Bat Symbolism & What It Means To See A Bat

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bat symbolism

While bats are often associated with darkness, vampires, death and witchcraft, some bats are incredibly important to the ecosystem. Not only does their dung, known as guano, provide nutrients for fertilizer, but bats eat insects and pests, and are used as food in some countries.

Unfortunately, bats are known to easily spread rabies amongst their populations, and fruit bats, in particular, are pests for farmers.

Still, bats are thought to have been around between 50-60 million years, and can live more than 30 years. There are 1,100 species of bats known around the world, they are able to fly at speeds of around 60 mph, and can eat up to 1,200 mosquitos in an hour!

But there are much deeper meanings associated with these mammals, who are actually the only mammals capable of sustained flight! So, let's discuss the animal symbolism and spiritual meanings of bats, the bat spirit animal, and what it means when you encounter these creatures.

Bat Symbolism & Spiritual Meanings Of Bats

Bats do have negative associations; however, bats represent community, good luck and fortune, evolution, death and rebirth, vitality, mobility, and supernatural abilities and traits.

Many bats live among hundreds of thousands of other bats. So, bats remain protected among their populous colonies, but can also partake in mutual grooming and food sharing, symbolizing community.

Along with living up to three decades, bats hunt using echolocation, and are flexible and quick enough to move around better than birds. In addition, bats are known in some cultures as good luck, as they pollinate plants and create guano.

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Bat Encounters and Omens

Because bats hang upside down in caves, you're most likely to come into contact with bats in this location. Encountering bats may feel a bit intimidating or frightening, especially considering the echo of their wings flapping.

When in the presence of bats and your encounter with them, it's essential to pay close attention to your thoughts and beliefs, as they are connected to a symbolic representation of rebirth, letting go of past beliefs, and adding positivity to your life to be "reborn."

Seeing a bat can also represent a bad or unlucky omen if in the home, or can be a sign of letting someone die as to let them experience the death and rebirth cycle.

What Different Color Bats Symbolize

Though many think bats can only be black, they can be a variety of colors, including brown, red, beige and gray. But sometimes, bats may appear in dreams in non-traditional colors, like green or purple.

White Bat Meaning

White symbolizes purity and renewal, but white bats can represent the death of someone close to you. But because white symbolizes renewal, a white bat can also be a symbol of the end of a cycle.

Red Bat Meaning

Red bats represent hidden emotions that can be dark and consuming, particularly regret or guilt. Seeing a red bat in a dream is a signal that you must bring these feelings to light and address them.

Brown Bat Meaning

Brown bats indicate that you're taking risks and making decisions without weighing the consequences beforehand. A brown bat in a dream means you should try thinking before you act.

Green Bat Meaning

Green bats represent the way you express yourself to others, particularly with your emotions. But a green bat may indicate that you aren't communicating properly and could be causing issues with those you speak to.

Gray Bat Meaning

Gray bats are a sign that your past trauma could be coming to a head, after suppressing your emotions for so long. If you see a gray bat in a dream, be sure to address these personal issues.

Black Bat Meaning

The color black symbolizes power, strength and knowledge, but also death. Unfortunately, a black bat is a symbol of bad luck, and dreaming of one can mean that something in your life is causing you strife.

Bat Symbolism in Dreams

The circumstances of your dreams are just as important as the way you feel during them. So, no matter what your bat dream is about, pay attention to whether it's a positive or negative dream to determine what it means and how to respond in the waking world.

Dreaming of a dying bat

If a bat dies in your dream, it could relate to your relatives suffering from issues in their personal lives, or that there's something bad in your own future. Either way, it's not a good sign.

Dreaming of a vampire bat

While vampires are connected to bats, particularly in literature, dreaming of a vampire bat, specifically, means there is someone in your life who is an energy vampire.

Dreaming of a bat biting you

If you dream of a bat biting you, it symbolizes your positive energy leaving your bloodstream, metaphorically. The location of the bite also determines its meaning; for example a bat bite on the face means your relationships are currently suffering, and a bat bite on the head is a sign of familial issues.

Dreaming of bats hanging upside down

Just like bats hanging upside down see the world from a different perspective, a dream about bats hanging upside down has a similar meaning. If you have this dream, be sure to apply its interpretation to the waking world.

Dreaming of bats flying

A bat flying in your dream has a negative meaning: it's a warning that you may experience depression, have your negative personality traits come to light, or someone close to you has dark aspects that need to be confronted.

Dreaming of sleeping bats

If you dream of bats that are sleeping, it's a sign that you are avoiding confronting something in your personal life. And these are things that require immediate acknowledgement.

Dreaming of baby bats

Baby bats are adorable, and dreaming of them is a good sign. Dreaming of baby bats means you might have hidden spiritual or psychic powers, and/or that you can become a more confident person if you look inward.

