Folklore

Bat Folklore and Facts #folklore

Bats have always been the subject of scary stories. They are strange creatures, neither animal or bird – but something from a nightmare realm. And their stories can be found in ever culture, most likely due to their world domination – they can be found everywhere but for the iciest places on Earth.

But are they truly these spooky, supernatural fiends folklore makes them out to be?

Folklore

The Forest in Folklore and Mythology by Alexander Porteous [1928]

The Bongos and Niam-Niams consider their forests to be weird and mysterious places, the haunts of dreadful supernatural beings, very malignant, and when the natives pass through these woods they think they hear in the rustle of the foliage the mysterious conversation of these Demons as they conspire against them… Bats also are included, one species of which flies about from tree to tree in broad daylight.

Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology by Theresa Bane

Alecto [one of the three Furies] …described as looking like an old hag with bat wings…

Ariel was the name of the “airy spirit” in William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”; he flew through the air on the back of a bat (Act 5).

Kludde is a malicious shape-shifting fairy found in Brabant and Flanders, Belgium… no matter the form the kludde assumes, bat, cat, crow, frog or what have you, there will always be the presence of two small blue flames before the animal; the lights are believed to be the creature’s eyes.

Yoruba Legends by M.I. Ogumefu, B.A. [1929]

THE BAT

THE Bat is half a bird and half a rodent, and lives partly on the earth and partly in the air, but both rats and birds shun him, and this is why:

 The rats, his cousins, were once fighting a great battle with the birds, and Bat fought in their midst.

 But when he saw that the birds were likely to be victorious, he left the rats and flew up into the air to fight on the side of the birds.

 Both the rats and the birds were disgusted at this cowardly action, so they ceased from fighting one another and all combined to attack the Bat.

 Since that day he has been forced to hide in dark places all day, and only comes out in the evening when his enemies cannot see him

Aesop’s Fables

The Bat and the Weasels

A BAT who fell upon the ground and was caught by a Weasel pleaded to be spared his life. The Weasel refused, saying that he was by nature the enemy of all birds. The Bat assured him that he was not a bird, but a mouse, and thus was set free. Shortly afterwards the Bat again fell to the ground and was caught by another Weasel, whom he likewise entreated not to eat him. The Weasel said that he had a special hostility to mice. The Bat assured him that he was not a mouse, but a bat, and thus a second time escaped.

It is wise to turn circumstances to good account.

Bat Folklore and Mythology in a Nutshell by Ronel

Graveyards, ghosts and goblins – that is what bats are associated with, especially in Western culture. But there is more to this creature than what goes bump in the night.

Bats are misunderstood mammals. Though some do live in caves, come out in the dark and drink blood, they are vital to our ecosystems. Unlike vampires who share these traits in folklore. Read all about bats and see cute pictures here.

There are many old-wives-tales perpetuated about bats getting in your hair: they don’t want to make a nest in your hair – they are looking for insects flying close to you (mosquitoes, anyone?). Though, in French folklore, a bat in a woman’s hair presages a disastrous love affair. And in Ireland, if a bat escapes with a strand of said woman’s hair, she is bound for eternal damnation. But bats are not from hell… though that does make for a good song, even if the only truth about bats in it is that they prefer the night.

But going with bats and being damned (listen to the lyrics!), bats have been connected with vampires (Dracula exploding into clouds of bats and creepily hovering outside the window of a willing victim), Batman (he’s a hero, but so dark and twisty! Michael Keaton or Ben Affleck are the best versions of Batman, you can keep the rest), witchcraft and other dark things of the night.

In England and Scotland, bats were seen as the familiars/messengers of witches. The best reason for this, IMO, is that humans are wary of both. Bats are regularly called “flying rats” and rats carry pestilence, which leads to the belief that bats must be worse. Horrifically, Lady Jacaume of Bayonne was burned in France (1332) because bats flew around her house.

Bats are also used as ingredients in many folk potions, from aiding night vision to curing sleep issues.

Though “blind as a bat” is still a commonly heard phrase because of their echolocation sense, bats aren’t blind and before the 1930s, people believed that bats had excellent eyesight – which is why they were used in potions to treat vision issues.

In Eastern cultures, bats are viewed as a symbol of happiness and long life. And seeing five bats together is a five-fold blessing: longevity, good health, financial security, a virtuous life, and a natural death.

The Mayans had many bats in their stories and even had one as the guardian of the Underworld – which makes sense as the Underworld is where people (the dead) live in the shadows of darkness and (most) bats prefer the dark. And seeing as bats emerge from caves (a gateway to the Underworld in many cultures), the connection between them and death/the Underworld is strong.

Where I live in South Africa, bats glide along silently, hunting for their favourite prey, and happily ignore all mammals – though one can always take advantage of their mysterious magic!

Bats are pollinators, pest control, seed dispersers and an excellent indicator of biodiversity. So stop believing the scary myths about these clever creatures and help to protect them – for if they die out tomorrow, we will know the true meaning of fear.

Check out Bats Without Borders to find a local wildlife organisation/conservation trust to help protect the bats.

Further Reading:

Bats in My Writing

I actually like bats (if you haven’t figured that out yet).

I like to use them and their features in my writing. For the Furies, I kept to original folklore (for the most part) when I created their look.

Get it from your favourite online store in English or Afrikaans.

Faery-Hybrids

All Faery-Hybrids were once other types of Fae. They became whatever Faery-rat, Faery-bat, Faery-baboon or other creature by living a good life and going against whatever their Fae-nature was. Some see this as a reward – after all, Faery-Hybrids are as close to mortal as Fae can get. Others see it as an abomination. Tree Nymphs usually become Faery-Hybrid plants.

Faery-Hybrid Bats

Furry. Black. Some skinny, some fat. Big eyes – blue, green, red, orange, yellow, or purple.
Were Red Caps or other type of Goblin-Faery in past life – becoming a bat is a reward for a life well-lived. They know all the magic of their previous kind and are immune to it. They try to help others against their previous kind.
They are a little comical – try to do magic they once had; think they’re stronger than they are; bit off-balance while flying.
Do have new magic: can hypnotise enemies; have excellent hearing.

bat English Afrikaans

I haven’t used these Faery-Hybrid Bats in anything new (yet!), but you can read about them in a story I published a couple of years ago over on Wattpad.

Read it here.

I hope you enjoy the blast to the past on Wattpad! Do you like bats or fear them? Personally I like them: they eat mosquitoes. Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to bats in folklore.

Sign up for my newsletter and receive a free ebook. I won’t share your information and I’ll only email you once a month with updates on new releases, special offers, and a bit of news.

5 thoughts on “Bat Folklore and Facts #folklore”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *