I can tell you what I know about banshees from reading various myths and
legends. There's a lot of information floating around, so I'm sure others
might have additional bits.
A banshee is a variety of female sidhe (shee) or fairy. HOW a banshee comes
into being is a matter of debate. I've heard they were victims of violent
death as well as women who died in childbirth (there's another sidhe called a
bean-nighe who fits this description as well; the bean nighe can be seen
sitting along streambanks washing the garments of those soon to die).
The banshee's howl fills those who hear it with terror. Often she is said
to appear near where a death will occur as a bearer of bad tidings. It is
pretty bad luck to hear one in any case!!
The name is interesting too (do we have any linguists out there?) "Ban" I
think, can mean "fair." I also think it might mean "woman" or "female" as
the word for "queen" in Gaelic is "Ban-righ." Someone please help me with
my Gaelic (which is practically non-existant). "Sidhe" or "Shee" of course
refers to "fairy" or "spirit."
The banshee has some associates, including the bean-nighe as above; the leanan
sidhe, a beautiful vampire who inspires poets & bards; and the glaistig sidhe,
another vampire type with goat-feet who sometimes tends children.
One of my all time favorite movies is "Darby O'Gill and the Little People."
The banshee in this film STILL scares me!!
Deena McKinney, Academic Advisor/Education Program Specialist
" . . . We all are bound by laws, etched in the
stream of nature's own hand." ---Dead Can Dance