The Bats that haunt Halloween
Why are Bats connected to Halloween?
There's something about bats. They end up attached to Halloween as spooky, scary creatures and a few hanging from your house are guaranteed to make the whole neighbourhood jumpy.
Why is at Halloween, that we decorate with bats?
For thousands of years we have been fascinated with, and often repelled by, these creatures of the night.
Once bats were regarded as semi-divine, and appeared in ancient legends from the deep dark places of the earth.
Now Halloween isn't Halloween without them.
Bats at Twilight
Bats on the Threshold
Bats are visible at the critical period when day turns to night. At twilight, the sun is below the horizon, in the transition from sunset to nightfall.
As the day meets the night we are at a turning point, a magical change from what-was-before to what-is-coming. This is a liminal time, we are on a threshold. Just as Halloween marks a threshold at the turning of the year.
Bats in Mythology
Bats were seen as a forewarning of impending misfortune, or of death, as they come from the deep dark places of the earth, from the moist black depths to where souls fly to reach the Afterlife.
Bats are sacred to Persephone, daughter of Demeter, during the months of darkness when she rules in the Underworld.
As flying creatures, bats signify the sky, but they have many qualifications for Underworld symbolism as well.
Firstly, they are nocturnal, and the Underworld is a place of night. Bats hang upside-down, facing the Underworld; they roost in caves or dead trees and use streams as flyways.
Caves, tree roots, and streams were once believed to be gateways into the Underworld.
Bats, Cats and Witches
Halloween decorations of bats are as common as pumpkins. You'll find images of bats everywhere, flying across the full moon or accompanying witches on a broomstick joyride.
The medieval witchcraft texts place both bats and cats as familiars for witches and the negative reputation, arising from deep ignorance, clings on to this day.
Curiously cats, who were also considered as an evil companion to a witch, have since been redeemed from this diabolical connection. But not bats.
My Fruitbat Neighbour
I have Bats for Neighours.
How lucky am I? I don't have to wait for Halloween to see bats.
Each evening thousands of bats leave their roost on the river to feed on nectar and fruit in some bat cafeteria to my west. They fly straight over my house and when I sit on my porch I could almost touch them.
In the daytime I walk with my little granddaughter down to the river to see them hanging in the trees.
Bats in China
In China, the bat is a symbol of good luck and happiness.
The word for bat, fu, sounds like the word for happiness. The God of Happiness achieved through worldly goods is Fu Xing, often represented by a bat. In human form he has bats embroidered on his robes.
Fu Xing, Lu Xing, and Shou Xing are the Fu Lu Shou, the three Gods of Blessings, Prosperity, and Longevity, and sometimes identified as the Three Lucky Stars in Orion's belt.
Five bats together symbolise the five blessings of health, long life, wealth, love of virtue and a good death.
Saliva of vampire bats contains a substance called draculin used in modern medicine
Close up and personal with a Bat
Here's a good look at a bat.
This little fellow is beibg cared for by WildLife Officers until he's ready to be released back to the wild again.
What's this bat eating? Looks like a kiwifruit to me but it could be a fejoia
What we can learn from Bats
Our past uneducated habit of associating bats with death doesn't have to be a negative thing in itself. Being associated with death also means being associated with rebirth.
You can use the appearance of a bat to tell yourself that it's time for a transformation, for letting go of old habits and adopting new ones.
As a creature of the night and the dark, the bat can guide you through the darkness of confusion and help you face your fears.
The Bat means the opportunity for change and transformation, a coming out of the dark and being reborn.
When you meet a bat, welcome him as the Blessed Bringer of Change.
© 2010 Susanna Duffy