The Sluagh (Irish: [ˈsˠl̪ˠuə], Scottish Gaelic: [ˈs̪l̪ˠuəɣ]; Old Irish: slúag; English: 'host, army, crowd'), or Sluagh na marbh ('host of the dead'), were the hosts of the unforgiven dead in Scottish Gaelic folklore. In the words of British folklorist Lewis Spence, "In the Western Isles of Scotland the Sluagh, or fairy host, was regarded as composed of the souls of the dead flying through the air, and the feast of the dead at Hallowe'en was likewise the festival of the fairies." Usually taking a crescent form, similar to a flight of grey birds, they were said to be able to approach and pick up a person from any direction and then transport them far away through the air, from one island to another. Although they could sometimes rescue humans from dangerous rock clefts, they were generally portrayed as dangerous to mortals.
The Scottish Gaelic name Slúagh stems from the Old Irish slúag (≈ slóg), meaning 'host, army; crowd, assembly'. Variant forms include slógh and sluag. It derives from the Proto-Celtic root *slougo- (cf. Gaul. catu-slougi 'troops of combat', Middle Welsh llu 'troop', Old Bret. -lu 'army'), whose original meaning may have been 'those serving the chief', by comparing with Balto-Slavic words that probably emerged from early linguistic contacts with Celtic speakers in Central-Eastern Europe: e.g. Lithuanian slaugà ('service, servitude'), or Old Church Slavonic sluga ('servant').
In popular culture
In the Legacy of Kain video game series, Sluagh are among the enemies that Raziel encounters in the Spectral Realm. They are scavenging, animalistic creatures that prey on souls and usually prefer to flee from Raziel unless cornered or in a group. Raziel can easily weaken them into a transparent state in which he can devour them to replenish his own health.
In the Merry Gentry series by Laurell K. Hamilton, the Sluagh are seen as a group of fae lesser than the Seelie and Unseelie. These fae are the more monstrous and strange fae. The kind of creatures which make up nightmares and ride in the Wild Hunt which can make one crazy if looked upon. One of Merry's lovers, Sholto, is the king of the Sluagh and Merry becomes queen later in the series. In the DeathSpeaker Codex series by Sonya Bateman, the Sluagh are a group of fae separate from the Seelie and Unseelie. Three of the sub-characters, Nyantha, Nix and Shade are Sluagh and help the main character throughout the storyline.
In the roleplay game "Household" by Two Little Mice the Slaughs are little peoples that lives in the Basement.
- MacKillop 2004, s.v. Sluagh.
- Spence, Lewis (1999) . The Magic Arts in Celtic Britain. Courier Corporation. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-486-40447-9.
- eDIL (2019), s.v. slóg, slúag. dil.ie/37981.
- Delamarre 2003, p. 276.
- Matasović 2009, p. 346.
- "The PlayStation Classics: Legacy of Kain Soul Reaver PSOne Classic". PlayStation LifeStyle. 2019-05-31. Retrieved 2021-01-06.
- "Concept Art and Development: The Characters of Battle for Eire". Busch Gardens Williamsburg. 27 October 2017. Archived from the original on 11 August 2021. Retrieved 11 August 2021.
- "Household". Two Little Mice (in Italian). Archived from the original on 4 February 2021. Retrieved 11 August 2021.
- Delamarre, Xavier (2003). Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise: Une approche linguistique du vieux-celtique continental. Errance. ISBN 978-2877723695.
- Matasović, Ranko (2009). Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic. Brill. ISBN 978-9004173361.
- MacKillop, James (2004). A dictionary of Celtic mythology. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198609671.