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Facts about the Banshee

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The Banshee is a creature from Irish mythology who is considered to be an omen of death. According to legend, the banshee was a female spirit who was a messenger from the underworld. Whenever someone—especially a child—was about to die the banshee would come to their house on the night before their death and wail.

There are some variations of the banshee tale. For instance, some stories claim that the banshee is attracted to specific families while other tales claim that she will appear to anyone who is about to die. Similarly, some stories say that the banshee will only appear to people who are about to die in a violent way (such as being murdered) while other, more common, stories say that she will come for anyone, even those who die completely natural deaths. The banshee is sometimes said to arrive in a black stage coach driven by a male spirit. Yet most stories say that she comes to the dying person alone.

The banshee can appear as either an ugly old hag or a beautiful young woman. Although she is a feared figure solely because she is associated with death, many legends claim that the banshee is not actually evil but merely an angel of death who is helping people cross the border from one world to the next.

Today, most historians believe that the legend of the banshee was probably started from the sound of wind wailing outside of people’s houses late at night. In the days when Ireland was a poor country (with few options for adequate medical care) it was not unusual for people to sicken and die in the cold weather…the precise kind of weather that comes with high winds that literally sound like a woman screaming.

Below are five facts about things that are associated with the legend of the banshee.

Wailing
Wailing Feng Li/Getty Images

Wailing

The most distinguishable thing about the legend of the banshee—that is unchanging is practically very version of her story—is her capacity to emit a high pitched wail. Some legends claim that her cry can shatter glass.

The Color Black
The Color Black Arun Nevader/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz

The Color Black

The banshee can appear as either a young or old woman but she is almost always depicted as wearing a black outfit. Some people claim that this is because she wants to blend into the night and not be seen while others claim that it is due to the western world’s association between the color black and death.

The Countryside
The Countryside Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

The Countryside

The banshee is usually depicted as appearing to people who reside in the Irish countryside. Of course, there is more countryside than cityscape in Ireland so that is partly why she appears more frequently in such locations!

Night
Night Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Night

The banshee prefers to come to people at night and will rarely make an appearance before night falls. Although there have been some instances where people claimed to hear a banshee during daylight hours, she is much more likely to pay a visit after nightfall.

Death
Death Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Death

The banshee is either a spirit who foresees death or a form of the angel of death who helps people cross from one world to the next. Either way, her main purpose of appearance is to forewarn people about impending departure.

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