The Old Corpse Road Folklore Collective
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The banshee is a type of fairy known both in Ireland and Scotland. In Scotland she is sometimes called the Little Washer at the Ford, or the Little Washer of Sorrow.
She can be heard wailing by the riverside as she washes the clothes of the man destined for death. If a mortal can seize and hold her, she must tell the name of the doomed man, and also grant three wishes. She is no beauty, for she has only one nostril, a large, starting out front tooth and web feet. The Irish banshee only wails for the members of the death of someone very great or holy. The banshee has long, streaming hair and a grey cloak over a green dress. Her eyes are fiery red from continually weeping. In the Highlands of Scotland the word Banshi means only a fairy Woman and is chiefly used for the fairies who marry mortals.
THE IRISH & SCOTTISH BANSHEES
There are various descriptions of the banshee. The Irish banshee is called
bean sidhe. Depending upon how you define the ancient tongue, bean sidhe can
mean "fairy woman" or "woman of the hills." The Irish banshee is often
described as beautiful with streaming auburn hair. She wears a green woolen
dress with gray cloak clasped about her shoulders. The only hint that this
beautiful banshee is a messenger of doom is that her eyes are blood red from
crying for her dead.
The Scottish banshee, or bean nighe, is more menacing. She dresses in grave
clothes. Her face covered by a veil. It is impossible to guess the banshee's
age, but she typically appears as a crone.
The mid-Ohio Valley, which includes west-central West Virginia and Scottish
blood. Stories of banshee spirits surely went underground as Irish and Scottish
immigrants moved into the Ohio Valley, but her legend was not entirely
A creature of frequent association with the Moon and darkness. In China, bats were symbols of good fortune and happiness; in Europe, a companion creature of the Goddess Hel. Christians made the bat evil and demonic in order to disengage people from the Goddess.
Bendith y Mamau (bendith er mamigh) 'The Mothers' Blessing' which was the name of the fairies of the Carmarthenshire country in Wales; this saying became a prayer spoken to ward-off harm. These are faerie-goblin cross-breed and are known to steal children, elf-ride horses and visit houses. They have the ill-disposition and ugly appearance of goblins, but the glaymor of faeries. They usually live in clans in underground caverns, and do not enjoy the company of humans. Bendith Y Mamau go out of their way to make people's lives unpleasant. Stealing cattle and children, killing farm animals, and breaking important tools are some of their favorite pastimes.Bowls of milk were put out for them. It is significant that they are associated with the triple form of the Goddess.
Sometimes called the “King of the Dead”. He is similar to the Ankou in that he collects souls upon their death and escorts them to the land of the dead. Traveling his own familiar paths in black with a black cart he is mainly seen on November Eve.
(ben-neeya) She occurs both in Highland and Irish tradition as one of the variants of the Banshee. The Washing women is the type of Banshee who haunts the lonely streams of Scotland and Ireland. Washing the blood-stained garments of those about to die. She is similar to the Bean-Sidhe in that she also foretells death. It is said that these spirits are the ghosts of women who died in childbirth and that they are fated to perform their task until the day when they would have normally died.
The name and characteristics vary in different localities. She is small and generally dressed in green, and has red webbed feet. The Highland Banshee, like the other fairies, has some physical defects. She has only one nostril, a large protruding front tooth
and long hanging breasts. She portends evil, but if anyone who sees her before she sees him gets between her and the water she will grant him three wishes. She will answer three questions, but she asks three questions again, which must be answered truly. Anyone bold enough to seize one of her hanging breasts and suck it may claim that he is her foster-child and she will be favourable to him.
But the Caointeach of Islay, which is the same as the Bean-Nighe, is fiercer and more formidable. If anyone interrupts her she strikes at his legs with her wet linen and often he loses the use of his limbs. Is is said that the bean-nighe are the ghosts of women who have died in childbirth and must perform their task until the natural destined time of their death comes. The bean-nighe, sometimes called the Little Washer By The Ford, chiefly haunt the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, but Peter Buchan collected a washer story in Banffshire.
Household spirits from the north of England, and similar to brownies and bogies, although their nature is much more malicious and less helpful. They are Brownies that have turned evil, often those who have been wronged by humans.
The dark and hairy boggarts are dressed in tattered clothes, with meddling hands and clumsy feet. The presence of a boggart is betrayed by the unusual number of small accidents and strange noises after dark. They enjoy playing tricks on humans and often cause a great deal of trouble. They tip over milk bottles, frighten cats, pinch little children, blow out candles, and cause many other mishaps. No one has ever found a way to appease them, and often there is no alternative but to quickly and stealthy move to another home. In Manx folklore, it is called a buggane.
A farmer and his family once prepared to leave their home because they had been so tormented by a boggart. Upon learning that the boggart intended to move with them they chose to stay, feeling that it was better to suffer it’s tricks in their own home than in a new one. Eventually it grew tired of it’s mischeif about that farm and moved on.
A blue-faced hag, akin to the Cailleachs Bheare and Bheur, who eats people. She is supposed to live in a cave in the Dane Hills in Leicestershire. There was a great oak at the mouth of the cave in which she was said to hide to leap out, catch and devour stray children and lambs. The cave, which was called 'Black Annis' Bower Close', was supposed to have been dug out of the rock by her own nails.
On Easter Monday it was the custom from early times to hold a drag hunt from Annis' Bower to the Mayor of Leicester's house. The bait dragged was a dead cat drenched in aniseed. Black Annis and Gentle Annie are supposed to derive from Anu, or Dana, a Celtic mother goddess. It has also been suggested that she is MILTON'S 'blew meager hag'.
The Hosts of the Sidhe or Hollow Hills. The inhabitants of the Otherworld. They were thought to ride out on the eves of the four great fire festivals when they had communion with earthly folk. Yeats wrote of them as 'The Hosts of the Air'.