SCOTTISH BEAN NIGHE
She frequently appears as a washerwoman at the banks of
streams. She is called the bean nighe (pronounced "ben-neeyah").
The bean nighe, as legend says, can be seen at the side of desolate
streams and pools washing the blood stained clothing of those who are
about to meet their maker. The clothing she washes takes different forms depending upon the
legend. Sometimes it is burial shrouds, others it is the bloodstained
clothing of those who will soon die.
She was a type of the ominous ‘Washer woman of the Ford’ in the
highland region. This particular version of the
bean sidhe is Scottish in origin and unlike the Irish version
bean sidhe (banshee),
who is very beautiful, she is extremely ugly. She is sometimes described as
having a single nostril, one large buck tooth, and extremely long
breasts, which she must throw over her shoulders to prevent them
getting in the way of her washing.
Her long stringy hair is
partially covered with a hood and a white gown or shroud is her main
wardrobe. Dressed in green, she was a small in stature and had
Though she was seen as an
evil portent in the Scottish tradition, she was not always
a portent of one’s own death as in the Irish version. If
she was approached in the correct way she would grant
wishes. All one had to do was get between her and the
water. Then one would be given the opportunity to ask
three wishes and three questions. But there was a catch,
the three questions would have to be given truthfully in
return in the form of traditional exchange between humans
and supernatural creatures.
banshee (Irish), bean sidhe (Irish), bean nighe or cointeach(Scottish), cyhiraeth
(Cornish), cyoerraeth or gyrach y rhibyn (Welch), eur-cunnere noe
'Twas the banshee's lonely wailing
Well I knew the voice of death,
On the night wind slowly sailing,
O'er the bleak and gloomy heath.