr. Bunworth in the story above and I don't see his name on the list.

Thanks to: The Irish Path

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