Bat symbolism and meanings include community, longevity, maneuverability, balance, good fortune, evolution, and supernatural powers. Around the world, there are over 1,400 species of bats,1 and they live everywhere except in the most extreme deserts and polar regions. So, these intriguing flying mammals are subjects in the mythology and folklore of many cultures around the world. In addition, the bat spirit animal is an important figure to people who feel a strong kinship with bats.
In this post, you’ll learn about bat symbols and meanings (including vampire bats), bat mythology, the bat spirit animal, and more.
Table of Contents
- What do bats symbolize?
- Detailed Bat Symbols and Meanings
- Bat Mythology and Folklore
- Bat Meaning in Mesopotamia
- The Bat in African Mythology
- Bats in Greek Mythology
- Bat Meaning in the Bible
- Bats in the Quran
- The Bat in Celtic Mythology
- Norse Mythology
- Native American Bat Symbolism
- Navajo Bat Meanings
- Ojibwe Story: How the Bat Came to Be
- Bat Meaning in Maya Mythology
- Australian Aborigine Bat Legend
- Bat Meanings in Polynesia
- Bat Symbolism in China
- Bat Symbolism in Hinduism
- Bats and Vampires
- Bat Spirit Animal
- Bat Power Animal
- Bat Totem
- Bat Dream Meanings
- Bat Tattoo
- Organizations that Protect Bats
What do bats symbolize?
- Good Fortune
- Supernatural Powers
Detailed Bat Symbols and Meanings
While some bat species are solitary, most bats live in large colonies with other bats, sometimes in the hundreds of thousands. Biologists surmise that bats learn about the safe places to roost from other bats.
As a symbol of community, the bat knows there is safety in numbers and value in being a part of a community of like-minded individuals. If the bat spirit animal resonates with you, or if a bat suddenly makes themselves known to you, it can be a sign for you to tap into the power of a community more. Whether for work, a shared cause, recreation, or some other reason, the bat reminds you to not to go it alone – find others whose goals and values align with yours.
Bats are known to live for a long time – up to 20 years.2 This is about twice as long as your average squirrel.3 Bats have also inhabited the Earth for a very long time – over 50 million years. (By comparison, we humans have only been here for about 2.8 million years.)
Because they have lived on the Earth for so long and the fact that they live relatively long lives, the bat is a symbol of longevity. In fact, in China, where older people are revered, the bat is viewed positively as a symbol of wisdom and longevity.
(Of course, most of us know that vampires, who are associated with vampire bats, are said to live forever!)
Your best years are ahead of you.
As a symbol of longevity, the bat reminds you that your best years are ahead of you. Indeed, bat people are the types who get better with age. In addition, the bat spirit animal reminds you that nothing can make up for experience – one of the gifts of getting older.
Meditate on the longevity of the bat when you consider things on your life that you want to withstand the test of time, such as a relationship, your health, or a project. Bat energy helps to ensure that it will be built the last.
If you’ve ever seen a bat flying, it can look like they’re a little out of control. However, bats actually has excellent maneuverability skills – even better than birds. The reason that bats have excellent maneuverability is that a bat’s wings are designed like human hands – only with a membrane and more joints.4 So, the bat has a high level of control as they fly.
As a symbol for maneuverability, the bat reminds you to be flexible and quick on your feet. You may feel like you face more challenges and obstacles than others do – even like that the deck is stacked against you. The bat is a reminder that it’s not a matter of more problems, more obstacles, or even more stress – it’s how you deal with them.
The bat says – If things are not going your way or you feel like you’re heading in the wrong direction – maneuver! Envision your ability to pivot and adjust. You might even imagine the skills that Batman or Bat Girl display as they dodge bullets and speed away in the Batmobile. Know that whatever comes your way, you have the ability to maneuver and create better outcomes.
Like the crow, raccoon, or wolf, the bat is a very misunderstood animal. Their association with nighttime, vampires, and even diseases, like COVID-19 (which is yet unproven), has given the bat a bad reputation.
