by M J Steel Collins | Follow on Twitter
The Bean Nighe is described as the Scottish version of The Irish Banshee. Though not prone to wandering around screaming, she is most likely to be seen washing blood from the shrouds of those who are about to die in burns. The Bean Nighe wanders near isolated burns and other waterways. She is the Scots Gaelic version of the Celtic Washerwoman at the Ford and regarded as the Crone aspect of the Triple Goddess. Older versions can be found in Irish and Welsh mythology, Goddesses from whom the Bean Nighe is derived. The Irish and Welsh versions are the Morrigan and Modron respectively. Other Scots Gaelic names include Ban Nighechain (little washerwoman) and nigheag na h-ath (little washerwoman of the ford). A group of Bean Nighe are known collectively as Mnathan Nigh.
The Bean Nighe, in Scots Gaelic tradition, is thought to be the spirit of a woman who died young, or in childbirth, who is bound to act as a Bean Nighe until she reaches the time when she would have died of old age. The most recognisable feature of the Bean Nighe is her webbed feet. Appearance wise, she is dressed in green, has straggly hair, one nostril, a protruding tooth and pendulous breasts. She can appear both as an Old Hag and beautiful young woman.
She is regarded as evil, but doesn’t necessarily portent your own death if you come across her. There are, in fact, some handy tricks when dealing with the Bean Nighe. One is to make sure you see her before she sees you. Following the traditional exchange between human and supernatural being, where-in the human must answer three questions truthfully, you can then ask the Bean Nighe for the answers to three questions and for three wishes.
It is also possible to get a list of those who are about to die, though you have to get between her and the water. You can get the protection of the Bean Nighe by becoming her foster-child if you do the following, which is, basically, suckle her breast.
It does get you a wish though!