The Banshee by Patricia Lysaght

The Banshee: The Irish Death Messenger
Patricia Lysaght
Roberts Rinheardt, 1997
433 pages

It’s been a few months since I read this, but the information stands out in my mind more than most books do. I’d been talking about it recently, so i decided to go ahead and do my official review of it.

This is by far the most comprehensive, scholarly exploration of Irish banshee lore out there. Tired of fantasy fiction featuring male banshees, and confusion between banshees and other denizens of the Otherworld? This book sets the record straight.

The author draws a lot of her information from two sets of surveys about banshee lore; one is from the turn of the 20th century, and the other is from the 1970s. The surveys targeted regular, everyday people across Ireland in numerous counties, and Lysaght is careful to show the distribution of the respondents. Lysaght herself is concerned less with what mythology books have to say, and more what the common person in the country fo the banshee’s origin believed via oral tradition.

There’s also a lot of discussion as to what the banshee actually is (dead relative, faery woman, etc.) as well as her appearance. Her behavior is also scrutinized, as is the comb that is sometimes featured in anecdotes about her, and whether she is seen, heard or both. And there’s a good talk about the origins of the word bean-sidhe, “faery woman”, and the connotations thereof.

Lysaght has been absolutely meticulous in her research. Primary sources are a definite plus, and her bibliography is quite solid. Her writing style is excellent, too–rather than being bored by dry academic writing, I found myself drawn into her quest to find more information about this enigmatic member of mythology.

Five pawprints out of five.

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Daimonic Reality – Patrick Harpur

Daimonic Reality: A Field Guide to the Otherworld
Patrick Harpur
Pine Winds Press, 2003
329 pages

If you have even the smallest interest in the Otherworld, read this book.

Harpur examines phenomena ranging from UFO sightings to black dogs and phantom cats to fairies and crop circles (and more). He regards them not as purely literal, but as denizens of what he terms daimonic reality. Daimonic reality seems in its nature to be metaphorical, but it has a very real effect on our world as well.

Drawing on Jung and Yeats, travelling to the Anima Mundi, Collective Unconscious, and Imagination-with-a-big-I, the author reveals the appearances of daimons which have evolved over time to meet our own changes, how the beings known as fairies who used to show themselves to us as diminunitive humanoids in green coats, now appear as alien humanoids in silver spacesuits–and why they’ve changed.

Harpur isn’t a debunker; he doesn’t attempt to disprove the Otherworld’s existence; rather, just the opposite. Harpur provides a unique and substantial set of theories regarding the long-running tradition of the Otherworld that has long fascinated humanity.

This is a truly well-written piece of work. It is academic rather than New Age, and the research provides a solid base for his theories. It’s not a dry read, though newbies may find it to be a bit difficult, but it’s well worth the investment of time and money. Those who identify as Otherkin will find some useful ideas on metaphorical reality that can be applied to being Other.

I can’t even begin to do it justice; all I have to say it–read it!

Five pawprints out of five.

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