Irish Folklore: The Banshee

The Banshee (bean sidhe) was probably the first creature of Irish Mythology, or Mythology in general, that I remember hearing about. All my friends at the time claimed to have seen her sitting on their back wall combing her hair. Their version was a haggard old woman with long grey hair and skeletal features under a long ragged grey dress. I was told that if I met the eyes of the Banshee, she would become enraged and throw her comb at my throat, slicing my head clean off. Naturally, as a 7-year-old, I was terrified!

As I grew older, I became less scared of the Banshee and more fascinated by the legend of her. I began researching, discovering what I could. I wasn’t surprised by just how many variations of the legend there are. In some she is seen in the guise I described above, in others she’s a beautiful young woman with long white hair and dressed elegantly in a silk gown. She is seen as an escort to the other side, or she is seen as a creature who relishes inflicting death on an individual. Whatever her purpose, what everyone can agree on (in Ireland, at least) is that she is always present before death.the_lady_of_shalott___banshee_by_tenshi_naelle-d3g8ahr

Her keening (an Irish word for wailing) is heard, usually at night, and can go on for several nights before the death. Some resemble her keening to the barn owl, the fox and the cat (if you’ve heard cats mating, you know what I’m talking about). Her keen is described as a soft sobbing sound, or as a piercing scream that is designed to torture the souls of the living.

According to legend, the Banshee attaches herself on to families with O and Mc/Mac in their names (eek!), but intermarriage may have extended her reach beyond those names.

Where did she come from? Legend has it that she is a victim of a violent crime e.g. murder, or she died in childbirth. Contrary to the assumption regarding the particular family names, she is said to attach herself to her own family, warning them of a pending demise.

Whatever her story, the Banshee, for me, is one of the scariest and most fascinating pieces of Irish Mythology.



Going Cruelty-Free: Don’t Be Fooled!

When I decided to go cruelty-free, I had to acknowledge that there are products who claim to be cruelty-free that in fact are not. My first step was consult PETA’s cruelty-free list but, as I stated at the beginning of this blog series, most of the products on that list are not available in Ireland. I also explored the Leaping Bunny list and downloaded the app onto my phone, but again, many of the products I would have to order online and pay delivery charges. Lush was my safe option in the beginning because I could be certain that their products are indeed cruelty-free. Unfortunately they’re also quite expensive, which is why I explored.

A Google search on what products were trying to fool their consumers didn’t turn up much. I was advised that there are only THREE labels to trust when it comes to buying cruelty-free products:

  1. Leaping Bunny
  2. Caring ConsumerLabels
  3. CCF Rabbit

How could I believe that, though? I had seen other labels that were genuine too, such as Batiste. Even Lush don’t sport any of the three labels. Some approved cruelty-free brands sport labels such as ‘Approved by the Vegan Society’ or ‘Fight Animal Testing’. This makes my situation a little more difficult, as it came be frustrating to come across a cruelty-free label and then having to research it before you purchase.

One such product I was nearly fooled by was Original Source. They claimed to be cruelty-free on the back of their products, but when I did my research, I discovered that this was not the case at all. It’s absolutely sickening that companies would try to fool their consumers like that. Perhaps I have to believe it due to the new EU regulations prohibiting products to be sold containing animal tested ingredients, but I know that they are in the minority who test their products on animals outside the EU, and so I refuse to purchase it.

From what I’ve seen, The Body Shop does not bear any cruelty-free labels, yet I have found them on several cruelty-free lists. It could be due to the fact that their parent company, L’Oreal, promotes animal testing, though this is not always the case, e.g. Burt’s Bees.

I encourage anyone going cruelty-free to research the label on the products they wish to buy. While it is important not to trust every label that claims to be cruelty-free, don’t assume that it isn’t cruelty-free just because it’s not one of the three labels listed above.

Thank you for reading this series, I hope you enjoyed it! Happy shopping!

Going Cruelty Free #5: Nail Care

I rarely wear nail varnish because I just can’t coat my nails properly, plus I find it starts chipping almost immediately. What I’ll be talking about in this entry is nail care, rather than nail colour. My nails are always breaking, the slightest impact on them and they’re chipping. I expressed this concern to a former colleague of mine and she suggested I use Sally Hansen nail hardener. At the time, of course, I didn’t know whether or not Sally Hansen tested on animals. So I bought a bottle. I was delighted with the results, my nails were much more solid and didn’t break as easily. Problem solved!

Now that I’m going cruelty-free, however, I must look for an alternative because Sally Hansen is certainly not cruelty-free. The stories I’ve heard about them are horrific and I won’t repeat them here. I first tried health food stores and I would like to list the products they stock, which doesn’t include nail hardener, but which do look after your nails and possibly strengthen them in the long run.

  • Dr. Hauschka
  • Tisserand
  • Solo
  • NHP
  • Phyto
  • Solgar
  • Thursday Plantation
  • AHA Nail Clear

All of these brands are available in Irish health stores and/or on But back to my nail hardener solution. Unfortunately Lush didn’t have anything of the sort, on their website at least, so I went with, you guessed it, Superdrug!

While Superdrug’s own brand nail care is limited, they do stock nail hardener, which does not use the same horrific methods that Sally Hansen does to ensure that it works. So if you’re like me and your nails are breaking easily and constantly, your cruelty-free options are plentiful.


Going Cruelty Free #4: Dental Hygiene

For me, dental hygiene is more important than anything else when it comes to looking after my body. I have had periodontal treatment, as well as orthodontic treatment, so keeping my gums and teeth healthy is a priority. What worried me about going cruelty free in dental products is finding out that my prescribed mouthwash was tested on animals. I want to take the word of professionals so I don’t end up in that periodontist’s ridiculously comfortable, but greatly expensive, chair. I decided to start small and changed my toothpaste. I had been using Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief, so first I went looking for a cruelty-free toothpaste, and naturally, I first tried Superdrug.

I’m still using Oral B dental floss because I’m a waste not, want not kind of person. And mouthwash, my prescribed mouthwash, is Corsodyl Daily, which unfortunately does test on animals. What are my alternatives?


Superdrug have their own dental range, complete with Leaping Bunny logo, and my first dental purchase from them was their own brand sensitive toothpaste. So far, I have no complaints, I guess I’ll learn on my next dental visit if my gums are still healthy. They also stock their own brand, cruelty-free mouthwash and dental floss (including sensitive floss), which will be worth a try once my Corsodyl and Oral B floss runs out.


Lush aren’t big on dental hygiene, but they do stock tooth tabs and tooth powder. I couldn’t imagine how tooth tabs worked, but apparently you bite down on them and they create a foam you can brush into your teeth and gums. Knowing my luck, I’d accidentally swallow them before biting them! Their tooth powder is only available in their Oxford Street store in London, so it doesn’t apply to this blog.

Available in [most] Health Stores

It’s safe to say that most cruelty-free dental products will be found in health stores, such as Holland & Barrett and The Health Store. You can also find them on, an Irish website. These products include:

  • Jack N’Jill Kids
  • Desert Essence
  • Weleda
  • Lavera
  • Kingfisher
  • Optima
  • Aloe Dent
  • Dr. Organic

All of these brands stock toothpastes and mouthwashes, but be sure to check about dental floss. While pricy, they are guaranteed not to be tested on animals. Also check their ingredients to ensure that your teeth and gums are getting the appropriate treatment.

As always, if anyone knows of other brands, especially those available in Ireland, that are cruelty-free, please let me know in the comments below.