Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales from Irish Gods and Monsters
Beware the fairy host, beware the Sluagh
Of all the wonders and terrors in Irish folklore there are few quite so terrifying as the Sluagh. Tales were told of their wild hunt long before the coming of Christianity to Ireland, and even today old folk in the countryside will keep the windows on the west side of the house fastened tight at all times, but most especially during wakes or if someone in the house was unwell, for fear of the Sluagh coming to pay a midnight visit on their humble homes.
Wicked or saintly, kind or cruel, the Sluagh play no favourites, they'll take the souls of all that cross their path, although some say they have a particular taste for the living spirits of those who have found true love. The ancients used to think they were faerie gone terribly wrong, warped and twisted, without fear, reason or mercy. When the light came to Ireland they became the souls of lost sinners seeking to drag the unfaithful down to hell with them, but the result was the same.
The host of the unforgiven dead roam the earth on Samhain, Halloween, and it is for this reason that all fires were forbidden on that night in times gone by, so as not to attract their attention. Even death itself was no release for the souls they captured joined them on their hunt, spiralling throughout the lands of Ireland and further abroad on that darkest of nights.
Said one monk in times of yore, "The spirits fly about in great clouds, up and down the face of the world like the starlings, and come back to the scenes of their earthly transgressions. No soul of them is without the clouds of earth, dimming the brightness of the works of earth. In bad nights, the Sluagh shelter themselves behind little russet docken stems and little yellow ragwort stalks. They fight battles in the air as men do on the earth."
If denied their rightful - as they see it - feast, they don't balk at the slaughter of cattle, cats, dogs, and sheep with their poison darts. It is said that the Sluagh "commanded men to follow them, and men obeyed, having no alternative. It was these men of earth who slew and maimed at the bidding of their spirit-masters, who in return ill-treated them in a most pitiless manner. They would be rolling and dragging and trouncing them in mud and mire and pools."
In the form of a vast flock of black ravens twined about with undulating shadows they came, the echoes of their wings being found in stories of ill-omened birds heralding bad times ahead. The truly broken hearted might be attacked, or the foolish or unlucky might call them upon themselves by uttering the name Sluagh nine times over and over, pronounced sloo-ah for fear you might say it yourself, perhaps in a fit of sneezing. Upon closer inspection the great birds look more like wretched thin shades of their previous selves, with gnarled talons like the blackthorn's boughs for hands and feet, and wings of dusky smoke.
And once they have your scent let me tell you - you're in trouble then! If the pitiable mortal that has drawn their eye can bestir themselves it would be well to get indoors, with all locked and fastened, until the beating of dark wings fades with the light of dawn. Chroniclers of old also wisely advised avoiding places of loneliness such as dark forests and empty streets, lest a passing hunt might take a fancy to you! There is one other way to avoid joining them for all eternity, although most dreadful it is, and that's to give them another in your stead.
They say a woman was eaten alive by the Sluagh in Roscommon, on the map.
