Banshee Lore Through Time

From her roots in stories of the Mórrigan first transcribed in the 12th century to 1930's School's Collection's journals, the banshee is a figure of extreme cultural significance to Ireland. Throughout time her image has been diluted from her roots in the goddess of war, to Croker Crofton’s Fairy Legends, and finally to local history recorded by school children mostly in Galway. Cecile O’Rahilly’s English translation of Tàin Bó Cúalnge found in Leabhar Laighean, or the Book of Leinster, depicts the Mórrigan as a trickster shapeshifter, who can take many forms, divinely intervening in a battle where the tides cannot be otherwise turned (194). The banshee, though not depicted as a shapeshifter in Croker’s tales, does take many forms, although she is always a woman, like the Mórrigan herself. In The Legends of the Banshee, specifically in The Mac Carthy Banshee, she works or appears alongside the new Irish divine beliefs of Christianity, which aimed to usurp older, Irish-born beliefs. These stories show us that the remnants of Irish divinity cannot be stamped out so quickly and, through this lens, the banshee can be viewed as a direct manifestation of an attempt to hold on to their traditional faith. Croker’s view, that these legends, slow the “progress” of Irish society, most likely influenced his storytelling and the faithfulness of his transcriptions (Markey 24). He was even known for making up an "Irish" folklore story in one of his later works (Markey 26). This caused later Irish readers of folklore to believe this story was part of their culture. This incident reveals Croker's lack of respect for and belief in these cultural narratives (Markey 27). This lack of respect did not destroy belief in the banshee, however, as the echoes of this mysterious figure continue to touch people’s lives in contemporary settings. The School’s Collection, an assortment of oral transcriptions by local people who are living this “folklore.” Their recollections tell the reader that the banshee’s impact is not just mythical, but impactful to contemporary life. The banshee’s narrative shape is always influenced by whoever is writing her narrative at the time.

Prev Next