The reality is that, like the bee and the butterfly, the bat is critical for supporting life on Earth. In essence, the bat keeps things in balance. For one, bats are pollinators. They help to extend the life force of important plants, including bananas, mangoes, agave, and others. Bats also keep insect populations in check, with some bats consuming as many as 5,000 insects per night.5 In short, the bat is a keystone species in their ecosystem: If the bat wasn’t there, the ecosystem could collapse.
Another interesting fact about bats is that vampire bats will care for and feed elderly or sick bats in their colony. They will also adopt and care for baby bats who lose their mother. In other words, the bat is eager to pick up the slack and fill in when needed.
So, the bat is a powerful symbol of balance. As we consider how nature has perfected itself over eons, the bat is an important part of this miraculous design as they fulfill an important role.
Creating Balance in Life
If the bat is your spirit animal or if a bat suddenly makes themselves known to you, you may be in a situation where you are called to fill in for a co-worker or to care for someone in your life who needs help. A willingness on your part to help is your way of keeping things in balance. This selflessness means you are in-tune with the positive forces of the Universe.
Likewise, the bat may also be reminding you to keep your own life in balance. For example, this can apply to balancing social and alone time, work and play, rest and activity, your diet, finances, etc.
Consider, too, how the bat rests. They hang upside down. As the bat rests, it’s reminiscent of the restorative pose in yoga: You lie on the floor and put your feet up against a wall or chair. This is a great way to rest your feet and legs and get more blood flow to your brain. The bat says: Find balance!
Bat Meaning: Good Fortune
The bat extends the lifeforce of fruit trees and other plants through pollination. In addition, bat guano (which is bat poop) is a popular natural fertilizer. For these reasons, and the fact that bats live in large colonies, the bat is also a symbol of good fortune, prosperity, and abundance. In fact, the Chinese view the bat as a sign of good luck, wealth, and happiness.
If a bat or bats come into your life, view it as a positive sign of good fortune coming your way. You may have heard the saying “blind as a bat.” This adage actually has no merit, as bats have excellent eyesight and nighttime vision. So, the bat spirit animal combines the winning combination of good fortune and the ability to visualize what you want to happen. Visualization, including imaging the action steps to achieve your goals, is a vitally important practice for making your dreams comes true.
EvolutionThe bat is unique in that they are the only mammals who evolved to fly. Furthermore, the bat’s early ancestors didn’t use echolocation – this was another adaptation the bat developed over time.7 To this day, paleontologists and biologists are still a bit mystified by how the bat developed their unique gifts.
Like the whale, who evolved to walk on land and then returned to the sea, the bat is an extraordinary example of evolution. As a symbol of evolution, the bat reminds you of your own power to evolve. In fact, this is the nature of our soul’s existence here on Earth in this lifetime: to learn and evolve on a spiritual level.
The bat spirit animal reminds you that every problem is a lesson and every setback is an opportunity. Sometimes the biggest challenges and the most painful heartaches are our best learning experiences. The bat says: Keep moving forward – because you are learning to fly.
Even in colonies with hundreds of thousands of bats, if a mother bat is separated from her baby (called a pup) she has no trouble finding them.8 Furthermore, bats can easily navigate in the dark and they can hear sounds in frequencies that we cannot. These are just a few of the bat’s remarkable sensory traits.
Because of their sensory powers and the fact that they are mainly nocturnal, the bat has long been associated with the supernatural world. In fact, some ancient cultures believed that bats moved freely in and out of the land of the living and that of the dead.
Furthermore, as a flying animal, the bat is associated with idea of astral traveling – when the soul temporarily leaves the body and flies before returning.
Tune into Your Intuition
As a symbol of supernatural powers, the bat spirit animal reminds you that there is far more going on than what many people experience in their busy daily lives. Bat people tend to be sensitive people to begin with, picking up on stimuli that others miss. In essence, supernatural powers are an expanded level of awareness.
