The single superstition of which every one has heard, and which is almost universal in Ireland, is of the banshee. Bean-sidhe is the Irish name for this wonderful creature and it literally means ‘the woman of the fairy mansions’. Her office is to announce a coming death. For several nights she appears, sometimes as a radiant maiden, sometimes as a decrepit old woman with long flowing hair, and wails her plaintive lamentations for the approaching death. If the death is to occur by natural ailment, the ‘keening’ of the banshee is simply measured and pathetic; but if accident or untoward calamity are to be associated with it, then her lamentations are loud and clamorous.
But she is easily disturbed and vexed, and if ever frightened away will never return during the same generation. This would be a calamity; for while the Irish banshee favors no particular class, cast or religion, she only comes to families of long and respectable line. She comes as a friendly spirit to these, not as an inimical one, and to be known as a family deserving and possessing her pathetic guardianship, is regarded as an honor of a very tender and sacred character. Many truly believe the banshee to be the spirit of some former member of the family.
Cor. New York Commercial Advertiser.