Legend of the Banshee: Death Messenger of the Irish Jul 5, 2014 4:10:31 GMT -5 madeline likes this
Post by Joanna on Jul 5, 2014 4:10:31 GMT -5
The Legend of the Banshee
In Ireland, the banshee, who is supposed to be a fairy woman (bean - woman; sidhe - fairy), wails and cries when members of certain families are about to die. It has never been established, however, why this ghostly creature follows some families.
In Old Gaelic legend, music and poetry were said to be fairy gifts and the possession of these was thought to show a fatal kinship with the Duine Shee (people of the spirit race). Carolan, the great Irish harper – so the story goes – obtained some of his wildest and most beautiful music from listening to the fairy harpers play while lying asleep in the moonlight on a fairy mound. In Ireland, those who have the gifts of music and song are, it is said, watched over by the spirits. Those watched over by the Spirit of Life are said to be “fey” and have the gift second sight. Another is the Spirit of Doom, which reveals secrets of misfortune and death, and for this dread messenger another name is the banshee.
It is well to remember that the banshee belongs exclusively to the Celtic race. She is never heard bewailing the approaching demise of a member of others comprising the population of Ireland. The families with the old names of the chieftains of the Gaels, such as the O’Neills, O’Donnells, the O’Connors, O’Learys, O’Tools and O’Connaghs, each had their own banshee whose cry – when heard by any of them – was a forewarning of death. The banshee is believed to be an unearthly attendant to the ancient families of Ireland, the true descendants of the noble Gaelic race – those who have “Mac” and “O” in their names:
By Mac and O
You’ll always know
True Irishmen they say.
But if they lack
The O and Mac,
No Irishmen are they.
The wail of the banshee is a peculiarly mournful sound that resembles the melancholy noise of the hollow wind, having the tone of a human voice and distinctly audible at a great distance. The banshee often presents as a small, though beautiful, maiden, dressed in the fashion of the distant past. Her cry is mournful and melancholy as she bewails the misfortune about to befall the family to which she is attached..
In years past, it was believed that the banshee was the friend of the family she followed and that at one time, she walked the earth in light the light and shadow of loveliness and immortality. The fact the unearthly creatures crying their sweet, sad song of sorrow at some misfortune bears this out, for if otherwise than a friend, why should her song not be one of rejoicing instead of lamentation? When the caoine of the banshee was heard in the vicinity of the house of any old Gaelic family, it was at once felt that misfortune or death awaited one of the family members. There have been cases in which an entire family was in vigorous health when the cry of the Banshee was first heard, but before a week had elapsed. someone had accidentally drowned or been killed or had met sudden death in some fashion.
An old Irish poem refers to the appearance of the banshee in the morning:
Hast thou heard the Banshee at morn,
Passing by the silent lake,
Or walking the fields by the orchard?
Alas! that I do not rather behold
White garlands in the hall of my fathers.
While it is on record that the banshee has been heard at noon, she is rarely seen or heard by daylight. Night is the time generally chosen for her visits:
The Banshee mournful wails
In the midst of the silent, lonely, lonely night,
Plaining, she sings the song of death.
A great chamber that overhangs the wild Atlantic waves in the old ruined castle of Dunluce where it sits on its rock above the green sea water of the Antrim coast, is said to be the home of the Banshee of the O’Donnells. Here, on winter nights, through the old dark roofless ruin, above the roar of the great storms that come raging down from the far north may be heard, it is said the weird cry of the banshee can be heard lamenting the fallen fortunes of the great house and Ireland's want through her bitter loss – the scattered Chieftains of the Gael.
By Lough Neagh’s shore, hard by Edenduff-Carrick, the Black Brow of the Rock, the ruined walls of the O’Neills’ Castle still sit above the grey lake water where once in all his pride of power and ownership dwelt one of Ireland’s most power Chieftains, the great O’Neill. Here, from time immemorial, when any misfortune threatened one of the grand old race, the cry of the Banshee of the O’Neills would be heard throughout the dark woods of Coile Ultagh away over the grey waters of Lough Neagh and along the walls of the old castle, echoing in the great vaults underneath and wailing over the graves of the great O’Neills. Maeveen was the name given the Banshee of the O’Neills. She was sometimes seen as well as heard and the form she usually assumed was that of a very old woman with long white locks falling down over thin shoulders.
The banshee was also very shy about encountering the eye of a mortal. The slightest human sound borne on the breeze of twilight drove her from sight and caused her to disappear like a thing of the mist. Moore, in his beautiful song, asks:
How oft has the Banshee cried
How oft has death untied,
Bright links that glory move,
Sweet bonds entwined by love.
One of the strangest banshee stories of all time had its beginning in Dublin at 2.30 a.m. on August 6, 1801 , when Lord Rossmore, Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in Ireland, died at his home. The evening before, he had attended a vice-regal party in Dublin Castle. To the people he met there, including Sir Jonah and Lady Barrington, he seemed in the best of health and remained at the party until near midnight. Before leaving, he invited the Barringtons to join a party he was holding in his house at Mount Kennedy, County Wicklow. In fact, for a man of his background and position, he had spent a fairly ordinary evening – one in which there was no hint at all of the strange things to come. At 2 o’clock in the morning, Sir Jonah Barrington awoke and heard what was described as “plaintive sounds” coming from outside the window from a grass plot underneath it. He was to remember the banshee-like sounds all his life. Lady Barrington heard the sounds, too, and so did a maid. Finally, at 2.30 a.m., Barrington heard a voice call “Rossmore! Rossmore! Rossmore!” and then there was silence. Next day, the Barringtons were told that Lord Rossmore was dead. His servant had heard strange sounds coming from his room and rushing inside, found him dying. He died at 2.30 a.m. “Lord Rossmore was dying at the moment I heard his name pronounced,” Sir Jonah wrote later. It was a most terrifying experience for Sir Jonah. To the Irish staff, however, it was no mystery, for they knew it was the banshee Barrington had heard.
Source: Leo Bowes, MovilleInishowen.