We now have an amazing Patreon page as well, where you can listen to the many myths and legends on the Emerald Isle! Exclusive to our Patreon, you can now hear stories of ancient Ireland, folklore and fairy tales and more, all professionally narrated. It's at times like these that it's most important to support artists and creative people whose income might be reduced, so if you'd like to support the work that goes into Emerald Isle, the Patreon can be found here: https://www.patreon.com/emeraldisle
More Irish Gods and Monsters
One of the great terrors or ancient – and not so ancient! – Ireland was the Cú Sidhe, or the hound of the Sidhe. This monstrous beast was known in all of the lands once ruled by the Gael, being called the cù-sìth in Scotland and the Cŵn Annwn in Wales. They were also known as the Coinn Iotair, Hounds of Rage, which ... [more]
A name which echoes through many ancient Irish myths and legends is that of the spirit of the oceans, Manannán mac Lir. Was he a Gaelic god and father of gods, a powerful king of old, first among the Tuatha De Danann, a title for a cult of secretive mystics or a Lord of the Otherworld? Perhaps all of these and more, or none. The earliest ... [more]
Across the northern parts of Ireland and Scotland people sometimes whisper of a terrifying spirit that can sometimes be seen before a big storm hits, the one they call the Storm Hag, or the Cailleach. She is known as the queen of winter, and her destructive power is most often witnessed at the end of winter, when her power is fading. The people ... [more]
Whispered across misty ages from times long gone are stories of the Cailleach, one of the ancient goddesses of the first people to walk in Ireland, queen of the mighty glaciers that once clenched the land in their frozen grip. Many tales are told of the old hag, but fewer speak of her consort, the Bodach! His name means “the old man” ... [more]
When Saint Patrick banished the serpents from Ireland, there was one who was overlooked, perhaps because he slumbered or was abroad himself, and that one was called Lig na Paiste, or the “Last Great Reptile”. Soon after Saint Patrick passed away, he made his presence known as he was known of old to the people of Owenreagh! A giant se ... [more]
Throughout the lands where Gaelic was spoken, the legend of the water horse was whispered by many a fireside, or sometimes told in a hurry by someone running the other direction! There are many lakes in Ireland, and most of them aren't very large, but they run still, dark and deep. The Each-Uisce, as the water horse or horse-eel was known in ... [more]
Of all the different kinds of goblins that haunted the lonely places of Ireland in days of old, air-demons were most dreaded by the people. They lived among clouds, and mists, and rocks, and they hated the human race with the utmost malignity. In those times lived in the north of Desmond (the present county of Cork) a man man named Fergus O'Mar ... [more]
Ancient Ireland was said by some to have been plagued by a particularly large and fierce breed of wolf, and men would sometimes go to war with them, or call them to war alongside heroes and champions! They would even make so bold as to attack villages and towns, and a great pack of them assailed Coleraine in the year 1650. To battle these fierce ... [more]
An Cailleach or the veiled woman is among the most ancient deities venerated in Ireland, she whose realm lies in the ice and cold of winter. Once it was said that she ruled all the world, when the green things slept for untold aeons beneath her thick icy cloak, until she was given cause for great sorrow and wept floods of tears across the land, her ... [more]
They do say that good things come in small parcels, but often forget to add that not all small parcels are filled with good things! And so it was in the little village of Slaughtaverty in the distant past, ruled as it was by a fearsome dwarf-tyrant known as Abhartach. Stature and size were much prized in ancient Ireland, as well they might be fo ... [more]
In ancient times, even before the Tuatha De Dannan and the Fir Bolg went to war over the green land of Ireland, the land was ruled by a powerful sorcerous race called the Fomors. Warped and strange they were in appearance, some say dark of skin while others claim they dwelt at the bottom of deep lakes and in the turbulent depths of the ocean' ... [more]
The Banshee or woman of the fairy folk as she is known in Ireland has many names, the Little Washerwoman, Hag of the Mist and the Hag of the Black Head. She takes three forms, that of a young and comely maiden, a matron of full and generous figure, or that of a wretched old crone, and is dressed in red or white or as the occasion calls for it, in t ... [more]
Crom Cruach was one of the old gods of Ireland, one of the few mentioned as a god in the Annals of the Four Masters, an ancient Irish codex telling of the times before Christianity came to Ireland. His name may have many meanings, but he was most commonly known to the people as Crom Dubh, or the crouching darkness. His worshippers are said to have ... [more]
Of all the wonders and terrors in Irish folklore there are few quite so terrifying as the Sluagh. Tales were told of their wild hunt long before the coming of Christianity to Ireland, and even today old folk in the countryside will keep the windows on the west side of the house fastened tight at all times, but most especially during wakes or if som ... [more]
The Red Thirst, the Dearg Due, was these thousand years gone by a young maiden of surpassing fairness. Bards sang songs of her skin as fair as springtime snow and her lips as red as rubies in the light of the setting sun, men came from far and wide to seek her hand in marriage. And yet pretty as she was, he true beauty shone from within, as kindly ... [more]