Of all Irish ghost, fairies, the Banshees is the best known to the general public; indeed cross-channel visitors- including myself- would expect her to make manifest her presence so them as being one of the sights of the country. She is a spirit with a lengthy pedigree. How lengthy no man can say, as its roots go back into the dim, mysterious past. The most famous Banshee of ancient times was that attached to the Kingly house of O´Brien, Aibhill, who haunted the rock of Craglea above Killaloe, near the old palace of Kincora. The Banshee´s method of foretelling death in olden times differed from that adopted by her at the present time; now she wails and wrings her hand, as a general rule, but in the old Irish tales she is to be fond washing human heads and limbs or blood stained clothes.
One of the oldest and best-known Banshee stories is that related in the Memoirs of Lady Fanshawe. In 1642, her husband, Sir Richard, and she chanced to visit a friend, the head of an Irish sept, who resided in his ancient baronial castle, surrounded by a moat. At midnight she was awakened by a ghastly and supernatural scream, and looking out of bed, beheld in the moonlight a female face and part of the form hovering at the window. The distance from the ground, as well as the circumstance of the moat, excluded the possibility that what she beheld was of this world. The face was that of a young and rather beautiful woman, but pale, and the hair, which was reddish, was loose and disheveled. The dress, which Lady Fanshawe`s terror did not prevent her remarking accurately, was that of the ancient Irish. This apparition continued to exhibit itself for some time, and then vanished with two shrieks similar to that which had first excited Lady Fanshawe´s attention. In the morning, with infinite terror, she communicated to her host what she had witnessed, and found him prepared not only to credit, but to account for the superstition. A near relation of the family, he said, expired last night in this castle. We disguised our certain expectation of the event from you, lest it should throw a cloud over the cheerful reception which was your due. Now, before such an event happens in the family or castle, the female ghost you have seen is always visible. She is believed to be the spirit of a woman of inferior rank, whom one of my ancestors degraded himself by marrying, and whom afterwards, to expiate the dishonor done to his family, he caused to be drowned in the moat.
It goes without saying that this woman can´t be termed as a banshee because the motive for the haunting is akin to that in the tale of the Scotch Drummer of Cotarchy, where the spirit of the murdered man haunt the family out of revenge, and appears before a death. Anyway, God bless Ireland and her folklore.
Sergio Calle Llorens