Banshees are common in
Irish and Scottish folk stories, and enjoy the same
mythical status in
Ireland as fairies and leprechauns.
The modern understanding of a
banshee as a grotesque, angry
female spirit that flies in the air at night, terrifying people with her
shrieking is something of a misnomer.
The banshee is understood by the
people of Ireland and Scotland as an omen of death and
a messenger from the
afterlife who would appear and wail under the windows of a house where a
person was about to die.
The banshee first appeared in very old
Traditionally, when a citizen of an Irish village died, a woman
would sing, otherwise known as "keen,"
a lament at their funeral.
Music in those times was often connected to the spirits and fairies
that were believed to inhabit the woods.
It is said that on occasion a
fairy woman would begin "keening" before news of the death of a person who had
died far away had reached their family.
Wailing of a fairy banshee was
the first heard on the death of a loved one.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered,
weak and weary,
Over many a
quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly
napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping,
rapping at my chamber
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door-
Only this, and nothing more."
distinctly I remember
it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought
its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;- vainly I had
sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow- sorrow for the lost
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore-
Nameless here for evermore.
And the silken sad uncertain
rustling of each purple curtain
filled me with fantastic terrors
never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I
"'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;-
This it is, and nothing more."
Presently my soul grew stronger;
hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your
forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber
That I scarce was sure I heard you"-
here I opened wide the door;-
Darkness there, and nothing
Hugin and Munin
over the spacious earth.
I fear for Hugin,
come not back,
yet more anxious am I for Munin.
Vikings carried ravens to find land during long open
A raven set free would fly high into the air and then
start flying in circles searching for land in the distance.
could not see land, Munin would return to the ship.
If Hugin saw land
in the distance, Hugin would fly straight for solid earth.
as guides, guiding Vikings through unknown and uncharted waters to land when
one-eyed Odin proved blind to the direction forward.
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