The Banshee is female and she has been appointed the task of warning the members of specific families of their impending death.  Typically, the Banshee takes the guise of a riddled, old hag, a dignified matron, or a young woman.  When she appears, she is usually cloaked in the winding sheet of the dead or a gray, hooded cloak.

According to ancient traditions, the banshee could only wail or cry for specific families.  The list of family names has since become much larger due to the prevalence of intermarriages within the original five major families.  The original five families included: the O’Briens, the O’Connors, the O’Grady’s, the O’Neills, and the Kavanaghs.

Occasionally, the Banshee takes on the appearance of a washerwoman.  When this happens, she is referred to as the bean-nighe.  While she takes on this appearance, she is seen washing lots of blood from the clothes of those whom she is supposed to warn of their impending death.

The Banshee may also take on the guise of a human when she appears to someone.  In fact, several accounts of just such an occurrence have been recorded from ancient times.  Many of these stories retell visits by a Banshee in human form that have attended the courts of Irish kings or the homes of important people.  During their visits, they warned individuals of their impending doom in the form of death.

Banshees have also been known to take on the appearance of specific animals.  This list of animals includes the hare, weasel, stoat, and hooded crow.  In Ireland, these particular animals are associated with witchcraft.  Therefore, the appearance of a Banshee in this form seems even more ominous.

Typically, the Banshee wails or calls out during the still of the night.  This only happens when someone is about to pass on to the next world or die.  The Banshee foretells the death of the person to whom she calls out or appears to that night. 

The sounds of the Banshee have been described differently in various parts of Ireland.  In some parts, it is an ungodly, shrill sound while in others it is much less ominous or frightful. 

In particular, the sound the Banshee makes in Leinster has been described as a piercing wail that can shatter glass.  The sound the Banshee makes in Tyrone has been described as the sound that is made when a couple of boards are struck together.  The sound the Banshee makes on Rathlin Island has been described as a high pitched screeching sound that falls somewhere between the sound of an owl and the sounds of a wailing woman. 

The sound the Banshee makes in Kerry has been described as a pleasant sound that resembles singing.  No matter where you hear the sound of the Banshee or what the Banshee sounds like when you hear her, the sound itself foretells ominous things.