Banshee

I do love this weather; dark and windy. Cool, moody and dreary. My kind of climate. The Laboratory is practically humming with giddiness; all my delightful cryptids love this weather as well.

During last evening’s dark and stormy night, I heard a wailing. It was not a wailing I am accustomed to (let us be honest, my house is filled to the rafters with wailing creatures) and so around 2 am, I went outside to investigate. The street was empty and the wind was rolling across it. Shadows were thick and the trees were heavy with rain.

There was nothing outside. Not a car with an alarm on the fritz, not a cat with a bone to pick. Perhaps it was a banshee.

A banshee is defined in Celtic lore as a female spirit whose appearance and subsequent wailing warns of a coming human death. It is derived from the Irish bean sídhe and the Scottish Gaelic bean sìth, literally, woman of fairyland.

Legend has it that the banshees only cry for one of five major Irish families. (Obviously, intermarriage has extended this list a bit.) These families – the O’Neills, the O’Briens, the O’Connors, the O’Gradys and the Kavanaghs – watch for the banshee’s call late at night.

Her physical appearance varies between a young woman, a stately matron or a ragged old hag. These three visages represent the three visages of the Celtic goddess of War and Death – Badhbh, Macha and Mor-Rioghain. When she appears as a washer-woman, she is called bean-nighe and it is said that the clothes she washes are stained with the blood of the soon-to-die.

My Aunt Vespa was called a banshee by the Tungusic peoples of Siberia. A little background – Aunt Vespa attended Oxford Medical College under the name Allistair Vespar. Once she received her degree, she traveled by train east, convinced that this was the quickest way to get to Alaska, where she had procured a job at an outpost. In Siberia, her train became incapacitated (either because of a yeti attack or woolly mammoth attack, depending on how much port she’s had to drink) and Aunt Vespa was rescued by a tribe of Tungusic peoples.

She became apprenticed to their shaman and helped him attend to the tribe’s sick and dying. Because of her exceptional medical education, she was able to foretell when a condition was beyond even her healing abilities. She would cry to herself in her yert at night, and thus the Tungusic thought she was a banshee – her nocturnal keening foretold of someone’s death.

You can imagine my excitement last night – I thought perhaps Aunt Vespa had come for a visit. But she has not arrived.

Perhaps there is a true banshee wandering the streets of Brooklyn.

 

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