We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about the Sluagh.
The Sluagh is a host of the restless undead in Irish folklore. They fly around like a flock of birds at night, especially around Halloween (Samhain), looking for souls to steal. Because of their behavior, they are often associated with blackbirds. They typically fly in from the west, and so to this day, the residents of a house where a person has just died will keep all of the western-facing windows and doors closed.
They will also steal the souls of others who are unfortunate to cross their path, and it is considered extremely dangerous to travel at night, especially around Halloween. It can be said that their screaming and howling can be heard on especially cold nights, and it is best to stay inside. They are also said to harm crops and kill farm animals such as cattle and sheep.
The Sluagh are spirits of people who were sinners or generally evil in life, and also people who have been taken by them. Earlier stories before the Christianization of Ireland depict them as a type of malevolent fairy.
Because of their behavior, the Sluagh are often associated with stories of the Wild Hunt, a type of spectral or demonic gathering of destructive spirits flying across the night sky.