Dedicated to the study of Fairy Tales and Fairies.

Fairy Tales Home

Norse-Franco-German Fairy Tales
Norse Franco German Fairies
Gernan Fairy Tales
Swedish Fairy Tales
Norwegian Fairy Tales

French Fairy Tales
& More tales

Celtic Fairy Tales
Celtic Fairies
Welsh Fairy Tales
Irish Fairy Tales
& More Tales

Fairy Blog
Fairy Songs
Origins of Europes Fairies
& More Fairy Articles

Finno-Baltic-Siberian Fairy Tales
Finno-Baltic-Siberian Fairies
Finnish Mythology
Estonian Mythology
Mari-el Fairy Tales
& More Tales

Greco-Roman Mythology
Greco-Roman Fairies
Greek Fairy Tales
Roman Mythology

Slavic Mythology
Slavic Fairies
Russian Fairy Tales
Polish Fairy Tales
& More Tales

Tales of Other Lands
Fairies of Other Lands
Japanese Fairy Tales
Chinese Folktales
& More Tales

Fairy Tales for Kids
Children's Dutch Fairy Tales
Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know

Fairy Tale Stories      Children's Fairy Tales      Fairies       Faery Woodlands Magazine      Blog     About
Fairy List



Sometimes the Banshee assumes the form of some sweet singing virgin of the family who died young, and has been given the mission by the invisible powers to become the harbinger of coming doom to her mortal kindred. Or she may be seen at night as a shrouded woman, crouched beneath the trees, lamenting with veiled face; or flying past in the moonlight, crying bitterly: and the cry of thus spirit is mournful beyond all other sounds on earth, and betokens certain death to some member of the family whenever it. is heard in the silence of the night.
The Banshee even follows the old race across the ocean and to distant. lands; for space and the offer no hindrance to the mystic power which is selected and appointed to bear the prophecy of death to a family. Of this a well authenticated instance happened a few years ago, and many now living can attest the truth of the narrative.
A branch of the ancient race of the O'Gradys had settled in Canada, far removed, apparently, from all the associations, traditions, and mysterious influences of the old land of their fore-fathers.
But one night a strange and mournful lamentation was heard outside the house. No word was uttered, only a bitter cry, as of one in deepest agony and sorrow, floated through the air.
Inquiry was made, but no one had been seen near the house at the time, though several persons distinctly heard the weird, unearthly cry, and a terror fell upon the household, as if some supernatural influence had overshadowed them.
Next day it so happened that the gentleman and his eldest son went out boating. As they did not return, however, at the usual time for dinner, some alarm was excited, and messengers were sent down to the shore to look for them. But no tidings came until, precisely at the exact hour of the night when the spirit-cry had been heard the previous evening, a crowd of men were seen approaching the house, bearing with them the dead bodies of the father and the son, who had both been drowned by the accidental upsetting of the boat, within sight of land, but not near enough for any help to reach them in time.
Thus the Ban-Sidhe had fulfilled her mission of doom, after which she disappeared, 'and the cry of the spirit of death was heard no more.
At times the spirit-voice is heard in low and soft lamenting, as if close to the window.
Not long ago an ancient lady of noble lineage was lying near the death-hour in her stately castle. One evening, after twilight., she suddenly unclosed her eyes and pointed to the window, with a happy smile on her face. All present looked in the direction, but nothing was visible. They heard, however, the sweetest music, low, soft, and spiritual, floating round the house, and at times apparently close to the window of the sick room.
Many of the attendants thought it was a trick, and went out to search the grounds; but nothing human was seen. Still the wild plaintive singing went on, wandering through the trees like the night wind--a low, beautiful music that never ceased all through the night.
Next morning the noble lady lay dead; then the music ceased, and the lamentation from that hour was heard no more.
There was a gentleman also in the same country who had a beautiful daughter, strong and healthy, and a splendid horsewoman. She always followed the hounds, and her appearance at the hunt attracted unbounded admiration, as no one rode so well or looked so beautiful.
One evening there was a ball after the hunt, and the young girl moved through the dance with the grace of a fairy queen.
But that same night a voice came close to the father's window, as if the face were laid close to the glass, and he heard a mournful lamentation and a cry; and the words rang out on the air--"In three weeks death; in three weeks the grave--dead--dead--dead!"
Three times the voice came, and three times he heard the words; but though it. was bright moonlight, and he looked from the window over all the park, no form was to be seen.
Next day, his daughter showed symptoms of fever, and exactly in three weeks, as the Ban-Sidhe had prophesied, the beautiful girl lay dead.
The night before her death soft music was heard outside the house, though no word was spoken by the spirit-voice, and the family said the form of a woman crouched beneath a tree, with a mantle covering her head, was~ distinctly visible. But on approaching, the phantom disappeared, though the soft, low music of the lamentation continued till dawn.
Then the angel of death entered the house with soundless feet, and he breathed upon the beautiful face of the young girl, and she rested in the sleep of the dead, beneath the dark shadows of his wings.
Thus the prophecy of the Banshee came true, according to the time foretold by the spirit-voice.

