Banshee

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This article describes the banshee of Irish and Scottish mythology. For other uses, see Banshee (disambiguation).

The banshee (pronounced /ˈbnʃiː/) is a creature in Irish mythology, the word being derived from the Old Irish ben sde, modern Irish bean sdhe or bean s, "fairy woman" (bean, woman, and sidhe, being the tuiseal ginideach or possessive case of "fairy"). They are remnants of the Tuatha D Danann.

Long ago, when a citizen of an Irish village would die, a woman would sing a traditional lament or modern Irish caoinadh (prounced keenah) at his or her funeral. These women singers are sometimes referred to as "keeners." Traditionally, some great Irish families had a fairy woman associated with them, who would make an appearance after a death in the family to sing this lament. Tales recount how, when the family member had died far away then the appearance or, in some tales, the sound of the fairy keener, might be the first intimation of the death.

When these stories were first translated into English, a distinction between the "banshee" and other fairy folk was introduced which does not seem to exist in the original stories in modern Irish. Similarily, the funeral lament became a mournful cry or wail by which the death is heralded. In these tales, hearing the banshee's wail came to predict a death in the family and seeing the banshee portents one's own death.

Banshees are frequently dressed in white and often have long, fair hair which they brush with a silver comb, a detail scholar Patricia Lysaght attributes to confusion with local mermaid myths. Other stories portray them as dressed in green or black with a gray cloak.

Banshees were common in Irish and Scottish folk stories such as those written down by Herminie T. Kavanagh. They enjoy the same mythical status in Ireland as fairies and leprechauns.

Banshees in fiction

Banshees have been portrayed in variety of fictional works, typically as spirits that cause deaths instead of just predicting them.

References

fr:Banshee ja:バンシー pl:Banshee

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