Welsh: from hiraeth: "mourning"
"The grieving one"--a type of Welsh bean sidhe.
She is more often heard than seen, usually at a crossroads or a stream, where she would wash her hands, a detail which echoes the Washer at the Ford. The unfortunate passer-by would hear her exclaim "my husband!" or "my child!" or "my wife!"--all depending on which loved one was to die. Or, if the cries had no words, it was believed that the hearer was the intended.
According to Dr. Rhys in his Celtic Folklore: Welsh and Manx:
"The picture usually given of the Cyhiraeth is of the most repellent kind: tangled hair, long black teeth, wretched, skinny, shrivelled arms of unwonted length out of all proportion to the body."
The image is reminiscent of the Cailleach. He goes on to say that she is an ancestress figure, like the bean sidhe.
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Mary Jones © 2004