This past week was the full moon, and that moon is once again stirring up wild weather. Next week is all the celebrating -- some beginning this weekend -- for Friday's St. Patrick's Day. On March 7, the day of that full moon, various folklore contributors to Twitter celebrated the "Ghoul Moon." Finding information beyond Twitter on contributors can feel like traveling down a rabbit hole. Signe Maene is one of two co-founders of Salt&Mirrors&Cats along with "Superstition Sam." Looking at the Ghoul Moon, they posted a quote from Lady Wilde's book, Ancient Legends of Ireland. The quote was from the introduction to three short stories about "the Banshee." They introduced it with this illustration by Saeed Ramez.
The Banshee means, especially, the woman of the fairy race, from
van, “the Woman—the Beautiful;” the same word from which
comes Venus. Shiloh-Van was one of the names of Buddha—“the
son of the woman;” and some writers aver that in the Irish—Sullivan
(Sulli-van), may be found this ancient name of
As the Leanan-Sidhe was the acknowledged spirit of life,
giving inspiration to the poet and the musician, so the Ban-Sidhe
was the spirit of death, the most weird and awful of all the fairy
But only certain families of historic lineage, or persons gifted
with music and song, are attended by this spirit; for music and
poetry are fairy gifts, and the possessors of them show kinship to
the spirit race—therefore they are watched over by the spirit
of life, which is prophecy and inspiration; and by the spirit
of doom, which is the revealer of the secrets of death.
Sometimes the Banshee assumes the form of some sweet singing
virgin of the family who died young, and has been given the
mission by the invisible powers to become the harbinger of coming
doom to her mortal kindred. Or she may be seen at night as a
shrouded woman, crouched beneath the trees, lamenting with
veiled face; or flying past in the moonlight, crying bitterly: and
the cry of this spirit is mournful beyond all other sounds on earth,
and betokens certain death to some member of the family whenever
it is heard in the silence of the night.
The Banshee even follows the old race across the ocean and
to distant lands; for space and time offer no hindrance to the
mystic power which is selected and appointed to bear the prophecy
of death to a family. Of this a well-authenticated instance
happened a few years ago, and many now living can attest the
truth of the narrative.
A branch of the ancient race of the O’Gradys had settled in
Canada, far removed, apparently, from all the associations, traditions,
and mysterious influences of the old land of their forefathers.
But one night a strange and mournful lamentation was heard
outside the house. No word was uttered, only a bitter cry, as of
one in deepest agony and sorrow, floated through the air.
Inquiry was made, but no one had been seen near the house at
the time, though several persons distinctly heard the weird,
unearthly cry, and a terror fell upon the household, as if some
supernatural influence had overshadowed them.
Next day it so happened that the gentleman and his eldest son
went out boating. As they did not return, however, at the usual
time for dinner, some alarm was excited, and messengers were
sent down to the shore to look for them. But no tidings came
until, precisely at the exact hour of the night when the spirit-cry
had been heard the previous evening, a crowd of men
were seen approaching the house, bearing with them the dead
bodies of the father and the son, who had both been drowned
by the accidental upsetting of the boat, within sight of land, but
not near enough for any help to reach them in time.
Thus the Ban-Sidhe had fulfilled her mission of doom, after
which she disappeared, and the cry of the spirit of death was heard
At times the spirit-voice is heard in low and soft lamenting, as
if close to the window.
Not long ago an ancient lady of noble lineage was lying near
the death-hour in her stately castle. One evening, after twilight,
she suddenly unclosed her eyes and pointed to the window, with
a happy smile on her face. All present looked in the direction,
but nothing was visible. They heard, however, the sweetest
music, low, soft, and spiritual, floating round the house, and at
times apparently close to the window of the sick room.
Many of the attendants thought it was a trick, and went out to
search the grounds; but nothing human was seen. Still the wild
plaintive singing went on, wandering through the trees like the
night wind—a low, beautiful music that never ceased all through
Next morning the noble lady lay dead; then the music ceased,
and the lamentation from that hour was heard no more.
There was a gentleman also in the same country who had a
beautiful daughter, strong and healthy, and a splendid horsewoman.
She always followed the hounds, and her appearance at137
the hunt attracted unbounded admiration, as no one rode so well
or looked so beautiful.
One evening there was a ball after the hunt, and the young
girl moved through the dance with the grace of a fairy queen.
