Their movements would startle owls that were just settling down to sleep. The birds would then screech and fly away as the army approached. A flying barn owl. In ancient Ireland and Scotland, mourning rites included a keening woman - known as a bean chaointe. Such women would wail and weep for the deceased. Most often this act would come as a natural expression of grief from family members. Yet, one could also hire a bean chaointe for added effect at funerals. The wailing of the banshee was thus the first news of death in the family.
If the deceased were a great or holy person, several banshees would appear together to sing their mournful laments in unison. Later on, the banshee would appear just before death to warn the family of its impending loss. There is little evidence to suggest that banshees ever actually killed anyone, except maybe by fright. But being disembodied spirits with chilling cries, they became associated with ghosts and other devilry.
Banshees soon had a reputation of being hate-filled creatures. A more frightful representation of a banshee. There are certainly stories of murdered young women or mothers who died in childbirth becoming banshees, but altogether the descriptions of banshees varied. Below is a sampling of some of the more prominent banshee portrayals:. However, over time the legend became too good of a ghost story to pass up. Banshees came to be viewed as wicked hags who delighted in bringing news of death; their cries would chill a listener to the bone and could even make you go insane.
Today, it is really only the ghostly, superstitious personality of the banshee that remains.
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Top Image: An Irish banshee. Byrne, Vincent.
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We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. Skip to main content. References: Byrne, Vincent. Login or Register in order to comment. Related Articles on Ancient-Origins. Caerphilly Castle in south Wales stands proud amongst the medieval fortifications and strongholds in the United Kingdom and is classed among the finest in Europe. It is also one of the largest in Women's laughter may have been considered as a sign that the empire was doing well, however in mythology women lamenting and crying were often harbingers of misery, madness and mourning.
Passers by can ask the name of the person who is to die. They are also allowed to ask the banshee three questions, but only once she has asked them three questions. King James I of Scotland was said to have been confronted by a banshee shortly before his death.
The pooka is the most feared type of Irish fairy. They are violent tricksters who emerge solely at night.
Pookas often take the form of a black horse who stampede at night trampling fences, properties and crops. If chickens or cows see a pooka they will be too traumatised to produce eggs or milk for weeks. As is true with many Irish folklore creatures, different areas of Ireland claim that pookas have different forms.
Legend of the Banshee
In County Wexford pookas are said to take the form of large, dark eagles while in Laois pookas take the form of a terrifying boogeyman character. Pookas are shapeshifters. While they take the form of a horse to wreak night-time destruction, they will take the form of a goblin to claim a share of the harvest. Pookas are said to have mastered human speech.
If the person emerges they are dragged away by the Pooka, but if no one comes outside the Pooka will vandalise the property. Merrows are the much more beautiful counterparts of merrow-men. The name merrow translates to sea maid. They are not to be confused with mermaids as they have human-like legs instead of a tail. However there are some key differences between a merrow and a human; merrows have larger, flatter feet and webbed fingers to aid swimming. Some say her abilities come from a red feathered cap while others claim it comes from a seal skin cape.
Either way, for her to walk on land she must abandon her cap or cape. If a man finds and hides these garments, the merrow is forced to become his wife and she cannot return to the ocean. Merrows are desirable brides with their extreme beauty and riches collected from the ocean floor. However, as soon as she finds her garments again, she is overwhelmed by the urge to return to the sea and will leave her husband and children. Kelpies are evil water spirits who haunt rivers and lakes.
They often appear as a foal or horse with a perpetually soaking wet mane. Their cute, dishevelled appearance attracts people, often children, to get onto their back. The kelpie then rides into the water drowning their victim. They eat the victim leaving only the heart and liver.
Kelpies have been known to appear as incredibly handsome men and, less commonly, beautiful women.
The Banshee by Eve Bunting
Similarly to the merrow, kelpies can be trapped on land in human form if a person steals and hides their silver bridle. There are many stories of women marrying kelpies in human form. This story is often used by Irish parents to keep children away from the water. Changelings all have old, wrinkled, yellow skin and screech all day and night. They feed on good fortune and find joy in disaster striking their adopted family.
Labelling literature and getting on with it: Banshee journal publishes its first book
As changelings grow, they are drawn towards instruments. They have mesmerising skill, causing anyone who hears them play to become entranced. Far Darrigs are a type of fairy closely related to the leprechaun. Their name translates to red man, which is apt as they wear a red cape and hat. These may sound like jolly creatures, but they most definitely are not.
They are gruesome practical jokers. Far Darrigs carry a human sized burlap sack ready to kidnap people with. They trap their victims in a room and use their ventriloquist skills to project inhuman noises around their victim. Their most terrifying noise is the laugh of a dead man. Far Darrigs have also been connected to the stealing of human babies to be replaced with changelings. They are associated with nightmares and find delight in terror.
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