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B is for Banshee.....

Irish bean sidhe and Scottish Gaelic bean sith, literally, woman of fairyland.


The mythology and legend surrounding the Banshee is a bit mixed. The most readily accepted story is of a hag-like creature wailing the impending death of someone nearby-- most ancient Gaelic families, especially the more well-to-do families, had their own Banshees that attached themselves to the lineage of the family name. I suppose it was a sign of station for a family to be able to claim their own Banshee--- I mean, who needs an exciting/ tongue-wagging-inciting skeleton in your cupboard when you've got a Banshee wailing in your rafters?

The origins of the more familiar Banshee may have stemmed from the ancient Keeners-- women who were employed to sing a lament at a funeral. The best Keeners were in high demand to "wail" and "weep" for the great personage who had fallen.

The Great families would boast a bean sidhe or bean sith-- a fairy-woman Keener--and having foresight, the Keener would sing the lament, even if the person wasn't yet home, or if news of their passing had yet come.

The belief in the foresight of the Keener has probably led to the more contemporary belief that Banshees wail to alert of an impending death.











Keener's Lament

Beware the fairy's cry,
that flits from o'er the moors,
beware the mournful song,
that trickles through yer door.

The grey-cloaked witch's doleful sway,
through woods, through mists unending,
meets midnight skies and midnight moon,
her ancient task in sorrow tending.

The path she treads is never sought,
 by those who claim to name her,
her visage feared by those whose line,
and birthright have, by blood paid her.

Her melody, forlorn and strained,
no lullaby attending,
pray not to hear her weeping wail,
lest yer life's breath be ending. 

                                                                                                        ---e.a.s. demers


Comments

  1. Great poem! Banshee was a good B idea


    http://baygirl32.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! The Banshee myth has always interested me, so, it seemed fitting.... :-)

      Delete
  2. Just popping in to say “Hi” from the A-Z Challenge List :)

    What an interesting post! Good luck with the rest of the challenge.

    xx

    ReplyDelete
  3. never heard of the keeners thats kind of interesting!
    though i could see them getting annoying especially
    the part about them singing before the news of death
    had arrived. think monty python and the holy grail
    "im not dead yet"(insert obnoxious wailing)
    also love the pics :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL.... Greeeeeat, now I'm chanting "Bring out yer dead, bring out yer dead." :-/

      Funnily, there aren't too many pics? paintings? carvings? of Banshee out there.... I was lucky to find what I did :-)

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  4. You always find such wonderful, atmospheric art to illustrate your words--I love it. It's perfect.

    And this is one of your more chilling poems, I think. Which is sayin' something, eh?

    I can't remember the book, but I read a collection of horror short stories in junior high. One of them featured a banshee. Pretty intriguing supernatural creature, this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw, thanks....
      And, I don't think a poem about a Banshee could be anything BUT chilling, lol :-)

      Delete
  5. Having heard the Banshee at least twice in my life, I'm not so sure it calls for the self, alone. At each wailing, I lost someone I loved deeply. The wailing took place a few months before the passing, but an immediate thought followed with the name of the to be deceased. I wonder if it's in the blood. I'm part Scottish and very close to spirits. Have a great Challenge. Look forward to your visit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, you're right... the Banshees were known to call/wail for a family line, not just an individual...

      Good luck on the challenge and thanks for dropping by :-)

      Delete
  6. I do like a good wail tale - great to see you back on the challenge - David.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, "wail tales" are definitely worth listening to... and, yep, I seem to fall off the face of the blogosphere around Christmas and only get the energy to get back on in time for A-Z, lol... funny how that works ;-)

      Delete
  7. Interesting...I always knew of the banshee myth but never really knew the details...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, the banshee has always been one of my favorite mythological creatures.... :-)

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