Heritage and Culture

Folklore Friday - The Bean Nighe

By Sophie

Today we're looking at the Bean Nighe. This Scottish fairy is seen as an omen of death, who may also bring messages from the Otherworld.

The words 'Bean Nighe' interestingly translate from Scottish Gaelic to 'washer woman'. This comes from the fact that the Bean Nighe wanders near deserted streams. She is also nicknamed the 'Washer at the Ford' and is known to wash the blood from the grave clothes of those who are about to die. This spooky spirit is said to be the result of a woman who, once was living, and died in childbirth. Due to her untimely death, she is doomed to do this work until her life would have naturally ended.

Although she came to this job from a living body, she is known to have only one nostril, one large protruding tooth and webbed feet. She is normally dressed in green.

The story goes that, if you are careful enough, you may ask the Bean Nighe three questions. These are only answered, however, if you answer three questions first. If you answer all three questions you may gain a wish from her. If you pass by her politely, she will also tell you the names of the chosen, who are going to die.