Banshees, Angry Octopuses and Free Lunch
To be warned of impending grief by grief, and other childhood obsessions
What is it about November? October disappears like too little whipped cream on top of overheated hot chocolate. But November? November doesn’t melt. This week has been here so long, I can remember the start of it. And I know others have had longer weeks, like anyone who works at Twitter or the poor people counting ballots in Arizona.
Either way, I am very glad it is Friday.
Riley had the day off work, so I pushed my work till later this evening. (Hi! It is later this evening!) We got my glasses fixed. (I can see for the first time in six weeks!) And then we saw The Banshees of Inisherin. Have you heard of that movie? It’s about the end of a friendship. (Well…that’s one of the things it’s about.)
I thought it would be dark! It’s set on the outskirts of the Irish Civil War and the preview is not…light-hearted. But I went into it expecting a Fargo vibe, I guess. And it is a much bleaker, knottier thing. I was so tense the whole time, my jaw can’t quite loosen up still. I really recommend it and also cannot recommend it, if that makes sense. (But you should see it.)
It’s helpful to know about the Irish Civil War (and the centuries that led up to it) before seeing the movie. My piece this week about Derry Girls, colonization and conflict gives a bit of the background for the centuries part. And this from Alissa Wilkinson is a good start on the Irish Civil War bit. Knowing a little about banshees can’t hurt either.
Do you remember the first time you learned about banshees? For me, it was as a little tiny kid watching Darby O’Gill and the Little People. There’s a wailing banshee in that movie and she terrified me. And entranced me.
I became so obsessed with wailing figure from Irish folklore. A banshee is a feminine spirit that you can hear keening the night before a family member dies. My biggest fear, even as a kindergartner, was the death of a family member. I thought hearing the banshee’s keening caused the death. So if you put your hands over your ears at the right time, your family member wouldn’t die. But how would you know when to cover your ears? It was impossible! Maybe it was best to keep your ears covered all the time.
I understood the myth better as I got older. The banshee predicted the death, but she did not cause it. Her grief preceded what had to be. Gosh, that’s gorgeous and sad and terrifying. To be warned of grief by grief. When my dad died, I felt little again and I remember thinking, wildly, briefly - but I didn’t hear any keening last night.