A to Z Challenge Folklore

Quake Before the Sluagh #folklore #AtoZChallenge

Q is for Quake

Learn more about the challenge here.

I’m doing folklore and book review posts to reach and please a larger audience. Previous years have shown select interest in both and to minimise blogging throughout the year, I’m focusing my efforts on April.

If you’d rather check out my book review for today, go here.

Learn more about the A-Z Challenge here.

Not sure where I first encountered the idea of the sluagh, but I think it was probably in a book.

Sluagh in the woods. Image credit.


The Fairy Tradition in Britain by Lewis Spence [1948]

Formerly it was the custom to close the doors and windows on the west side of the house in which anyone lay at the point of death lest the Sluagh might enter and do him spiritual scaith.

The air rang with music like that of innumerable silver bells, and with the voices of the Sluagh calling to their hounds. “These were the spirits of the departed on a hunting expedition, travelling westwards… towards Tir-na-n-oige, the Land of Youth”.

The name Sluagh has reference to a host of supernatural beings who are thought of as flying through the air, or even as residing in the firmament. The woid Sluagh signifies a host”, “a multitude”, while the expression Sluagh eutrom implies “the aery”, or “the gay multitude”, or “host”. In Irish lore the expression usually refers to the dead spirit-folk.

In Scotland, practically the same belief prevailed. The Sluagh were believed to be the spirits of mortals who had died. They are said to fly up and down over the face of the earth in flocks, “like starlings”. Some accounts describe them as those dead human beings who cannot enter heaven until they disburden themselves of sin (43). They come from the West and it is thought that they hover above the spots where they trangressed in life.

The Sluagh in their flights frequently discharge arrows against mortals, a trait which associates them with the fairies proper.

The lively belief of the people of the West Highlands in the existence of the Sluagh is illustrated in a story recorded by J. F. Campbell. A man who was popularly believed to “go with the fairies” was walking with a friend. Seeming to grow weary, he begged his companion to “keep a tight hold on him”, as he could see the Sluagh becking and bowing to him, evidently a preliminary advance to carrying him off. His friend gripped him tightly, but he “began to hop and dance in the air” until at last he was levitated from the ground, and was found a couple of miles farther on (48).

Sluagh. Image credit

Element Encyclopedia of Fairies by Lucy Cooper

The Sluagh

(or the Host) Malevolent spirits of the Scottish Highlands, believed to be the souls of the unforgiven dead. Like a flock of birds, they are said to fly above the Earth, battling one another, shooting arrows at animals and humans on the ground, and sometimes recruiting mortals to their number to do their bidding.


Ancient Assyrian mythology describes an ekimmu as an undead spirit of the wind, possessed of vengeful powers and hostile to mortals. Forever denied entrance to the Underworld, these spirits were feared for their ability to attach themselves to the living.

*More can be read in the book.

Sluagh. Image credit: creature & moon

Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology by Theresa Bane

The Slaugh

The slaugh (“the host”) was what the unseelie court was called in Scotland; the fairies of the slaugh were believed to be fallen angels who roam the sky at night looking for lost souls. Slaugh were said to be responsible for causing death and sickness in domestic animals.

*More can be read in the book.

Sluagh. Image credit

The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore by Patricia Monaghan


Scottish folkloric figures. The “Host of the Unforgiven Dead” were not fairies, for they rode forth only at night. They were the ghosts or souls of those who had died without being forgiven for earthly transgressions; they were trapped in this world and could not move on to the Otherworld. They could never travel in daylight, being forced to reside always in gloomy night, and they waged endless war upon each other, leaving stripes of their blood behind each morning.

*More can be read in the book.

Sluagh. Image credit

The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft and Wicca by Rosemary Ellen Guiley

The Sluagh, or the Host, is a band of the unforgiven dead of the Highland fairy folk (see fairies).

*More can be read in the book.

Sluagh. Image credit: creature & moon

Faery Magick by Sirona Knight

Sidhe: The word means “people of the faery mounds.” A distinction is often made between the “sidhe” who are seen walking on the ground after sunset, and the “Sluagh Sidhe,” the faery host who travel through the air at night and are known to abduct mortals. There are also guardian “sidhe” associated with the lakes of Ireland and Scotland. These distinct categories of “sidhe” beings tie in with the testimonies of seers who divide the “sidhe” into Wood spirits, Water spirits, and Air spirits, i.e., the Elemental spirits.

*More can be read in the book.

Sluagh. Image credit: moon & bird

Further Reading:

Sluagh. Image credit

Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel

A shadow isn’t merely a shadow. Especially not at night. The Sluagh have been spoken about in whispers for thousands of years. At first they were seen as a specific type of fae, but when Christianity came to the Celtic world, they became the unforgiven dead, the ones too bad to even enter hell. They could be seen as a flock of birds flying in a crescent. They were especially active on Samhain. They only flew about at night. They apparently didn’t approach from the east and preferred the west. Which is why west-facing windows were always closed when someone in the house was ill, so they couldn’t enter and steal the soul.

The sluagh, or the host, would hover around houses with dying people in it so they could capture the soul and make it part of them. Screaming would fill the house once the deed was done.

They were supposedly able to shapeshift between winged, corpse-like creatures and birds or even just darkness. They huddled in dark, forgotten places during day-time, coming out at night to terrorise humans.

Because they weren’t allowed in Faerie or the Otherworld, they needed another source of power. They found it in humans. Either they devoured the souls of the nearly-dead, or they abducted people from the earth, feeding on them during their mad dash through the sky.

