The banshee is a haunting, ghost like female spirit found in some Celtic Mythologies. The name originates in Irish Gaelic bean si, meaning “woman of the sidhe” or “woman of the fairy mounds”. Similar creatures are found in Welsh, Norse, and American folklore and legends.
The banshee is viewed usually as an omen of death, or a messenger from the Otherworld. According to legend, the banshee is a fairy-like woman, who screams and wails in the night when someone near is about to die. Tales vary, such as claiming that one who hears the banshee’s cry for three nights will surely die. In Scottish tales, the banshee may be seen washing the blood stained clothing or armor of those who are near their death. Some families are believed to have banshees bound to them, whose cries foretell the death of certain members.
She may appear as a dreadful, and frightening looking old hag, or a stunning young woman, whichever suits her. However, in some Irish tales, she is said to either resemble or be the Morrigan; a representative of battle, with deity-like reverence. Most often, the banshee is described as being dressed in white or grey, with long hair that they brush with a silver comb, though, accounts of other appearances exist.
Some tales liken her to a funeral keener; young women who would sing laments at funerals. Others, compare her to a specific murdered woman, or a grieving mother who died in childbirth. The cry of the banshee has been described in many ways, from a low, and pleasant singing, to a thin, and terrible screeching the likes of which could shatter glass.
Similar creatures to the banshee are the Welsh “Hag of the Mist”, the Scottish bean nighe, and the Norse Fylgja. Sightings of the banshee, or similar beings, have also been reported in several places in America, around the late 18th century, particularly in North Carolina, and South Dakota.