When someone dies, the Gaelic women wail a vocal lament. It’s called keening and it is singing, wailing and mournful. Sometimes a faerie woman will keen for a human, originally out of attachment to a particular family. Being a faerie, she’ll just start early. Like soon before they actually die. She is a Bean-Sidhe, a wailing woman of the Faerie Mounds.
Originally, the Bean-Sidhe is not a creature unto herself. She is just a Sidhe, a faerie, and in the most ancient days of Sidhe lore, would be certain faeries attached to a certain house and family. As we recall from yesterday, the Sidhe (Shee) started out as ancestral spirits and later evolved through story into a race in their own rights.
As said, when a Gaelic soul would die, there would be keening, and certain women with great voices would be much in demand to keen at the wake. Great families would have their own special keeners, but five of the greatest Gaelic house, the O’Neills, the O’Briens, the O’Connors, the O’gradys and the Kavanaghs, had there own Faerie keeners. This Faerie keener, being all supernatural and everything, would begin keening shortly before the actual death, her wail also helping to guide the newly dead into the Otherworld.
Attached to the family (because originally she herself was a dead family ancestor) proximity was unimportant. If a family member was far away and died (or about to i assume) she would begin her keen no matter the distance and was often the first alarm that someone far off had died.
This is where the Bean-Sidhe came from. As these great families intermarried and outermarried the faeries presiding over their Houses multiplied and the Bean-Sidhe diversified.
She usually wears a green dress with a grey cloak. Her eyes are blood red from crying. She stands outside a house, usually near the woods. She has a silver comb she sometimes draw through her hair which relates to the tradition of tearing out ones hair in grief. This comb also appears in Gaelic mermaid myths. If you ever see a silver comb lying in the woods or near the sea, DON’T pick the damn thing up. If you do, they’ll come for you.
However, unlike mermaids, Bean-Sidhe are benign. They have a sister, the Lianhan Sidhe however who is not. The Lainhan Sidhe desires the love of mortal men, but if they fall for her they’re screwed. Their desire for her will consume and destroy them. She will never bed them in this world, so they must come the Otherworld to have her. So you gotta die just to tap that ass. Not cool.
Numerous Bean-Sidhe wail when it is the death of some really important and it’s said the O’Brien family had a Bean-Sidhe named Eevul who had an entourage of 25 other Bean-Sidhe so you can imagine the cacophony if an O’Brien died.
There is a specific type of Bean-Sidhe called the Bananach, who only hang out around battlefields. Sometimes the Bean-Sidhe will appear as an old woman washing bloody garments.
The Bean-Sidhe has counterparts in both Scotland and Wales, although in Scotrland theirs is a Bean-Nighe,a and in Walesit’s is a Cyhyraeth, and moans instead of wailing.