Dreaming of a giant bat

A giant bat is a warning that there's something in your life you must pay attention to and come up with a solution. A giant bat indicates that you must confront whatever it is you've been avoiding.

Bat Spirit or Totem Animal

Spirit animals are spirit guides that ensure you stay on your life path while teaching you lessons. A totem animal is a spirit guide too, but is called upon when you need guidance or help.

Though you cannot choose your spirit animal, you'll know if a bat is your spirit animal if you resonate with this creature or have had a profound experience involving one.

People with a bat spirit animal are intuitive by nature and, more than likely, have hidden psychic abilities. These individuals consider community, family and friends to be of the utmost importance.

Those with this spirit animal tend to feel more energetic at night, and have high levels of consciousness and self-awareness. They take no issue with challenging themselves daily, learning more, and growing as a person in every way possible.

A bat totem is invoked when you are in need of more good luck and fortune, health improvement, or tapping into your psychic powers. A bat totem animal symbolizes death and rebirth in terms of letting go of the past, overcoming your fears, and confronting those deep issues you've been too scared to challenge.

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Spiritual Meaning of Bats in Christianity and the Bible

In early Christianity, bats were considered to be vermin and compared to rats and "unclean" birds like vultures. Christians believed bats represented darkness, evil, the devil, and sexual lust. Bats were also associated with Pan, who played his pipe to celebrate sexuality.

In the Bible, bats are mentioned in three different passages, and are called unclean birds that should never be consumed:

Leviticus 11:19 says, "And these you shall detest among the birds; they shall not be eaten; they are detestable: the eagle, the bearded vulture, the black vulture, the kite, the falcon of any kind, every raven of any kind, the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind, the little owl, the cormorant, the short-eared owl, the barn owl, the tawny owl, the carrion vulture, the stork, the heron of any kind, the hoopoe, and the bat."

Isaiah 2:20 says, "In that day mankind will cast away their idols of silver and their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship, to the moles and to the bats, to enter the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs, from before the terror of the Lord, and from the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth."

Deuteronomy 14:18 has a similar message to Leviticus, in that there are only certain types of "birds" that can be eaten.

Spiritual Meaning of Bats in Islam

Just like in the Bible, in the Quran, bats are considered unclean animals that shouldn't be eaten. However, in Shi'a hadith, bats are considered to be miracles of nature.

In Islam, to dream of a bat is a bad omen, indicating that you are causing harm to others, and are getting involved in other people's lives for your own personal gain.

Spiritual Meaning of Bats in Hinduism

In Hinduism, bats are associated with Lakshmi, the goddess of good fortune and wealth.

Legend says that after a plague killed many people in the 14th century village of Sarsai, bats came to live in the area, and after that happened, no other plagues came upon the village. It is for that reason that people in the village worship bats and protect them.

Bat Symbolism in Mythology and Folklore

Native American Bat Symbolism

Native American cultures view bats in both a positive and negative light. Some tribes considered bats to be poisonous, sinister, tricksters, or representative of darkness and death.

The Navajo tribe considered bats to be the connection between humans and spirits. Bats were thought to be spirit guides that provided answers people sought related to quests or knowledge.

In one Navajo story, Changing Woman, or Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé, wished to present an offering to the god Winter Thunder. Of all the animals who could have helped her present the offering, the bat offered themself instead.

Additionally, an Ojibwa legend describes how the bat came to exist. As the story goes, as the Sun rose one morning, he came too close to Earth and found himself entangled in tree branches. So, dawn never came.

After some time passed, the animals gathered to discuss why Sun hadn't risen. They searched everywhere for Sun but couldn't find him. A squirrel came up with the idea to look in the trees, and found Sun. Squirrel began chewing at the branches, but he became hot as he got closer to Sun.

The squirrel did eventually get Sun free, but was blinded by Sun and his tail and fur had been burned to black. Sun felt bad and offered the squirrel anything he wanted, which was to fly.

With that, Sun gave the squirrel wings, and had him sleep when Sun would rise, and turned him into a bat.

African Bat Symbolism

Bats are largely considered to be tricksters in African folklore and mythology. There are also numerous stories and legends associated with the bat.

In a Swahili legend, an evil spirit called Popobawa, which translates to "bat wing," is said to be a shapeshifter who can change from human to animal, and back. The shadow from a bat's wings are also said to resemble the evil, dark spirit of Popobawa, who attacks people at night.

A Nigerian folktale about why bats fly at night tells of a bush rat, Oyot, and his friend, Emiong, a bat. After feeding together for some time, the bat grew jealous of the bush rat. The bush rat asked how the bat made such good soup, to which the bat replied, "I always boil myself in the water, and my flesh is so sweet, that the soup is good."

