Oh the Banshee, I could write a book on her or it or whatever it is. Growing up in Ireland, all children were petrified and if the truth be told a tiny bit attracted to the Banshee. It is said that she is a harbinger of doom, if her awful wails are heard, somebody in the house will die within the week, if she herself is seen the watcher themselves will die within the week. A frightening prospect, often as a wee boy I heard the awful screeching in the middle of the night, followed by a horrific rattling on the slates. Was the terrible wench on the roof? In the sober morning, I would be reassured by my fellow breakfasters that it was nothing more than cats screeching, but, I would counter, the sound I heard was not a cat, I knew what a cat sounded like and it did not sound like this. Cats! They would boom.
Simply cats having sex! And that was supposed to settle me. Of course, it didn’t, nights would drag on with the floozy screeching her lament, I was torn with the dreadful urge to peek out the window at her but knowing the legend, I dared not do so. The thing is though, nobody ever died in my house, she wailed on and on and nobody ever kicked it, nor a neighbour, nobody ever died, we all were in full health, all in fine fettle and the best of spirits. Did our banshee not work? Or were my narky breakfasters correct, was it simply cats having sex? And if so, were they not enjoying it? I mean it sounded like they were murdering one another. Anyway, I was still of the mind that the wail was that of the banshee, for no living creature, not human nor cat could vocalise that hideous drone.
I asked at school, again however I was scoffed at. ‘What’s your name?’ they asked me. ‘Russell Shortt,’ I replied. ‘Well there you go?’ they countered. ‘What?’ I asked puzzled. ‘Banshees only appear to O’Neills. O’Briens, O’Connors, O’Gradys and Kavanaghs, everybody knows that,’ they laughed. And so it seems, that the banshee belongs to a family, she is more like an eccentric great aunt than a horrific entity. Bizarrely, she was owned, I felt cheated, I mean she was stressing me out at night, but I still didn’t feel happy about the idea that she belonged to somebody else, I guess that I had kind of got used to having her around, I mean we had developed a type of relationship, not the most orthodox one I grant you but a relationship nonetheless. I began to summon the idea that I needed to get a glimpse of her, even if it meant risking my life, I needed to assure my mind that she was wailing for me.
It was a dangerous train of thought, but I had heard her now over a dozen times and nobody had died so even if she saw me, it was highly probable that I would survive the whole ordeal. I decided to confide in the experts on this whole kind of thing, so the next time that the school were dragged to the cathedral in Mullingar for confession, I told the priest of my idea. He was rather taken by the whole affair but he pleaded with me, to never, ever look out the cursed window. ‘She is a hag!’ A hag!
A hideous hag!’ he shrieked. He assured me that even if she did not see me and I survived, I would be mentally scarred at witnessing such ugliness and would never recover. I decided to take his advice and took to just listening to her screeching which was rather disconcertingly becoming more and more melodic to my harangued ear. However, it was almost as if the old witch was aware of my intentions of ignoring her because one night, her wail was so deafening that it cracked my windowpane.
I was to see her and that was that. So I did. Before doing so, I went to the local library to find out what I was in for, to see if the excitable priest was right. Accounts varied, some stating that she was indeed the hideous hag, others that she was worse than that, she was a hideous hag, donning limbs and heads of her helpless victims. It did not bode well but I had made up my mind, the next night that she appeared wailing, I sneaked from my warm bed, hauled open the shutter and brazenly gazed out into the forest surrounding my house and I have being in love with her ever since…
Russell Shortt is a travel consultant with Exploring Ireland, the leading specialists in customised, private escorted tours, escorted coach tours and independent self drive tours of Ireland. Article source Russell Shortt, http://www.exploringireland.net/escorted-tours-page.html