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Kind of Blue Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-17-09 11:26 AM
Original message
The History of a Truly Scary Irish Spirit
:hi: Everybody. My niece has an Irish grand-mom who has long past away. I say "has" because we still carry on the love for spooky stories from her motherland. On St. Patrick's Day, some us, namely me, find good Irish lore for the child. Here's one I thought is a goodie I'm gonna tell her about today. Still trying to find a good tale but the background below is spooky enough for me.

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/445324/the_ban...

The banshee doesn't carry quite the recognizable cache as the leprechaun, but as far as Irish mythology goes, it ranks only second to the little people. The word banshee itself derives from an Irish term bean sdhe which translates roughly to fairy woman. If you go back in time far enough, before St. Patrick came and cleared the Emerald Isle of snakes and children-no, wait, that was the Pied Piper-you will come across a term found in the pre-Christian days of Gaelic glory called sidh, which were a form of deities. It was a tradition when an Irish villager passed on that a woman would be called on to sing a lament. This lament actually has one of those long Irish names curious absent of an appropriate wealth of consonants and since you probably couldn't figure out how to pronounce it under torture orders from Alberto Gonzales, I'll just get to the meat. The women who were called upon for this service of honoring the death at funerals were often called keeners. Of course, even in wild and woolly Ireland there were such things as class distinctions and a legend persists that at the funerals of certain Irish families with long traditions and special treatment it would not necessarily be a typical keener who sung the lament, but rather an actual fairy woman, a sidh. Such was the connection between these highfalutin Irish clan that the death of a family member far away would be heralded with the mournful song of a fairy woman.

Like many myths, the banshee seems to have been a corruption of pre-Christian and Christian folk tales. There seems to have been an intermingling of the mythological stories about the sidhs and other supernatural creatures so that wailing song of the fairy woman became not just the herald of a death of one of those famous families, but a portent of death in one's own family. Eventually, it transformed into a signal of one's own death if one should be unlucky enough to hear the song of the banshee. Contributing to this fearful symmetry is the appearance that the sidh, who was now called a banshee, began to take. There is much in folk literature to suggest that the banshee ancestry has some mermaid blood in it. Banshees are most often seen all dressed in a nebulous and flowing white, with long hair that can also be so light as to appear white. Apparently, the banshee are quite conscious off their looks because most reports indicate they appear to be brushing those long, flowing locks with a silver comb. This long flowing hair is thought by many to have originated with the same look that mermaids in the water had. One interesting element to this particular of the myth of the banshee is the fear that is the fear that you should fear if you happen to be taking a long walk through the magnificent green meadows of the Irish countryside and you happen to come across a silver comb lying on the ground. Should you happen to find a particularly beautiful silver comb in the green grass, just turn around and walk away. Do not, under any circumstances, pick it up, because the moment you do, a banshee will appear and take you away.
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ayeshahaqqiqa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-17-09 11:54 AM
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1. That is quite interesting
I'd never heard the origins of the banshee before. Thanks for sharing it!

It is interesting to me how the patriarchal times took the power of the Divine Feminine and made it something to fear.
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Kind of Blue Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-17-09 12:19 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. Thanks for pointing that out.
That's really important and I will definitely include it in the storytelling later.
You know, to me, in your dream that you posted earlier, the Divine Feminine certainly showed up in 2 guises!
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ayeshahaqqiqa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-17-09 12:48 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. Yes, and I thank you for pointing that out
I was looking more at the box of thorns and the crone and the princess and their reactions to the box--the princess with sudden understanding, the crone with gentle wisdom. And yet I know both are myself.
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Kind of Blue Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-17-09 01:37 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. How absolutely cool.
You, Ayeshahaqqiqa, the conjunction of the two, beginning and the end, watching the unfolding dream while completing the Triple Goddess. I've got the chills.

Funny, I'm thinking of a way of relaying the banshee story in a more meaningful way to introduce the the Divine Feminine to my 11year old niece. Kind of like the unfolding of divinity in all of us through life. The maiden/princess (my niece), the matron (her mother, aunts), and the crone/banshee (her Irish grandmom who started all of this).

Thank you, Dear Ayeshahaqqiqa. Your dream uncannily is gonna make this St. Patrick's Day a lot more fun! :hug:

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Silver Gaia Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-17-09 03:58 PM
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5. Just to add some background info for your storytelling...
The term "bean sidhe" is said just like "banshee," so this is really just a phonetic spelling of the Gaelic term: bean = woman and sidhe = faery. The term sidhe is associated with the Tuatha D Danann (too'ee day dah'-nan), which means "children of Danu," who was the principal mother goddess of the Tuatha D Danann. This is the group of deities your story refers to. The term also refers to the fairy mounds, barrows, or hill-tombs where the Tuatha D Danann were believed to have gone when they retreated from the earthly world to reside in the Otherworld. So, it is a term often used for them interchangeably.

There are four major groups of tales, called cycles, in Irish myth: The Mythological Cycle, The Fenian Cycle, The Cycle of Kings, and the Ulster Cycle. The Tuatha D Danann are most famously told of in a story of The Mythological Cycle called the Second Battle of Mag Turied (mahg tur-eed), which describes their arrival on the shores of Ireland and the ensuing battles with the peoples who were already living there. The Otherworld, mentioned above, is sometimes called Tir na nOg (teer na nog), is basically the underworld, and is the realm of the sidhe and the fae (including leprechauns). The fae in Irish myth and folktale can sometimes be quite ominous (although sometimes they are nice to humans, too), and both they and their realm are seen as beautiful and seductive to humans. That's why, in your story, picking up the silver comb is a no-no, because it's a trap. Being whisked away to the Otherworld can be dangerous. If you DO get taken there, it's also important not to eat or drink anything while there, because if you do, you might not get to return to the world of humans!