If you already know that the bat is your spirit animal, or if one suddenly crosses your path, it can be a sign to tune into your intuition and spirit guides more. We all have this capability. Finding stillness through prayer or meditation and being in nature can help to fine-tune our intuitive abilities. Maybe you can create a bat cave for yourself, where you can go, be still, and to tune in to your super-conscious.
Bat Mythology and Folklore
Around the world, people are intrigued with bats. Thus, they are important figures in the mythologies and folklore or many cultures. Here are some of those stories:
Bat Meaning in Mesopotamia
The ancient Sumerians wrote about demons, which they called utukku. The utukku were described as dark shadows with loud voices that emitted poison. However, some of the utukku were benevolent and would battle the evil utukku.
Among the utukku was a subset of demons called edimmu. The edimmu were described as the ghosts of those who were not buried properly. They were wind spirits and some were thought to have wings. Angry and vengeful, the edimmu sucked the life out of people as they slept. The edimmu are associated with bats, and some anthropologists believe they were the precursor to vampire stories. The Sumerians believed the edimmu could be appeased by providing proper burials of their Earthly bodies.9
The Bat in African Mythology
Throughout Africa, people tell stories about bats. Often the bat is a trickster like the crow is in Native American mythology. One story from Nigeria tells the tale of why the bat is nocturnal.
Why the Bat Only Comes out at Night
A long time ago, the bat and the bush rat were best friends. One evening, the bat made soup for the two of them. The soup was so good that the bush rat was a little jealous of the bat’s cooking skills. So, he asked the bat what the secret was to his recipe.
The bat said that when the water is boiling, he jumps into the pot and cooks part of himself, which leaves a succulent flavor.
So, the bush rat went home and told his wife that he would make them some soup. The bush rat’s wife put the pot on the fire and began to boil the water. When she turned, the bush rate jumped into the pot and soon he was dead.
Upset, the bush rat’s wife ran and told the king of the animals, the lion, what had happened. So, the lion commanded the other animals to catch the bat so he could punish him.
As the animals chased him, the terrified bat flew away. And this is why the bat only comes out at night – so no one can catch him.10
In Tanzania, locals tell tales of an evil spirit called Popobawa. In Swahili Popobawa translates to “bat wing.” Apparently, the shadow that a bat’s wings cast at night are similar to the dark shadow of the spirit Popobawa. As a shapeshifter, Popobawa can transition from animal to human and back. Popobawa is said to attack people at night. So, one of the things that people can do if Popobawa is nearby is to sleep out in the open, not in their homes.
How the Bat Created the Night
A story from Sierra Leone tells the tale of why the night is dark.
A long time ago, it was always daytime, with 24 hours of light. One day, the Creator asked the bat to carry a basket to the moon for him.
The box was heavy, so the bat paused on land for a while to rest. Seeing the basket, the other animals were curious, so they approached it. Thinking if must be full of food, the other animals tipped the basket. However, once they realized what they had done, they fled. Seeing all this, the bat flew towards the basket to save it. But it was too late. Darkness began spilling out of it. To this day, the bat rests during the day and spends the night flying, trying to collect the darkness to put it back in the basket.11
Bats in Greek Mythology
In ancient Greece, bats were thought to be a type of bird. However the Greeks also understood that the bat was not a normal bird. For one, the Greeks noticed that the bat was nocturnal, so they associated them with the underworld, or the world of the dead.
