The Oxford Biblical Studies Online and Oxford Islamic Studies Online have retired. Content you previously purchased on Oxford Biblical Studies Online or Oxford Islamic Studies Online has now moved to Oxford Reference, Oxford Handbooks Online, Oxford Scholarship Online, or What Everyone Needs to Know®. For information on how to continue to view articles visit the subscriber services page.

Related Content

Related Overviews


More Like This

Show all results sharing this subject:

  • Religion


Show Summary Details


bean nighe

Quick Reference

[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

Reference entries