bean nighe

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[ScG, washerwoman, laundrymaid].

A female wraith of Scottish Gaelic folklore who washes bloodstained clothes when some person in the neighbourhood is about to die, usually in battle; a Scottish instance of the pan-Celtic washer at the ford. The bean nighe is usually thought to be small and slender, often wearing green, sometimes with red webbed feet. She haunts desolate lakes and streams, and although she portends evil a person does better to see her before the bean nighe sees the mortal. Anyone rash enough to seize one of her hanging breasts and suck it may claim to be her foster-child and will be spared. The Caointeag of the Isle of Islay and Kintyre is a fiercer and more formidable variation of the bean nighe; the Cadineag of Glencoe is gentler. In Ireland the role of the fearful washer or washer at the ford is subsumed in the banshee. A Breton counterpart is the tunnerez noz.

Subjects: Religion.

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