An aged desolation,
She sits by old Shannon’s flowing,
A mother of many children,
Of children exiled and dead,
In her home, with bent head, homeless,
Clasping her knees she sits,
Keening, keening! - “The Banshee”, John Todhunter
According to Irish mythology, a banshee is the mournful spirit of a woman who was murdered or died during childbirth. Banshees often sit by misty riverbanks or under trees, keening and wailing. Although their name means “fairy woman” (from Old Irish: ben síde, baintsíde, meaning “woman of the fairy mound” or “fairy woman”), banshees’ appearance has nothing to do with fairytale fairies. They are actually dreadful ghosts with long hair, lamenting often under a grey cloak. Their piercing, unbearable wailing presages or even predicts the death of a dear family member.