The Surprising Symbolism of Bats

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As the only mammals who can fly, bats have been largely misunderstood and sometimes feared since the earliest of times. They are often a significant feature in vampire and ghost stories, where they are seen as dwellers of haunted places. However, in some cultures bats are revered, put on a pedestal, and even treated like Gods.

So, which is it? Are bats symbols of evil or are they good luck omens? Let’s find out.

Bat spiritual symbolism

Bat Symbolism – An Overview

Bat symbolism varies depending on the context it’s viewed within. To some, bats represent rebirth and regeneration. This is because bats arise when the sun sets and day melts into the night. Hence, the implication here is that a new life (night) begins at the end of the day.

This association also implies letting go of the old and ushering in the new, transition, transformation, change, and new beginnings.

In Chinese culture, bats are seen as harbingers of good luck and prosperity. Lucky bat symbols have been a part of Chinese history for centuries. They believe that if five bats are seen together, they bring five blessings or “Wu Fu”:

  1. Love of virtue
  2. Dying naturally at a ripe old age
  3. Longevity
  4. Wealth
  5. Health

In Japan, bats are seen as good luck symbols, because the word for bat (komori) is similar to that of the word for ‘a lot of happiness’.

In other cultures, however, the appearance of bats is not considered to be a good omen. Bats are sometimes viewed as harbingers of trouble such as blindness and insanity.

What Bats Symbolize

1- Fear

For most people, bats symbolize fear and negativity. These associations likely stem from the fact that bats are typically painted in a negative light. Bats are also associated with several frightening mythical figures, such as vampires and witches.

2- Navigation

Say what you will, bats are extremely intelligent creatures and excellent navigators. They use echolocation to find their way around, much like dolphins. This gives them the ability to move easily and safely in the dark. Contrary to popular belief, bats aren’t blind. But they don’t need the vision that humans have.  

3- Intuition

Bats can move around intuitively, even in the pitch dark. They don’t crash into other bats when flying and are able to find their way around. In this way, bats represent the ability to understand something even when it’s not clear.

4- Communication

Bats tend to communicate with each other using high frequency sounds. They chirp, sing and screech to get their message across. While human ears often can’t pick out these sounds, except those that are within the wave frequency range, this doesn’t mean that they don’t ‘speak’ with each other.

5- Community

Bats are social animals that live in colonies. This associates them with community and togetherness.  

6- Longevity

As mammals that live to from 16 to up to 30 years, bats are symbols of longevity. This is a long lifespan for a bat, based on their body size. According to a study, quoted in ARS Technica, “Nineteen species of mammals live longer than humans, given their body size, of which 18 are bats”.

7- Supernatural powers

Associated with the night, witches, vampires, and all things supernatural, it’s no wonder that bats represent supernatural powers.

8- Invisibility

Bats represent invisibility because these creatures are great at hiding out in areas that humans normally don’t see them, like within dark caves. Their ability to fly around at night also connect them to invisibility.

9- Survival and adaptability

Bats are great at adapting to their environment, finding ways to survive harsh conditions. Their ability to live for a long time is also an indication of their skills at survival. Bats are also known to survive terrible diseases, the study of which has been extremely helpful in our understanding of how to deal with contagion.

10- Death and rebirth

Bats represent letting go of the past and the old. They are symbolic of transition from one state to another, and of ushering the new. In this way, they represent both the past and the future, the end and the beginning, death and rebirth.

Folklore Surrounding Bats

bat on sitting on tree

Europe

In Europe, bats were considered to be the sidekicks of devils and witches. Some people also believed that bat bites never healed. There was a widespread belief among Europeans that if a bat got entangled in the long hair of a woman, the hair would have to be cut in order to get the bat out.

Bats have been associated with vampires in Western culture for decades. The association is assumed to have come about due to the European obsession and fear of vampires. When America was first discovered, many writers wrote accounts of their encounters with vampire bats. These stories involved the vampire bats devouring large amounts of blood.

In Greek mythology, the bat is associated with Persephone and Hades, as they were the rulers of the underworld. She initially hated Hades, but soon he grew on her.

Native American

Apaches, a group of native American tribes, have a different myth about bats. Accordingly, Jonayaiyin, who human hero fought for the benefit of mankind, once killed some eagles and gave their feathers to a bat which had helped him in battle. The bat kept losing these feathers and kept coming to Jonayaiyin for more, until he got fed up and refused to give it more.

For the Native American Zunni people, bats are associated with cleansing and rainfall. Instead of shunning bats for ill will and devilry, the Zunni believe that bats are guardians of night.

Central and South America

According to the mythology of the Oaxacan people of Mexico, bats were jealous of pretty birds and kept complaining about them. Due to their ungratefulness, they were given dark coloring and forced to lead a solitary life in the dark.

In Mayan culture Camazotz, the bat god, was considered to be the god of death, night and sacrifice. He is depicted with the face of a bat, but the torso of a man.  

Christianity

In Christianity, bats appear three times in the Bible, but in all three verses, they’re associated with negativity and darkness. The Old Testament forbids the eating of bats, while in Isaiah 2:20, bats are mentioned together with moles (another negative creature in Christianity). These associations come from the bat’s connection to the night and to darkness.

Bat as A Spirit Animal

If a bat is the spirit animal of a person, it is believed that the bat will follow this person around and will not leave them in time of need. Bats also help to uncover secrets about themselves and help reduce the burdens of past.

Individuals who have bats as their spirit animal have an elevated sense of awareness and are sensitive to even minor changes in their surroundings. With bat as their spirit animal, such individuals are family people and believe in keeping the ties strong with their family members.

People whose power animal is a bat, often have dreams that come true. Such people are often very perceptive and have the willpower to reach their greatest potential. Additionally, they’re also active listeners and good communicators.

If a bat is your spirit animals, you may have conquered the fear of death.

Bats and Dreams

Seeing a bat in a dream can signify several things, depending on the details of the dream. However, a general interpretation could represent the following factors:

  • The person has bad habits that they need to get rid of. This comes from the association of bats as an unclean creature that is associated with negativity.
  • Seeing a bat flying in your dream is an indication of problems that are expected to occur in your future.
  • Catching a bat and killing it in your dream indicates that you will successfully get rid of certain problems in your life.
  • If you see a bat attacking someone else in your dream, it indicates that person is likely to face problems in the future.
  • Dreaming that a bat has built a nest in your house may indicate that problems will grow within your house.
  • Dreaming that a bat has left its excrement in your house implies that you are involved in an illegal or unfavorable activity, and you may be making illegal gains from this.

As bats are commonly associated with darkness, dreams about bats tend to be negative.

Facts About Bats

  • Bats are the only mammals capable of a stable and sustained flight.
  • Bats are generally insectivorous with the exception of a few species which feed on flowers.
  • Bats have a very clear day time vision.
  • While bats have few predators, a many of them are killed each year due to diseases.
  • Bats clean themselves and spend time self-grooming.
  • Bats can live for more than 30 years.
  • Bats find their food in total darkness using a mechanism called echolocation.
  • Baby bats are known as pups.
  • A large number of bat species has been reported to be in decline in recent years.
  • Bat droppings can be used to make gun powder.

Conclusion

Bats are creatures of the night, and this association has linked them to death, evil, negativity, and witches. However, while the Western world sees bats in this negative light, in many Eastern and South American cultures, bats are associated with rebirth and wisdom. The symbolism of bats, therefore, depends on who you ask, as there is no consensus on whether these creatures are positive or negative symbols.

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Nina Jay

Nina Jay

Nina Jay has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.

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