The bat said he would show the bush rat how to do it. The bat jumped into a pot of warm water, telling the bush rat it was boiling, and then jumped out, serving the bush rat good soup again. When the bush rat returned home and told his wife, she boiled water; the bush rat jumped in and died.

The wife reported the bush rat's death to the king, who ordered the bat be taken prisoner. The bat flew away and hid himself, eventually having to come out only at night to feed when it was dark and nobody was around.

Ancient Greek Bat Symbolism

Ancient Greeks thought bats were birds, though not normal birds that were out during the day; rather, they associated bats with the underworld because they are nocturnal. Bats are present in Greek mythology and literature.

In an Aesop's fable describing why the bat is a certain way, all the animals are fighting with each other, except the bat, who chooses the side of the animal winning; when the birds were winning, the bat would pretend he was a bird, and when the rodents were winning, the bat would pretend he was a rodent. The animals finally realized the bat was tricking them, ganged up on him, and this is why the bat only flies during the nighttime.

In a Greek myth, Alcithoe, a maiden, and her sisters, were invited to a party by the god of wine and parties, Dionysus. They rejected his offer, and because of this, Dionysus turned them into bats and birds.

In "The Odyssey," Home describes bats as carrying dead souls to the underworld, just like the Ancient Greeks believed to be so. The Greeks also believed that flying animals, like butterflies, carried the souls of the dead.

Ancient Mayan Bat Symbolism

The Maya civilization viewed bats as a powerful symbol of fertility and protection of crops. Bats were also believed to be messengers between the human world and the spirit world. They worshiped many bat deities because of this.

In Maya mythology, the Bat God, Camazotz, translates to "death bat." As such, Camazotz was associated with death, night, and sacrifice.

In the Popol Vuh, the ancient texts of the K'iche' people that recounted mythology and history, Camazotz are evil bat-like monsters that are encountered by Hunahpu and Xbalanque, the Maya hero twins, during their trials in Xibalba, the underworld.

The twins spent the night in the House of Bats, using their blowguns to defend themselves, but squeezing into the guns themselves for protection. One night, Hunahpu stuck his head out to see if it was morning, and Camazotz took Hunahpu's head and hung it up as a ball for the gods to use.

Celtic Bat Symbolism

The Celts associated bats with spirits and had many superstitions for these creatures. Bats were also thought to be symbols of courage, things that are hidden, as well as witches, vampires and evil. Because bats hang upside down, the Celts believed bats were spiritual guides to the underworld.

The Celtic tale of Tehi Tegi, an enchantress and sorceress, said she bewitched 600 men. Riding a white horse, men followed her everywhere she went, eventually leading men to a river. Once the men were in the river, Tehi Tegi created large waves and drowned them. Her horse turned into a dolphin and swam away, and she turned into a bat and flew away.

Another legend says that if a bat becomes talented in a woman's hair, that woman's death would be in the near future. The Celts also believed that if a bat took a piece of your hair, it was bad luck.

There's also the legend of Cyhiraeth, a bat-like creature similar to a banshee. Cyhiraeth's call would indicate one's death, and a flap of her wings would signal imminent death as well.

Finally, Samhain, an ancient Celtic festival we now know as Halloween, is related to the bat. Samhain includes bonfires that are meant to attract bats.

Norse Bat Symbolism

The ancient Norse people believed the bat to be a supernatural being who would bring death, change people for the worst, and bewitch individuals.

In Norse mythology, bats and owls were closely related and even referred to as the same name, nathbakkæ, which means "night flapper," or aftenbakke, which means "evening flapper."

Far Eastern Bat Symbolism

In Chinese culture, bats are praised as symbols of happiness, wisdom, and good fortune. The five blessings, or wufu, is depicted as five bats, and represents good deeds and health.

The Chinese often depict bats with gold coins in their mouths. When placed in certain areas of the home, it's said to bring familial happiness; when hung from the door, it brings protection from illness.

In Feng Shui, an ancient Chinese divination practice, it's said that putting symbols of bats in the entrance of a home or office brings wealth, happiness, good health, and positive dreams.

In Japanese culture, bats are considered good luck, and are often depicted on pieces of art and decorations, or alongside peaches.

Bat Tattoo Meaning

While people get tattoos for a variety of reasons, particularly for creative expression, a bat tattoo can symbolize many things. Bats represent good luck and fortune, family and community, death and rebirth, supernatural abilities, and evolution — all of which can be the reason behind this tattoo.

Whether it's because you've let go of the past and welcomed in a new future, are growing into a better person, or highly value your family and friends, a bat tattoo has quite a deep meaning.

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Samantha Maffucci is an editor for YourTango who has written hundreds of articles about relationships, trending news and entertainment, numerology and astrology. Follow her on Twitter for more.