In one myth, a maiden named Alcithoe and her sisters were invited to a party given by Dionysus, the god of wine, parties, and ecstasy. However, the ladies refused, instead opting to say home to spin and weave. The rejection so angered Dionysus that he turned them into bats and birds.12
In the epic Greek poem The Odyssey, bats are described as carrying the souls of the dead to the underworld. In fact, the ancient Greeks believed that other winged animals, including birds and butterflies, carried souls of the dead.13
Why the Bat Is the Way It Is
A story by Aesop tells the story of why the bat is the way it is. In the fable, all of the animals are bickering with each other. However, the bat doesn’t take a side. But when the rodents are winning the argument, the bat pretends he’s a rodent. And when the birds are winning, the bat pretends he’s a bird. Finally realizing that the bat is being two-faced, all of the animals gang up against him. And this is why the bats flies during the night.14
Bat Meaning in the Bible
Bats are mentioned a few times in the Bible. However, they are categorized as birds. In the Bible, the bat was considered an “unclean” bird, like the eagle or vulture. Therefore, they should not be eaten.15
Bats in the Quran
As in the Bible, bats are mentioned in the Quran in terms of being unclean animals, which should not be eaten.16
The Bat in Celtic Mythology
In Celtic mythology, the bat was associated with spirits and fairies and there was a fair amount of superstition surrounding them. For one, if a bat got entangled in a woman’s hair, the Celts believed the woman faced imminent death.17 (In reality, bats’ echolocation can sense our dense bodies vs. an insect’s – which they eat. So, a bat has no interest in coming into contact with a human.)
The Celts also told tales of pookas, which were fairy creatures that could shapeshift into animals or people. The animal might be a dog, cat, horse, goat, bat, or other animal. Pookas were considered to be tricksters, so meeting one could spell doom, but not always. Pookas were also associated with fertility and they were known to bring goodies to people.18
A famous Celtic myth tells the tale of the Tehi Tegi. The Tehi Tegi was a sorcerous and an enchantress. In one story, she bewitched 600 men. As she rode a white horse, the besotted men followed her from village after village. Eventually, the Tehi Tegi led the men to a river. She waded out on her horse, making the river appear to be easily passable. However, once all the men were in the river, she used her arts to create waves and all the men drowned. The Tehi Tegi’s horse turned into a dolphin, swimming away, and the Tehi Tegi turned into a bat and flew away in the night.19
In Nordic mythology, bats were associated with owls or they were seen as related. In fact, in Old Danish, the two were called the same thing: nathbakkæ, which translates to “night flapper,” or aftenbakke, which translates to “evening-flapper.”
By some accounts, the ancient Scandinavians viewed the bat as a supernatural being who could be harbinger of death. The ancient Scandinavians also believed the bat was capable of bewitching people and altering their behavior.20
Native American Bat Symbolism
In Native American cultures the bat has positive and negative aspects. For example, the Apache, Creek, Taino, and Cherokee view the bat as a trickster. While the Blackfoot People thought the bat to be poisonous.21
For the Navajo, the bat is an important spiritual intermediary between people and spirits. In one Navajo story, the goddess Changing Woman wanted to present an offering to the god of winter thunder. All the animals were too afraid to help her present the gift. However, the bat humbly stepped in and offered their services.
For the Navajo, the bat is considered a guide and guardian. If a person is on a vision quest or seeks answers, the bat might whisper in their ear or fly in a way that provides the answers from spirits that the person seeks.22
Ojibwe Story: How the Bat Came to Be
For the Ojibwe, the bat was also a guide and helper. They have a legend about how the bat came into existence.
A long time ago, the sun was rising but it got stuck in the branches of a tall tree. The more the sun tried to untangle itself, the more stuck it became.
That morning, the dawn did not come. The night animals, like the mountain lion and the owl, didn’t mind because they could continue hunting. When the other animals and birds started to awake, they saw it was still dark, so they fell back asleep.
In Search of the Sun
After a while, it grew colder and colder and the animals knew something was wrong. So, they held a council meeting and discussed who would go searching for the sun. After much discussion, the squirrel offered, saying he could climb a tree and get a good view of where the sun went. So, all of the animals agreed and the squirrel started heading east. Eventually, he came across the tree where the sun was stuck and he climbed it.
