Bean-nighe (Washer Woman)

Bean-nighe washing shroud. Courtesy of

The name bean-nighe or “washer woman” seems harmless enough but this was one woman no one wanted to meet. A cousin of the banshee in Irish folktales, this creature heralded death. Banshees would scream before a person was about to die. More often than not these people heard the wail and died of fright. In Scotland, similar creatures known as caoineags (‘weepers’) wailed before catastrophe. These beings were usually associated with particular clans in Scotland. For example, members of the MacDonald clan heard their caoineag wailing the night before the Massacre of Glencoe. They heeded her warning and hid, thus surviving the slaughter. Continue reading