Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology

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Variations: Bean Chaointe, Bean-Nighe, Bean
Sidhe, Beansidhe, Caoineag, Cointeach, Cyhiraeth, Cyoerraeth, Eur-Cunnere Noe, GWRACH YRHIBYN, Kannerez-Noz, Washer at the Banks, Washer at the Ford, Washer of the Shrouds
Currently, the banshee is considered to be a type of fay with vampiric tendencies. However, originally the banshee was a singular entity, an ancestral spirit that wailed to announce an upcoming death for one of the five major families: the Kavanaghs, the O'Briens, the O'Connors, the O'Gradys, and the O'Neills.
The banshee's mourning wail is said to be heard every now and again, and its wailing cry is still considered to be a death omen. Those who hear it fear that someone will die the following night.
Although seldom seen, the banshee is typically naked when washing shrouds at the river-bank, its long, pendulous breasts getting in its way. When not at the river, it hunts in the hills near lakes and running water for young men, wearing a gray cloak over a GREEN gown; its long white HAIR is worn loose and let to blow in the wind. If it can, it will lure its victim away to a secluded place and drink his blood.
If by chance a person should catch a glimpse ofa banshee as it is washing shrouds, it is best advised not to run from it. Rather, he should wait quietly until it slings its breast over its shoulder and carefully sneak up behind it. Then, he should place one of its nipples in his mouth and pretend that he is nursing from it. He can declare to the banshee that it is his foster mother, and should it accept him as a foster child, it will answer any question that he has. Afar less intimate way of gaining information from a banshee is to capture it and threaten it at sword point.
Should a person happen upon a banshee whileit is washing a shirt at the river and it sees him before he can act, it may speak, saying that it is washing the shirt of an enemy. He must name an enemy of his aloud and then not try to stop it from finishing its task or else the person he named will most certainly die. If he does not name an enemy for it, the banshee will attack and kill him, draining him of his blood.
Source: Davidson, Roles of the Northern Goddess, 137, 1 79­80; Folklore Society of Great Britain, The Folklore Record, vol. 4, 121­22; Lysaght, The Banshee; Yeats, Fairy and Folk Tales, 108

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