Harbinger of Sorrow – The Bean-Sidhe

In ancient times a race of people arrived on a small island in the Atlantic Ocean which later became known as Ireland. These were the Tuatha Dé Danann or the children of the Goddess Danu. They were a magical people whom defeated the Fir Bolg and settled in Ireland for many years. They became Gods in their own right and many were worshiped by the Celtic peoples. Their demise or retirement from our world came with the arrival of the Milesians or Sons of Mille, whom were the first of mankind to settle in Ireland. After the defeat of the Tuatha Dé Danann by the Milesians they are said to have retreated into the mounds of Ireland. It is from the Tuatha Dé Danann that the Bean-Sidhe are said to come from. The Bean-Sidhe or Banshee is seen as a harbinger of Sorrow. They can be seen in normally one of three guises; A young pretty maid, A middle aged woman or an old hag or the Maiden, Mother, Crone. This also represents the three aspects of the goddess which can sometimes confuse people into believing that the Bean-Sidhe is the same as The Mórrígan, whom was the Celtic Goddess of War and Death. Our Bean-sidhe is nothing so sinister but is in fact related to Death.


The Bean-sidhe appears at a family home during the night and is commonly said to comb her long silver/grey hair as she cries. It is said that the cry of a Bean-sidhe warns of a death in the family. According to tradition, the banshee can only cry for five major Irish families: the O’Neills, the O’Briens, the O’Connors, the O’Gradys and the Kavanaghs. However over the years with the various marriages’s this may no longer be the case as she has been reported to appear to the family descendants of the Old Celtic Noble lineages. It is believed that each Bean-Sidhe is connected to the members of a certain Irish family. Reports of her have come from as far away as America and Asia, were descendants of the old family lines have settled. So chances are that if you are not of true Irish descent, you will never encounter her. Her face is said to be pale, and her eyes blood-shot red from the many centuries of crying.  Although she is commonly found near the family home before the death of a loved one, she is also said to make an appearance at the funeral where her wails can be heard in the near distance. She is said to usually appear wearing a grey hooded cloak. Even when she is not seen by witnesses, the shrill wail of the Bean-sidhe will most certainly be heard warning of the certain death in the family.


 It is not known when the Bean-sidhe first appeared but the earliest records that mention her date from the early eight century. She is said to be based on the old Irish tradition where women would sing a lament to signify the passing of a family member. This is commonly referred to as Keening. Keeners were often frowned upon by the Christian church and as punishment by God were said to become Bean-sidhe. Another common explanation to the superstitious legend is the cry of the barn owl. In ancient battles, owls would screech and take flight if they noticed an army approaching, which would forewarn the defending army. And it is this screech that became associated with the Bean-Sidhe story. Thankfully I have never experienced the Bean-sidhe, but its nice to know that her purpose is only to for tell a death in the family and not create one.

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About edmooneyphotography

Photographer, Blogger, Ruinhunter, with an unhealthy obsession for history, mythology and the arcane.
This entry was posted in Halloween, Historical, Legends, People, Samhain and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Harbinger of Sorrow – The Bean-Sidhe

  1. ceruleanstarshine says:

    Reblogged this on Cerulean Starshine and commented:
    This is an awesome slice of history. You guys should read it. Then go check out his blog, because it is full of gorgeous photography.


  2. newsferret says:

    What a pity the the Christian Church in the name of a god destroyed so much of civilisation through their self-righteousness.


  3. viapina says:

    🙂 and so it is! John Hickey will tell ya! (scroll down to video of John Hickey)


  4. sonatano1 says:

    Fascinating post. I like reading about tales and myths that are new to me.


  5. Another fascinating post.


  6. teileag says:

    Thank you for the photo and explanations! fascinating stuff…


  7. Skeggjold says:

    Great post. Nothing to disagree with at all. Thank you


  8. Really interesting post and love the first image


  9. mengeleblog says:

    another good job ! voted !


  10. Great overview of some fascinating legends. Did you create the photo of the banshee at the top? Some very clever compositing there!


  11. chirose says:

    Beautiful story.! Thank you for posting 🙂


  12. Rajiv says:

    This is an excellent post. I love the pictures as well


  13. Fascinating stuff! keep it coming please. GG


  14. LaVagabonde says:

    Great post for the season.


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