We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about the Bean Nighe.
The bean nighe is a fairy spirit in Scottish folklore similar to a banshee in Irish folklore. Instead of simply wailing for the dead, however, the bean nighe can be seen at lonely, deserted streams, washing the bloody burial clothes of those about to die and singing a song of lament. Bean nighe means washerwoman in Scottish Gaelic. In some stories, the bean nighe is the spirit of a woman who has died in childbirth.
Usually the bean nighe appears as an ugly old woman, sometimes with only one nostril and only one protruding tooth, and webbed feet, but sometimes she appears as a beautiful young woman. She is usually dressed in green.
It is not always the person who encounters her or a loved one of that person who is going to die, and the bean nighe is not always an ill omen. It is said that of a person can sneak up on her she will answer three questions if the person answers three questions truthfully first. She may also give the names of the people whose burial clothes she is washing. But it is still dangerous to approach her because if a person doesn’t sneak up on her successfully, she do a great amount of harm.