The Washerwoman: Bean Nighe

  • Name(s): Bean Nighe (pronounced ‘ben-nee-yeh‘ or ‘ben-neeya‘) translates to ‘Washer Woman’ The Bean Nighe is also called an Nighechain (Little Washerwoman’ or Nigheag Na H-Ath (Little Washer at the Ford). The collective term for Bean Nighe is Mnathan Nighe.
  • Country of Origin: Scotland
  • Monstrous Origins: The Bean Nighe is believed to be a woman who died too soon – most commonly in childbirth – who is destined to be a Bean Nighe until the age she was originally meant to die. She is also considered to be either a representation of the crone aspect of the Gaelic triple goddess, or a member of the ‘banshee’ class of faery.
  • Physical Appearance: The Bean Nighe takes on a feminine form, usually that of an an old washerwoman. She has a weathered face; her wailing mouth contains a single protruding tooth and her large, hooked nose has a single large nostril. The Bean Nighe’s face is framed by thick grey hair which hangs long and in disarray. She has webbed feet, and mostly wears green. Mnathan Nighe are also known for having drooping breasts which get in the way of their work, so they often throw them back over their shoulders.
    Her physical appearance changes depending on the locality, so this description is a mix of her most mentioned attributes.
  • Creepiest Feature: Either the breasts thrown over the shoulders or the wailing lament she sings whilst washing the grave-clothes of people who are about to die.

 

  • Kill Method: Like her folkloric relative the banshee, the Bean Nighe does not kill people. In some stories she does, however, smack people in the legs with the death shroud she is washing if they interrupt her task. This paralyses them.
  • Hobbies: Washing clothes in various bodies of water, granting people three wishes if they manage to get between her and the water without her noticing, having her breasts suckled by random people.
  • Omen(s) and Associations(s): The Bean Nighe, like the banshee, is an omen of death. She is most commonly associated with Scotland, but tales of the Mnathan Nighe also crop up in Irish folklore.
  • Favourite Food/Drink: One would assume the stream water that has been bloodied by the shirts she washes in it, but who knows? If you ever meet one, will you ask?
  • Most Interesting Legend: The legend of Ewan MacLaine tells that, at Loch Sguabain on the island of Mull, he came upon a Bean Nighe washing his shirt in a stream. MacLaine wanted to know, of course, how he was going to die and was lucky enough to know the correct procedure for procuring such information from a Bean Nighe.
    And so, armed with this knowledge, the brave Ewan MacLaine snuck up behind the an Nighechain, seized one of the breasts she had thrown over her shoulder, and began to suck the nipple whilst declaring that she was now his foster mother. She was now (for some reason) obliged to stop washing his shirt and acknowledge him. Lovingly, but if not slightly terrifyingly, she warned her new foster son that he would only meet his doom if he did not receive an unsolicited piece of butter from his wife at breakfast the next day. Ewan, assured he would be fine, went home to bed. The next morning at breakfast his wife announced that he should have only dry bread as they had run out of butter. The Bean Nighe’s omen had been correct, and Ewan MacLaine’s head was chopped off in a clan feud later that day.
  • Favourite Film/TV Show: Suck

 

  • Likelihood of Killing You: 2/10 – the Mnathan Nighe only wash the shirts. The paralysis, however, might eventually kill you somehow.
  • Likelihood of Existing for Real: 7/10 because maybe once a guy saw a topless old lady with saggy boobs washing a shirt in a stream and he, for some reason, went and sucked upon her breasts and she told him he was gonna die… who knows?

 

Monster Music:

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Sources:

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