But that same night a voice came close to the father’s window,
as if the face were laid close to the glass, and he heard a mournful
lamentation and a cry; and the words rang out on the air—
“In three weeks death; in three weeks the grave—dead—dead—dead!”
Three times the voice came, and three times he heard the words;
but though it was bright moonlight, and he looked from the
window over all the park, no form was to be seen.
Next day, his daughter showed symptoms of fever, and exactly
in three weeks, as the Ban-Sidhe had prophesied, the beautiful
girl lay dead.
The night before her death soft music was heard outside the
house, though no word was spoken by the spirit-voice, and the
family said the form of a woman crouched beneath a tree, with a
mantle covering her head, was distinctly visible. But on approaching,
the phantom disappeared, though the soft, low music
of the lamentation continued till dawn.
Then the angel of death entered the house with soundless feet,
and he breathed upon the beautiful face of the young girl, and
she rested in the sleep of the dead, beneath the dark shadows of
Thus the prophecy of the Banshee came true, according to the
time foretold by the spirit-voice.
Did you notice that even "across the Pond" here in North America we are not safe from the Banshee?
I promised to say a bit more about "Lady Wilde" -- Jane Francesca Agnes Wilde, who wrote under the pen name of Speranza. Beyond her very thorough book on Irish folklore, she was a poet and supporter of the Irish nationalist movement, along with being an early advocate for women's rights, especially their better education. As if all that wasn't enough, she was Oscar Wilde's mother. It is said that when she died, since her dying request to visit Oscar in prison was refused, her spirit appeared to him in prison. A fitting end to these stories about the Banshee. (Do read the Wikipedia article as even her burial and memorial involves a bit more fighting.)
As for her book, it contains all manner of legends, human, fairy, animal, saints (eight on St. Patrick), and way more than fits this brief glimpse.
is part of a series of postings of stories under the category,
"Keeping the Public in Public Domain." The idea
behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the
authors and their immediate heirs were compensated. I feel
strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the
20th century. My
own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public
Domain I decided to share stories from them. I hope you enjoy
discovering new stories.
the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates
projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an
audience. Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing
of Public Domain stories will not occur that week. This is a return to
my regular posting of a research project here. (Don't worry, this
isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future
storytelling to an audience.) Response has convinced me that "Keeping
the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other
postings as often as I can manage it.
Public Domain story resources I recommend-
are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for
folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's
the International Folktales Collection. I have long
recommended it and continue to do so. He has loaded
Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so
you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression
you like by pressing one key. http://folkmasa.org/motiv/motif.htm
You may have noticed I'm no
longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his
offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking
specific types of stories. There's another site, FairyTalez
claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales,
folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for
phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.
Between those two sites, there
is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait,
email list for storytellers, Storytell,
discussed Online Story Sources and came up with these additional
Story-Lovers - http://www.story-lovers.com/ is now only accessible
through the Wayback Machine, described below, but the late Jackie Baldwin's
wonderful site lives on there, fully searchable manually (the Google
search doesn't work), at https://archive.org/ . It's not easy, but go to Story-lovers.com snapshot for October 22 2016 and you can click on SOS: Searching Out Stories to scroll down through the many story topics and click on the story topic that interests you.
- Zalka Csenge Virag - http://multicoloreddiary.blogspot.com
doesn't give the actual stories, but her recommendations, working her
way through each country on a continent, give excellent ideas for
finding new books and stories to love and tell.
going to find many of the links on these sites have gone down, BUT
go to the Internet Archive
Wayback Machine to find some of these old links. Tim's
site, for example, is so huge probably updating it would be a
full-time job. In the case of Story-Lovers, it's great that
Jackie Baldwin set it up to stay online as long as it did after she
could no longer maintain it. Possibly searches maintained it.
Unfortunately Storytell list member, Papa Joe is on both Tim
Sheppard's site and Story-Lovers, but he no longer maintains his old
Papa Joe's Traveling Storytelling Show website and his Library
(something you want to see!) is now only on the Wayback Machine. It
took some patience working back through claims of snapshots but finally
in December of 2006 it appears!
as of this writing whose stories can still be found by his website
is the late Chuck Larkin - http://chucklarkin.com/stories.html.
I prefer to list these sites by their complete address so they can
be found by the Wayback Machine, a.k.a. Archive.org, when that
becomes the only way to find them.
can see why I recommend these to you.
discovering even more stories