Friday, March 18, 2011

Creature Feature: The Banshee

To continue celebrating St. Patrick’s day, I thought I would talk about another Irish creature, the banshee.

The Banshee is a female Irish spirit with the ability to foresee death or appear at the death of someone important. The banshee legend also exists in parts of Scotland as well. In the Irish legend she is actually only tied to five specific families- the O’Neills, the O’Conners, the O’Briens, the O’Grady’s and the Kavanaghs.

Banshee’s can take on many different forms including old women, young maidens, crows, weasels or other wild animals. In female form she is usually thought to wear a black, white or grey cloak and have fair colored hair.

The most memorable part of the legend is the banshee’s cry, which is supposed to sound like the cross between a woman’s wailing and an owl. Banshee’s are not thought to travel long distances but will mourn a death of someone even living a great distance away. Some legends also say that the banshee carries a silver comb which she will often leave on the ground to entrap anyone who tries to pick it up.

It’s easy to see how people could hear strange cries at night and attribute them to something supernatural or see a bird or other animal before someone died and think it to be a banshee in disguise. There haven’t been any recent banshee sightings in years making this legend one that may just fade into history books and legends.


  1. In Dungeons & Dragons, there was a creature called the Banshee that would kill you if you heard her scream. I know that the makers of the game do research to come up with this stuff. I was just wondering if you'd heard the same thing about the banshee's scream?

  2. I do remember reading a story (or maybe watching a movie/show) that had a banshee that could kill with her scream but I can't remember much else about it. I didn't find anything of that nature in the original mythology though so I think the deadly scream might be more of a modern and/or american invention. It's still kind of interesting though!

  3. I heard stories where the person hearing the scream was, indeed, the one who was going to die; it didn't kill them the second they heard it, though. In other stories, it is someone close to them.

    Each place has different flavors on tales.

  4. It's amazing how one simple tale can become so varied and versatile, just through a few retellings!

  5. Ooo yes, I do love banshees! The only banshee media reference I recall (besides Harry Potter), would be the old movie Darby O'Gill and the Little People. Mmm singing Sean Connery.

    I also have a particular fondness for the banshee ever since my roommate woke me up one night when she started wailing like a banshee in her sleep due to one particularly horrid dream. They are quite the interesting creatures!

  6. I've never seen Darby O'Gill and the Little People. It sounds pretty good though. I bet you had fun teasing your roomate after that experience!

  7. Did you draw that? It is awesomeness.

    I love these old stories and legends. I want to include many in my next novel. I did not know about the trick with the comb. Thank you.

  8. Yes Charlie I drew it. Thanks for the compliment. :) I love these legend stories as well. I love books and stories that include real legends and myths.I hadn't heard about the comb thing until I started researching it.