In some traditions, they are part of the Wild Hunt and of the Unseelie Court. But for the most part, they are an entity all their own. They are mostly confined to Irish and Scottish traditions.

There are two ways to accidentally call to the sluagh: one is to utter their name. The other is to have a hopeless longing in your heart, a sadness so bad that you could die of a broken heart. The sluagh will have you for dinner if you don’t figure out how to see the bright side.

Whether part of the Unseelie Court or a group of their own, it is impossible to escape them once they’ve picked up your scent and started the hunt.

Sluagh. Image credit

Sluagh in Modern Culture

The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa (My Review)

He appeared to smile, which was rather eerie. “Just sit tight, human. They will be here soon.”

“What are you talking…” I trailed off as a cold wind whipped across the parking lot, swirling the snow into eddies, making them dance and sparkle over the drifts. The branches rattled, an unearthly wailing rising over the wind and trees. I shivered, and saw Ash close his eyes.

“You called Them, caith sith?”

“They owed me a favour,” Grimalkin purred, as Puck glanced nervously at the sky. “We do not have the time to locate a trod, and this is the fastest way to travel from here. Deal with it.”

“What’s going on?” I asked, as both Ash and Puck moved closer, tense and protective. “Who’d he call? What’s coming?”

“The Host,” Ash murmured darkly.

“What…” But at that moment I heard a great rushing noise, like thousands of leaves rustling in the wind. I looked up and saw a ragged cloud moving toward us at a frightening speed, blotting out the sky and stars.

“Hang on,” Puck said, and grabbed my hand.

The black mass rushed toward us, screaming with a hundred voices. I saw dozens of faces, eyes, open mouths, before it was upon us, and I cringed back in fear. Cold, cold fingers snatched at me, bearing me up. My feet left the ground in a rush, and I was hurtling skyward, a shriek lodging in my throat. Icy wind surrounding me, tearing at my hair and clothes, numbing me to all feeling except a small spot of warmth where Puck still held my hand. I closed my eyes, tightening my grip as the Host bore us away into the night.

The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa

The Green Rider by Kristen Britain (My Review)

The Gray One had nothing to fear from an owl preoccupied with its early morning hunt. He spread his arms wide to begin the summoning. They trembled from the effort of having cracked the wall. “Come to me, O Mortal Spirits. You are mine to hold, bound to me in this world. Walk with me now and take me where I must go.”

He willed them to him, and they couldn’t resist his call. A host of spirits, like a watery blur, gathered around him. Some sat mounted on horses, others stood afoot. Among them were soldiers, old men, women, and children. Ordinary citizens stood beside knights. Beggars huddled next to nobility. All were impaled with two black arrows each.

“By the arrows of Kanmorhan Vane, I command you to walk with me now. We will walk on the quick time roads of the dead.”

The Green Rider by Kristen Britain

The Castle of Spirit and Sorrow by Steffanie Holmes (My Review)

I whirled around. Black clouds rolled across the previously clear sky, blocking out the moon and plunging the garden into darkness.

The walls groaned as the earth itself rumbled. I clung to Flynn as the movement jolted us off the bed.

The ride of the Slaugh had begun…

There was no looking away as the cloud burst like a balloon. Horses made of the night rolled down from the darkness, their riders tall and proud upon their steeds. Dark hoods flew back to reveal grinning faces, and I got my first look at the army of the dead.

Toothy grins leered at me from bare skulls – not white like in museum displays, but various shades of black and brown and grey. Skin hung in patches from their emaciated bodies. Many of them bore the marks of grisly deaths – ones had an axe-handle sticking out of its back, another had one half of its skull caved in, still another had a bullet hole punched through its forehead. Diseased patches of sickly green skin tore away from one’s cheeks as it flew toward us. Just like the knife sticking out of Corbin’s side. It seemed the restless dead wore their demise like a badge of honor.

They crashed onto the overgrown lawn, the horses bending so low their bellies scraped the ground. Leather saddles creaked and swords clattered as riders bore up, half of them turning toward the iron gates while the rest faced my coven.

The Castle of Spirit and Sorrow by Steffanie Holmes

Realms of Fae and Shadow by various authors [My Review]

And then there’s the Sluagh. The army of the Shadow Court.

They fly in great hosts, writes the unknown author of the book, stealing the souls of those who perish in acts of anger and hate. The battlefield is their temple, and War is their god. Peace and contentment are their enemy.

Crown of Darkness by Allison Ingleby

Sluagh in My Writing

Origin of the Fae: Sluagh

The Sluagh consist of fae who had behaved so badly, that they don’t deserve any peace. They lose their bodies and become part of the Host. They don’t have much choice but to do what the Dark King orders. They devour souls. They are seen as a dark cloud moving across the night sky. They can sense the thoughts and feelings of mortals and fae. As servants of Baba Yaga, they can gather information and they can cause specific nightmares. When they move through the sky, it sounds like screeching from a large crowd. They can shape-shift into corpse-like creatures with wings, talons and an assortment of weapons upon their person.

Sluagh translated to Afrikaans: Onsienlike Menigte.

See this fae in action in my writing:

Dark Fae (Origin of the Fae #7)

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Where did you first encounter the slaugh? What do you think of this invisible fae? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.

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image credit https://pixabay.com/illustrations/ai-generated-fairy-wings-magic-8121013/

No-one writes about the fae like Ronel Janse van Vuuren.

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