A Ban·shee /ˈbanshē/ is a woman that can be heard wailing during times of extreme sadness and pain and when there is an approaching death[1]. Their mythology comes from Celtic-Irish folktales but there have been different versions of the Banshee tale in different countries and in different situations.

Banshee picture-1

An Irish banshee is known to keen, or wail, into the night.

Etymology Edit

In Old Irish, ben síde refers to the woman of the fairies. Later on, the word transforms to ben sídhe in Irish. In 17th century modern Irish, it becomes banshee.

Folk History Edit

Cry Edit

There are many versions of the Banshee but the most traditional one is that of a female figure that either forewarns or announces a death with her cry (usually at night). She has a cry that is said to sound like "a thin, screeching sound somewhere between the wail of a woman and the moan of an owl." [2] Another word for her sorrowful cry is keening. [3]According to Irish tradition, the Banshee will follow the five major Irish families: the O'Neills, the O'Briens, the O'Connors, the O'Gradys and the Kavanaghs and everyone else that has their blood ties.[4] When someone is dead from the family or approaching death, she wails so that friends of the family and the deceased can come support the family in their mourning - close relatives thus will not be able to hear the call.[5]

Forms Edit

The banshee has three known forms in Ireland: as a beautiful young woman, as a rich older woman and as hag. These three forms are supposed to be representative of the Celtic goddess of war and death and the names of the forms are Badhbh, Macha and Mor-Rioghain respectively.[2] It is said that in 1437, a banshee appeared as a woman and warned the Scottish King James the I of his foreshadowing murder. There are more reports of other royals and officials being forewarned as well. [6] They are also thought to have origins in keeners, who were women who were paid with alcohol to cry at graves of people (a person's importance was represented by the amount of mourners at their grave). [7] In Scotland, the legend is that she is a washer woman who has experienced death from childbirth, or a bean nighe, who will be seen washing blood out of the clothes of the dead or dying. [8][7] The banshee can also transform into crows and rabbits, which are correlated with witchcraft in Ireland. [2]

Appearance Edit

Some say she wears a grey cloak with a hood or the cloth of the dead that she is going to take. She can also be seen to be wearing a long white dress. Other colors include red, brown and grey. They usually have long white hair which they brush with a silver comb. If they leave the comb for you to find, it could be a nice present or a bad omen. Sometimes, if you ask them where they are going, they may tell you who's death is approaching.
Banshee picture-0

Depiction of the Banshee from Charmed episode "Look Who's Barking"

Modern Usage Edit

  • Charmed
    • Pheobe turns into a Banshee from the extreme sadness that she is in.
  • Teen Wolf
    • One of the characters is a Banshee. She hears voices and is not considered to be supernatural.
  • Supernatural
    • The Banshee is more or less a demonic figure. If you are a friend of the family she is following, then you are safe. However, if you are an enemy, her wailing could kill you.
  • Grimm
    • The Hispanic version of the Banshee is called La Llorona and is included in an episode of Grimm. However, La Llorona's lamentation comes from the sadness of losing children (which is another possible origin on the Banshee)
  • Dungeons and Dragons
    • Banshees in this game are the epitome of ugliness.
  • Fable (1-3)
    • Banshees are enemies in the video game.
  • X-Men Film & Marvel Comic Series: (X-Men: First Class)

    Comic 1967

  • The American comic published by Marvel Comics, initially introduced the Banshee character in the X-Men comic’s volume 1 #28 in January of 1967 [9]. The comic’s Banshee character adaptation maintains its Irish/Celtic etymology, however with a twist.  In the comic, the Banshee is featured as 20 to 30 year old man with the real name Sean Cassidy and Irish by decent and citizenship.  In the 2011 film, the Banshee is portrayed as an older adolescent male age 18 to 25. Contrastingly, the Banshee character represents supernatural power and the mutation causing the wailing scream is depicted as a source of strength and heroism as opposed to the feeble, weeping woman who only sounds her ‘alarm’ in times of death, weakness and darkness. The supernatural scream of the Banshee's pitch and frequency is so high and piercing, that the character is able to manipulate his muscles to create "sound waves that have the same resonant frequency as the glass" [10] and supersonic sound waves allowing the Banshee to fly.
    Banshee 07

    2011 Film

References Edit

  1. "Banshee." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. 2009. <>.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 “The Banshee.” Irelandeye. Web. 15 Oct. 2015. <>
  3. Todhunter, John. “Banshee.”  The Banshee and Other Poems. Dublin: Sealy, Bryers, and Walker (A. Thom and Co., Limited), 1891. 3-7. Print. 16 Oct. 2015. 
  4. Tyrrell, Jennifer. “The Banshee.” ParaResearchers. 7 Apr. 2015. Web. 17 Oct. 2015. <>
  5. “The Wailing Banshee In Ireland.” YourIrish. Web. 17 Oct. 2015. <>
  6. “Banshee.” Mythical Creatures Guide. 2013. Web. 15 Oct. 2015. <>
  7. 7.0 7.1 Austin, C. “The Banshee, Celtic Death Messenger.” Celtic Connection. Web. 17 Oct. 2015. <
  8. Bryan, Bobette. “The Banshee, Harbinger of Death.”  Underworld Tales. 18 Sept. 2015. Web. 16 Oct. 2015. <>
  9. "Banshee - Marvel Universe Wiki: The Definitive Online Source for Marvel Super Hero Bios." Marvel Universe Wiki RSS. Marvel. Web. 25 Oct. 2015. 
  10. X-Men: First Class. Dir. Mathew Vaughne. Perf. Hugh Jackman, Caleb Landry Jones, Jennifer Lawrence. 20th Century Fox. 2011. Film