USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘fae’
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Banshees

Main piece: It is said that the howling winds of the Irish coast are formed from the screams of women suffering and dying – otherwise known as banshees. Therefore, any time you hear a particularly loud or chilling gust of wind, a woman is in agony somewhere.

Context: The informant (BN) is half Irish and half American. Her mother’s side of the family is originally from and still resides in Atlanta, Georgia. Her paternal extended family live in Sligo, Ireland. She grew up culturally Catholic, but she does not consider herself religious. Our conversation took place in February on my couch at home in Atlanta after she began recounting her recent trip to visit family in Ireland. BN originally heard this myth that explains Ireland’s winds from her cousin and godmother, who both reside on the coast of Ireland. As she told me about banshee winds, she visibly sunk in on herself and god chills multiple times. “Those winds will always be branded into my memory, because it’s kind of traumatizing as a child, since they really do sound like screams.” When asked if she believed in the myth in a literal sense, she said that only when she’s in Ireland does she truly believe: “everything in Ireland is just so magical and ancient.”

Personal thoughts: What I find most intriguing about this myth is that it touts the age-old trope of a woman’s suffering becoming immortalized through nature or supernatural occurrences. It is not difficult to realize that you don’t see many folk tales, legends or myths that emphasize male suffering – rather, male-centric stories tend to be about heroism or strife that is overcome through perseverance. Women, however, are historically known for subjugation and suffering, which is perhaps why when people first heard the harsh winds of Ireland, they thought of a dying woman rather than a dying animal, a shrieking child, or even just harsh weather at face value. Additionally, what makes the banshee wind myth of Ireland a myth is that it seeks to explain a very prominent and ancient natural phenomenon in Ireland with a concept we are familiar with: female suffering. For external reference of this myth, see “THE BANSHEE.” The Louisville Daily Journal (1839-1868), Nov 25 1839, p. 2. ProQuest. Web. 18 Apr. 2019 .

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