The Death Messenger

She is known all over Ireland by many names, the ‘Scaldcrow,’ the ‘Death Messenger,’ the ‘Bow,’ the ‘Badb,’ the ‘Bean Si’ and in English, the Banshee. She is a devil, a cursed woman, a guardian angel, a cursed soul and a protector of old Gaelic families. She is associated mainly with the colour white, but there are many stories of her clothing and hair being of different colours, green, black and red. It is she who warns the living of an impending death. When her cry or keening is heard, it is an horrific sound that will raise the hairs on the back of your neck. It is never forgotten. She has appeared all over Co. Wicklow and has claimed many victims, especially with her comb.

There are those in the county who have challenged her, like the man who saw her in a field one night. He returned the next day, poured petrol over the rock she was sitting on and set fire to it. There is the story of the man who was instructed by his dying mother to kill the Banshee but he failed and his mother died. The Banshee operates as well in towns and on estates as she does in the country areas. It is always best for those who encounter her to stand still and respect her while she is keening. She has killed at least two men in Co. Wicklow who failed to do so. She takes the souls of the dying from their deathbeds and was seen bending over the bed of a dying woman with her chimerical hands plunged into her chest, seeking her soul. She was enraged at being interrupted at her otherworldly work.

She has favoured locations all over county Wicklow. It is interesting to note that there is another death messenger in the county, in Wicklow Town. She is the ‘White Lady of High Street.’ She does not announce an impending death but appears to the person about to die, on that particular street. The generations old tradition states that anyone seeing her must put their affairs in order, for they will die within three days. Like the Banshee there is no negotiation to be had with this deadly sprite from the other side.

The linking of the Banshee with the crow and the raven comes from such birds being associated with death.


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