Monday, 17 September 2018

Scath Oran Blog Tour: The Banshee

Today, the blog is a stop on the Scath Oran book tour and I have a guest post by author Stacy Overby on one of my favourite subjects, the Banshee. I also have a look at Stacy's new poetry book, Scath Oran, so enjoy.

The Banshee

Banshees. They’re the quintessential mythical creature when it comes to creepiness and death. Many movies and stories include them, but what—beyond their shriek—do the stories tell about banshees? That question drew me to explore the myths surrounding banshees when writing Scath Oran.

Banshee Origins

The origins of the banshee are somewhat clouded, but one drew my attention. It is said that the banshees came from women who died during childbirth. These women-turned-banshees roamed, portending death, until they reached what would have been the end of their natural life. None of the myths talked about what happened from there, but the implication is that they passed into their version of Heaven or paradise. Other legends talk about banshees being created from women who were murdered. It seems that, regardless of the method, legends say banshees are created from women who meet tragic ends.
With this origin myth, the banshees would presumably appear as young women. While that was sometimes the case, it did not always hold true. This is one place where the Celtic belief in Maiden, Mother, Crone shows up. Just as often as the banshee appeared young, she also would appear as an older woman to an old “hag”. Another image from Scotland painted of the banshee was a woman washing bloodied clothes at the ford in a river. The one who saw her there washing the bloodied clothes would soon die.

The Banshee Cry

The keening and wailing of the banshee is perhaps the most classic aspect of the banshee, and the one most often thought of when the banshee are mentioned. Most legends agree that this cry is about warning someone of impending doom. Some legends say the banshee only cry at the death of a true blood Milesian Irish. Others talk about the number of banshee keening signified the greatness or holiness of the person who died.
Scholars believe the wailing of the banshee stems from a different Irish tradition. At funerals, the Irish would hire keeners to wail laments at a death. The better the keener, the more in demand she was. With this association with death and funerals, it is easy to see how this tradition crossed the line to become something more in legends.

The Fairy Connection

Another interesting aspect of banshees is that some Irish believed the banshee was a fairy woman who would bear the news of a loved one’s death. This held true even when the person died far from home and family. Thus, the banshee would be the herald bearing the news of the death before any human messenger could bring the sad tidings.

Also Known As

The banshee had multiple other names as well. She could be known as the bean chaointe, or keening woman. Bean nighe, or other variants, meaning little washerwoman or washer at the ford, is a Scottish variation to the banshee myth. The hag of the mist was yet another variation of the banshee stemming from Welsh legends. Which name was used depended on the region in which the story originated.

Other Facts

The intentions, and dangerousness, of the banshee also varied depending on the legend being studied. Some banshees were said to be closely tied to their families and their cries were sorrowful laments of the loss to the family. Other banshee legends talked of angry and vengeful female spirits who frightened and tormented those who heard her cries. A few even speak of the banshees causing the deaths they sang of, rather than just reporting them.
One of the most intriguing pieces of information on the banshee I found was about the beliefs in banshee. For many centuries, not believing in banshee was blasphemous in the British Isles—Ireland in specific. While this has waned in modern times, there are still those who believe in the existence of banshees as something more than myth and legend.

So, there you have it, a brief history of the banshees. They are featured several times in Scath Oran, including a story about how one banshee came to be. Scath Oran is available on Amazon and Draft2Digital. You can find me at

Scath Oran: poetry from the Otherworld by Stacy Overby 

The Wee Folk. The Fae. Fairies.

Whatever you may call them, they have whispered secrets in this collection of poetry plucked from the halls of Tír na nÓg. But, be forewarned, not all is as it seems on a journey through the shining realm. Come, take a step into the fairy ring as songs of the Fae drift on the damp night air. 

Scath Oran: poetry from the Otherworld
releases September 22nd, 2018 and is available at

For more stops on the tour check out the list: Scath Oran Blog Tour

1 comment:

Lance Frost said...

Awesome. will have to read this one. Poetry is my game.

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