The Legend of the Banshee

Halloween Legends of Ireland: The Banshee

The Banshee, Ireland, and Halloween are all interconnected through the creepy tales of Irish folklore and Ireland’s incredible storytelling traditions…particualry about Ghosts, Spooks and Halloween.

Let’s have a half eye-open glimpse into each of these topics and see how they’re linked….

The Banshee: The Banshee is a supernatural, super Halloween, figure in Irish mythology, and in her glory she is often considered a harbinger of death so definitely one to watch out for! The word “banshee” is derived from the Irish “bean sí,” which means “woman of the fairy mound” – you make think that by being associated with a fairy mound makes her like a cute old lady telling stories but, this is not the case! The Banshee is (said to be) a female spirit who wails, mourns, cries, and moans to signal IMPENDING DEATH, typically for someone from an old Irish family or noble lineage. Her eerie cries are believed to be heard around the house of the person who is about to die and thus is truly scary. The Banshee’s appearance is often described as a veiled woman with long hair, dressed in white or gray and she has been utilised in lots of pop culture references and Irish music. And, of course, she is one of Ireland’s most popular Halloween Costumes.

Banshee and Halloween

Ireland: Our magical, influential, poetic and slightly scary little island is perfectly located at the edge of the Atlantic ocean and the perfect scene for Banshee’s, Witches. Warlocks, Politicians and whole host of other creepy crawlies! Halloween and Ireland have a rich history of mythology, folklore, and cultural traditions that have influenced people far and beyond for centuries. The Banshee is just one example of Ireland’s many mythical creatures and stories that are part of Irish folklore and Halloween. Ireland’s landscape is dotted with ancient ruins, castles, and other historic sites, contributing to the sense of mystery and magic associated with the country. A lot of Irish Halloween stories come from a seanchaí like Peig Sayers (below) a traditional Irish storyteller or historian that would recite stories and poems from memory.

Peig Sayers
Peig Sayers – Irish author and seanchaí born in Dún Chaoin, County Kerry, Ireland whose work terrified schoolchildren for decades, so much so as adults they still dream about her and exams about her work. Terrifying.

Halloween and Ireland: Halloween, as it is celebrated today, has deep roots in Celtic and Irish traditions. Halloween originally evolved from the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain, which marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. It was believed that during Samhain, the boundary between the world of the living and the world of the dead was blurred, allowing spirits to roam freely among the living (which we now dress up in Halloween Costumes as).

In Ireland, Halloween was a time of both celebration and caution. We lit bonfires (and still do!) to ward off evil spirits and dressed in costumes to disguise themselves from any malevolent entities that might be wandering about. The concept of the Banshee fits into this idea of ghosts, ghouls and spirits entering the living world during this spooky time.

As time went on and we fled/emigrated from our beautiful island for various reasons, Irish immigrants brought our Halloween traditions to other parts of the world, particularly the United States, where Halloween has evolved into a widely celebrated holiday with costumes, sweets (candy!, and various other Halloween festivities. However, the connection between Halloween and the supernatural, as seen through the Banshee and other folklore, still resonates with the holiday’s origins.

So, in summary, the Banshee is a mythical figure from Irish folklore that is often associated with warnings of death, and she ties into the broader traditions and cultural history of Ireland, including Halloween costumes and celebrations that originated in our lovely island’s ancient, magical, Celtic customs.