“As she sleeps, a large bat flies into her room that transforms into Dracula. He leans over her sleeping body to bite Lucy on the neck and drink her blood.” ~Bram Stoker (Dracula)
Everyone knows that bats go with Halloween like bacon goes with eggs, but do you know where this cryptic Bat-Halloween connection came from? After all, what could be more adorable than a somewhat kooky looking, upside-down hanging varmint with webbed wings? Whether you are able to see the inherent utter cuteness in bats or you (like most people) are scared to death of these potentially blood sucking creatures, you need to understand one thing. The bat is largely misunderstood.
In order to understand the association with bats and Halloween, you have to go way back into history. Way, way back to the time before the first millennium, when the Celtic people celebrated a holiday known as Samhain. Samhain was the most important celebration of the year to the Celts and this festival held great cultural significance to these ancient people. During the time of Samhain, people of old believed that ghosts of the dead were able to roam the earth freely and that their spirits would mingle with the living at this time. During Samhain, a great deal of superstition and fear was mixed with the celebrating as it was also believed that evil or bad spirits could be about as well that may have had very malevolent intentions.
A huge part of the Samhain celebration involved the building of giant bonfires. The bonfires were built in honor of the dead as well as to ward off any evil spirits that may be lurking about. When these giant bonfires were burning, a natural occurrence was for large quantities of insects to be attracted to the warmth and light surrounding the fire. Bats primary source of food is insects, so it was natural for them to be attracted to the large swarms of insects that were flying around the burning bonfires. Bats would then feed voraciously on the insects accordingly as these bonfires conveniently provided them with an optimal insect hunting ground!
As time went on, the stories and images of bats flying in and out of the firelight during the Samhain festival became the stuff that legends and folklore are made of. Fast-forward to the 17th century and you have an even juicier chapter to add to the bat legend.
Spanish explorers who journeyed to Central and South America made more than one stunning discovery during their explorations. These early explorers were some of the first to note the presence of bats that did indeed feed on blood. Although these bats (called Vampire bats) primarily fed on the blood of livestock, the explorers who were obviously already very superstitious were quick to draw a correlation between the vampires that were part of their homeland mythology and these newly discovered blood-sucking creatures. Rumors of bats who could shape shift themselves into vampires were started and perpetuated. These far-fetched Vampire tales were made most infamous in Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”. The innocent little bat has been in the Halloween Hall of Fame ever since.
Essentially a cute, flying, insect-eating mammal, the bat does have a bit of a notorious reputation, but this is largely due to superstitious people long ago starting some pretty bizarre rumors about this mostly innocuous, not to mention helpful, creature. The bat’s association with Halloween is likely here to stay; but in spite of what you may have heard, there is little reason to ever be afraid of a bat. Whether you have bats in your belfry or a few just hanging around in your trees, bats are likely just doing their part to keep the mosquito population under control, eating up to 1000 of those pesky flying insects in an hour. Now that, my friends, is something to go batty about!
Bats all, folks!