The Banshee is an ominous spirit of the Irish fairy realms whose presence foretells the loss of a life. This “woman fairy” (from bean, a woman, and sidhe, a fairy), announces an imminent death with her mournful and terrifying keening. When she can be seen and not just heard, the Banshee usually appears as a beautiful woman, often clutching a hairbrush. In Scotland she is bean nighe (the Washerwoman, whose spectral form can be seen washing the bloody clothes of the soon-to-die), while in Wales she is Gwrach-y-rhibyn (Hag of the Mist).
The Banshee is sometimes seen along with a cóiste-bodhar (coach-a-bower), pulled by headless horses and driven by her fellow Celtic death omen, the Dullahan. Although like the Dullahan (and the Cluricaun), the Banshee is usually classified in lore as a solitary fairy, it has been suggested that she may in fact be a sociable fairy who has only become solitary due to her constant sadness—unlike most solitary fairies, she is generally not malevolent, but only foreboding and frightening. Continue reading