Translated as the Witch of Rhibyn, the Gwrach y Rhibyn is a Welsh spirit that warns that death is fast approaching. Often compared to an Irish banshee, the Gwrach y Rhibyn takes on a hideous appearance. She often appears as quite ugly with long, black, knotted hair, black teeth, bone-thin arms and legs, a pallid complexion, and, in some cases, leather wings.
Many stories of the Gwrach y Rhibyn seems to place her in or near a water source and she seems particularly enjoy suddenly leaping and scaring the victim. Other times, she will silently stalk her victims. The victims may feel a tingle or as if they’re being watched but the Gwrach y Rhibyn will not reveal herself until they pass a water channel or a crossroads.
When the victim is finally able to lock eyes with her she presents herself in all her horrible glory and shrieks. The person who sees the ghost is being warned of their imminent death, or the imminent death of someone close to them. Once the Gwrach y Rhibyn has revealed herself she utters one of a few different cries. For example, f the person who is going to de is a man she yells: “Fy ngwr! Fy ngwr!” (which translates to My husband! My husband). Or, if the soon-to-be-deceased is a child she’ll yell “Fy mlentyn! Fy mlentyn bach!” (which translates to My child! My little child!)
In addition, to be a frightening harbinger of impending death, she also has other elements that make her all the more frightening. Despite her misleading calls mourning a child who is about to de, it is said she actually enjoys capturing and drinking their blood. She never kills the children, though. Instead, she terrifies them and takes a fair amount of their blood leaving them to find their way home alone. They often appear pale and sickly when they finally do arrive home. It seems she may even feed on the blood of babies by directly visiting them in their cribs. If a babe was healthy and strong when it was first born but grows to become more sickly and pale it is said that the Gwrach y Rhibyn must be feasting on it.
The blood stains her teeth black and adds to her horrendous appearance. Some descriptions of her also note that her mouth is caked in blood or she has one particularly long, a hollow tooth that she uses to drink the blood of the children.
Like small children and babies who are often defenseless, it was also said that she would drink the blood of the old and bedridden because they could not stop her advances.
Although strong, Gwrach y Rhibyn can be fought off with physical force. That is the only way to ward her off or remove her from feasting on another human.
The above image is of Bunworth Banshee, Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland by Thomas Crofton Croker, 1825. It is licensed in the public domain.