Omen spirits of Scotland and Ireland - from the Old Irish, "ben side" (literally 'fairy woman'), a weeping harbinger of death. Hearing the Banshee's wail came to predict a death in the family and seeing the Banshee portends one's own death.
Traditionally, the Banshee cries for five great Gaelic families: the O'Gradys, the O'Neills, the O'Briens, the O'Connors, and the Kavanaghs. These families had a fairy woman associated with them, who would make an appearance after a death in the family to sing this lament. When a family member had died far away, the sound of the Banshee would be the first intimation of the death.
Although not always seen, her mourning call is heard, usually at night. In 1437, King James I of Scotland was approached by a Banshee who foretold his murder. There are records of several human Banshees attending the great houses of Ireland and the courts of local Irish kings. In some parts of Leinster, she is referred to as the bean chaointe (keening woman) whose wail can be so piercing that it shatters glass. In Kerry, the keen is experienced as a "low, pleasant singing"; in Tyrone as "the sound of two boards being struck together"; and on Rathlin Island as "a thin, screeching sound somewhere between the wail of a woman and the moan of an owl".
The Banshee may also appear in a variety of other forms, such as that of a hooded crow, stoat, hare and weasel - animals associated in Ireland with witchcraft...