As for women in Irish history and lore, there are quite a few powerful female figures in the myths and legends: a few that spring to mind are Queen Medb (Maeve), Scthach (skah'-thakh), a warrior-woman who taught battle arts--most famously, to the Irish hero, Cchulainn (koo-hoo'lin)--and the three-aspected battle goddess known as The Morrigan. As for the historical aspects, in the 5th century, Irish monks recorded the Irish legal codes, known as Brehon Law, which had previously been passed down by way of oral tradition. Most scholars of the Celts believe these laws to be a fair representation of pre-Christian Irish culture, because Ireland had remained mostly free of Roman influence. In these laws, there are listed 9 different forms of marriage. In the first kind, a man and a woman are on equal ground financially. Then, there are marriages where one or the other of them has more property. Theres marriage by cohabitation with the womans familys consent, marriage where she goes away with him without their consent, or allows herself to be abducted with their consent. And so on...

Both partners had divorce rights, too, but it always had to be for a just cause. Women retained property rights in a divorce, and in most cases, she was allowed to keep whatever property she had contributed to the marriage along with a portion of the property they had accrued together. The Irish Celts also had something in their laws that no other culture of the time had: laws against rape. There were two kinds of rape: forcible rape, and another described as seduction by stealth of a girl or woman who is intoxicated, asleep, or has a disordered mind. In both cases, the penalty was the same, and consisted of a fineeveryone, both male and female, had an honor price, according to their social status, and this determined the amount of the finethat was to be paid to the woman, and often her family as well.

They even had a law for something akin to sexual harassment. These crimes involved things like a man kissing a woman against her will, or interfering with, or placing his hand inside her clothing. Verbal assaults, such as mocking a womans appearance, coining a nickname, being derisory about any physical defect, taunting, or repeating an untrue story about a woman were also against the law. Again, the penalties were a fine paid to the woman and usually her family.

As for women in general in the Celtic cultures, we can assume that most fulfilled traditional household roles, but there are mentions in the literature of women who held professional status as doctors, judges, artists, poets, and even war leaders. According to Roman accounts, Celtic women would sometimes be seen fighting alongside their men on the battlefield, and were described as tall and fierce. There are examples in both myth (mentioned above) and history of powerful women among the Celts. Some historical figures of note are Queen Cartimandua of the Brigantes, and Queen Boudicca of the Iceni, both of whom led military revolts against the Romans. (Boudicca kicked Roman butt all over England, and almost defeated them!)

Some of the above is taken from a lecture I gave on Celtic myth and history, and I'm just sharing to give you some background perspective for your storytelling. Hope you find it as interesting as I did! :)


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Kind of Blue Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-17-09 04:14 PM
Response to Reply #5
9. Indeed, I find it interesting!
Thank you so much, Silver Gaia. There's no way I could know or even think of women's rights in ancient Ireland. Wow. I know of Queen Bouddica but didn't of Cartimandua and Iceni. Got to go look those gals up. And thanks for the pronunciations! That's certainly going to help.
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Silver Gaia Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-17-09 04:58 PM
Response to Reply #9
10. You're most welcome. My pleasure. :)
It's certainly the day for all things Irish. ;) I love that you plan to tell stories! That's so important.
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Kind of Blue Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-17-09 07:22 PM
Response to Reply #10
12. It sure is a great day for the Irish.
I've got to admit that thanks to your responses this is the best one ever. I'm as far from Irish as one can get (I think) and my darling niece is so far away from her Irish Dad's side of the family, that talking story is a great way of letting her know of her full potential. Sheesh, it started with scary stories and led to powerful women. Nice.
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MorningGlow Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-17-09 06:14 PM
Response to Reply #5
11. Excellent synopsis, SG
I do so love the Celts. I suspect I spent several pleasant lifetimes in the green hills of ancient Ireland (at least! :D )

And the social details of the Celts is a great example that our forebears weren't all ignorant unevolved brutes bashing each other over the heads with clubs.
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Kind of Blue Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-17-09 07:23 PM
Response to Reply #11
13. The imagery of that is too funny, MorningGlow.
:rofl: :rofl: :rofl:
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Silver Gaia Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-17-09 07:46 PM
Response to Reply #11
17. Exactly!
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Cleita Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-17-09 04:08 PM
Response to Original message
6. I was going to add what Silver Gaia did.
The faery people are what we sometimes call elementals. The Banshee are a group who come around to warn that a death will be imminent.
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Silver Gaia Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-17-09 04:12 PM
Response to Reply #6
8. Yes, agreed. Thanks for adding that, Cleita! n/t
Edited on Tue Mar-17-09 04:12 PM by Silver Gaia
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Kind of Blue Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-17-09 07:25 PM
Response to Reply #6
14. Whew! That's a fierce group of screamers.
:scared:
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Silver Gaia Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-17-09 04:10 PM
Response to Original message
7. P.S.
The "snakes" in the story of St. Patrick are generally thought of as representative of the practitioners of the indigenous religion of Ireland, the Pagans, so when we speak of him driving the "snakes" from Ireland, what it really means is that he drove the Pagans away (or at least into hiding).
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Kind of Blue Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-17-09 07:32 PM
Response to Reply #7
15. Poor snakes really do have a bad rap.
A while ago I found out that the snake of Adam & Eve is not really a symbol of evil but the gateway to knowledge. Now, this about St. Patrick. Well, he just went down a notch.
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Silver Gaia Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-17-09 07:44 PM
Response to Reply #15
16. Agreed.
The snake has been much maligned. In many cultures, the snake is revered. It's often seen as a symbol of regeneration and rebirth because it sheds its skin. In plain terms, most snakes are really helpful to humans because they eat rodents, which in turn, eat our food stores. Poor snakes!
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