“Little Brother, please help me,” said the sun. So, the squirrel began biting the branches and untangling the sun. However, as he did, his tail and moccasins kept catching on fire. The sun begged him, “Please don’t stop now. I am almost free.” So, the squirrel kept working, even though it was painfully hot and he was catching on fire. Finally, the sun was free and it rose in the sky. All of the animal and birds rejoiced. However, the squirrel sat on a branch, lamenting the loss of his beautiful bushy tail and soft fur.
Taking pity in the squirrel and grateful for his help, the sun said, “Little brother, you have freed me. What can I give you in return?” The squirrel thought for a moment and then said, “Well, I have always wanted to fly.” So the sun gave the squirrel wings, and that’s how bats came to be.23
Bat Meaning in Maya Mythology
The bat was an important figure to the Mayas of Mesoamerica. For one, bats were seen as fertility symbols that protected corn and other crops. As with the Native Americans to the north, the Maya also viewed bats as messengers and intermediaries between the human and spirit worlds. The Maya also believed that shamans could shapeshift into bats and back, and they had multiple bat deities.
Camazotz the Bat God
Camazotz was one of the Maya’s bat gods. His name translates to “death bat” and he was associated with the underworld, nighttime, sacrifice, and death. The Zapotec Maya tribe was particularly obsessed with Camazotz. There was a series of caves they called the Sacred Cenotes, which were inhabited by bats. They believed the caves were the doors to the underworld, where bats originated.24
Australian Aborigine Bat Legend
The Aboriginal Kulin People from southeastern Australia have a creation myth about the bat. In the story, a bat deity named Balayang is the brother of Bunjil, the great eagle deity. According to the legend, Bunjil asked Balayang to come live with him. However, Balayang refused, saying that Bunjil’s country was dry and ugly. Bunjil was so offended by the insult that he enlisted the help of two hawks, and they set fire to Belayang’s country, scorching him and his family. And this is why bats are black and dark brown in color to this day.25
Bat Meanings in Polynesia
In Samoa and Tonga, the bat is a sacred animal who is viewed as flying fox. In one story, a Samoan princess name Leutogi is sent to Tonga to marry the king in order to broker a peace agreements between the two nations.
While living in Tonga, Leutogi found an injured baby bat. She took pity on him, so nursed him back to health and then returned him to the colony. The Tongans, who were a warrior society, ridiculed Leutogi for her compassion for the pitiful creature.
When the king’s family started having bad luck, the Tongans blamed Leutogi. They said she must be a witch and should be burned at the stake. However, when they tried to burn her, the colony of bats came and saved her.26
The bats took Princess Leutogi to a deserted island where they lived with her. As time passed, they pollinated and fertilized the island so that it became lush with fruit and flowers.
Bat Symbolism in China
In China, as mentioned earlier in this post, the bat is a symbol of good fortune, happiness, wisdom, and longevity. In fact, in Chinese culture, five bats are a symbol for the concept of wufu, which means five blessings. The five blessings are longevity, wealth, health, doing good for others, and enjoying a happy old age.27
In some symbols, a bat is depicted as biting a coin, which is particularly auspicious for wealth and prosperity. In others, bats are depicted with peaches, which are another symbol for longevity and vitality.28
Practitioners of feng shui say that placing bat symbols in an office or entryway to a home are beneficial for bringing happiness, health, and prosperity into your life.
Bat Symbolism in Hinduism
In India, Hindus associate the bat with their goddess of wealth and good fortune, Lakshmi. In fact, in the village of Sarsai, which is located in the state of Bihar in northeastern India, locals worship and protect bats.
According to local legend, during the plague of the 14th century, many people died. Around that time, bats came to live in the area. Since the bats have lived there, no other plagues have struck the village.29
Bats and Vampires
Of the roughly 1,400 species of bats in the world, three species are vampire bats. They live in Mexico, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. However, some biologists theorize that hundreds of years ago, vampire bats were found in more northern latitudes.
