One of the prompts from Cricket’s Slice Of Life this week is family superstitions.
The Irish side of my family are a very superstitious lot.
Image : Banshee by Traumknabe from Deviant Art
In traditional folklore the banshee was a woman of the fairy who possibly was an ancestral spirit appointed to forewarn members of a family of their time of death. My grandmother, all her sisters and brothers, and my great grandmother and all her family, believed the banshees walked on dark and moonless nights, searching endlessly for the next human soul to pass into the afterlife. They locked all their doors and windows and stayed indoors on such nights.
Great Gran Min called the banshee the White Lady of Sorrow. She wore a long, white winding sheet, had long, pale hair which she tidied with a silver comb, and sometimes rode a white horse. Her wail was so piercing it could shatter glass.
It is said that the cry of a banshee foretold the death of Great Gran Min’s father, Seamus McGonagle.
It was midwinter. In the sky ten thousand shadows blocked the light of the moon. It was so dark the nightbirds fluttered nervously in the trees. A wind, a lament, rose from the winter sea, spiralling upward to the hills.
The wind became a wail, touching everything, the air was alive with mournfulness. The banshee paced the fields surrounding Seamus McGonagle’s house, her long, silver hair sweeping the ground like a cloak; the white, gauzy sheet she wore, bright in the darkness.
All night long she cried. All night long the inhabitants of the house cowered in their beds. A shudder passed into the house, a trembling greater than terror.
In the morning Seamus McGonagle’s bedroom floor was grimy with broken glass. His window stood wide open and shattered, looking out to the hills. In the morning, Seamus McGonagle was dead.
This story has always filled me with an unspeakable fear. Logically, I am forced to question the very existence of the banshee, but on dark, moonless nights, I wonder……