Extracted from "Fairy Faith in the Celtic Lands" by Wentz.

ll the banshees and all the human figures, white women, and so forth, who are seen in raths and moats and on hill-sides, are the direct descendants, so to speak, of the Tuatha De Danann or the Sidhe. Of this, I think, there can be no doubt whatever.

According to our next witness, Steven Ruan, a piper of Galway, with whom I have often talked, there is one class of fairies ‘who are nobody else than the [Pg 40]spirits of men and women who once lived on earth’; and the banshee is a dead friend, relative, or ancestor who appears to give a warning. ‘The fairies’, he says, ‘never care about old folks. They only take babies, and young men and young women. If a young wife dies, she is said to have been taken by them, and ever afterwards to live in Fairyland. The same things are said about a young man or a child who dies. Fairyland is a place of delights, where music, and singing, and dancing, and feasting are continually enjoyed; and its inhabitants are all about us, as numerous as the blades of grass.’

Fairy Legend of the Macleod Family.—‘There is a legend told of the Macleod family:—Soon after the heir of the Macleods was born, a beautiful woman in wonderful raiment, who was a fairy woman or banshee (there were joyous as well as mourning banshees) appeared at the castle, and went directly to the babe’s cradle. She took up the babe and chanted over it a series of verses, and each verse had its own melody. The verses foretold the future manhood of the young child, and acted as a protective charm over its life. Then she put the babe back into its cradle, and, going out, disappeared across the moorlands.

‘For many generations it was a custom in the Macleod family that whoever was the nurse of the heir must sing those verses as the fairy woman had sung them. After a time the song was forgotten, but at a later period it was partially recovered, and to-day it is one of the proud folk-lore heritages of the Macleod family.

There are two hills in the Highlands of Aberdeenshire where travellers had to propitiate the banshee by placing barley-meal cakes near a well on each hill; and if the traveller neglected the offering, death or some dire calamity was sure to follow.[531] It is quite certain that the banshee is almost always thought of as the spirit of a dead ancestor presiding [Pg 438]over a family, though here it appears more like the tutelary deity of the hills. But sacrifice being thus made, according to the folk-belief, to a banshee, shows, like so many other examples where there is a confusion between divinities or fairies and the souls of the dead, that ancestral worship must be held to play a very important part in the complex Fairy-Faith as a whole. A few non-Celtic parallels determine this at once. Thus, exactly as to fairies here, milk is offered to the souls of saints in the Panjab, India, as a means of propitiating them.[532] M. A. Lefèvre shows that the Roman Lares, so frequently compared to house-haunting fairies, are in reality quite like the Gaelic banshee; that originally they were nothing more than the unattached souls of the dead, akin to Manes; that time and custom made distinctions between them; that in the common language Lares and Manes had synonymous dwellings; and that, finally, the idea of death was little by little divorced from the worship of the Lares, so that they became guardians of the family and protectors of life.[533] On all the tombs of their dead the Romans inscribed these names: Manes, inferi, silentes,[534] the last of which, meaning the silent ones, is equivalent to the term ‘People of Peace’ given to the fairy-folk of Scotland.[535] Nor were the Roman Lares always thought of as inhabiting dwellings. Many were supposed to live in the fields, in the streets of cities, at cross-roads, quite like certain orders of fairies and demons; and in each place these ancestral spirits had their chapels and received offerings of fruit, flowers, and of foliage. If neglected they became spiteful, and were then known as Lemures.