Ancient Tales of Bloodsuckers
No one knows for sure when bats came to be associated with vampires. Certainly, tales of blood-sucking monsters date back to well before Bram Stoker wrote Dracula in the late 19th century. For example, in 4000 BC, the ancient Sumerians told stories of demons that sucked people’s blood. Eventually, these stories spread throughout the Middle East, Africa, Slavic countries, Europe, and the rest of the world.
Historians believe that the link between bats and vampires may be attributed to rabies. Vampire lore was particularly prevalent in medieval Eastern Europe up until the 19th century. At this time people did interact with animals such as wolves and bats, some of whom likely carried rabies. The historians surmise that people who were bitten by a wolf or rat and then developed rabies probably acted like they were possessed – acting aggressively and foaming at the mouth.31 This behavior may have caused locals to think the rabies-stricken were vampires.
Bat Spirit Animal
While some people are fearful of bats, there are others who feel a strong kinship with them. You may already know the bat is one of your spirit animals, or a bat may have suddenly made themselves known to you. In either case, you should learn as much as you can about these unique flying mammals. After all, you can learn a lot from bats.
Bat people are often night owls, getting energy in the evening and working late into the night or very early in the morning. In addition, your family, group of friends, and community are extremely important to you, and you’re all too willing to step in to help those you love without a second thought. In addition, bat people are innately intuitive. You may have even been described as psychic by people who know you. Furthermore, when the bat is your spirit animal, you are a person who loves to continually challenge yourself, grow emotionally and spiritually, and acquire knew skills.
Bat Power Animal
A power animal can empower you with their most dynamic traits. So, if you want to transform an area of your life, consider the attributes that the power animal represents. For example, you can meditate on the bat power animal in situations where you:
- Want to see something flourish and grow, such as a garden, your family, your finances, or another endeavor.
- Are experiencing changes and want to be able to handle them with grace and flexibility.
- Want to create more balance and reciprocity in your life.
- Would like to improve your psychic or intuitive powers.
An animal totem embodies the protective powers of the animal it represents. Thus, the bat totem is a helpful symbol for bringing more good fortune and prosperity into your life. It’s also a good luck symbol for health and longevity. Furthermore, the bat totem is a helpful symbol for fine tuning your psychic sensitivities and expanding your consciousness beyond the physical world.
Bat Dream Meanings
What does it mean if you dream of a bat or a colony of bats? Dreams can have a range of meanings, and certainly, the way you view bats will play a role in your dream interpretation. For example, to some people, bats are scary and reminiscent of Halloween or the occult. While for others, they are cute and in need of protection. What’s important is examining your emotional and physical experience in the dream. This is your subconscious mind’s way of letting you know what you should act on in your conscious, wakeful state.
Some dreams are inconsequential, where others can be important messages from your spirit guides or other information that you pick up metaphysically. Hopefully learning more about bat symbolism and mythology can bring insights into the meaning of your dream.
A bat tattoo is wonderful motif for a tattoo because the design can be either complex or simple and still clearly convey that it’s a bat. As bats are symbols of good fortune, a bat tattoo can be a constant affirmation of good luck coming your way. A bat tattoo can also tell the world that you’re a person who is undergoing a personal evolution to become a better version of yourself.
Tattoos are deeply personal to the person whose skin they adorn. But hopefully understanding more about bat symbols and mythology can bring even deeper meaning to your tattoo.
Organizations that Protect Bats
It’s a sad fact that one-half of the world’s bat species are either threatened of endangered. To this day, bats are still very misunderstood by people and even feared. Not enough people understand how critical bats are for keeping natural ecosystems in balance and for protecting parts of our food supply.
In addition to human persecution, bats face threats that include habitat loss and fragmentation and pollution. If you care about bats, please do what you can to protect them. Here are some organizations that are working on bat conservation and welfare as well as educating the public about bats.
- Bat Conservation International
- National Wildlife Federation
- Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation
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