EPISODE 12: BATS
A Bat blundered into the nest of a Weasel, who ran up to catch and eat him. The Bat begged for his life, but the Weasel would not listen.
"You are a Mouse," he said, "and I am a sworn enemy of Mice. Every Mouse I catch, I am going to eat!”
"But I am not a Mouse!" cried the Bat. "Look at my wings. Can Mice fly? Why, I am only a Bird! Please let me go!”
The Weasel had to admit that the Bat was not a Mouse, so he let him go.
But a few days later, the foolish Bat went blindly into the nest of another Weasel.
This Weasel happened to be a bitter enemy of Birds, and he soon had the Bat under his claws, ready to eat him.
"You are a Bird," he said, "and I am going to eat you!”
"What," cried the Bat, "I, a Bird! Why, all Birds have feathers! I am nothing but a Mouse. 'Down with all Cats,' is my motto!”
And so the Bat escaped with his life a second time.
When I was a child, there was a hammock on the balcony of my parents home.
I would lay there at dusk, gently rocking in the summer breeze…..wide-eyed.
Waiting for the crickets to get out their violins and begin their song.
Waiting……..for the bats to come and do their hypnotic dance.
And like clockwork, just as the sun would dip below the horizon…. they would begin to appear.
First just a couple, darting past each-other….disappearing over the roof of the house.
I would hold my breath, waiting once again for their return.
And just as quickly as they left, they were back.
One bat, then two, three….four.
Little by little they would grow into a beautifully choreographed group.
A swirling sea of black wings.
Swooping and diving, but never colliding.
It was like magic.
Bats have long been associated with the realm of magic and superstition.
And while some places honour the bat, like in China, in many others they are feared due to their folkloric connection to witchcraft and the devil.
Because there is so much mythology around bats, I have decided to organize this episode into mini sections based on traits.
I figure it will be easier to navigate, and for you to take notes, if that is your thing.
However the trade off may be that it is a bit choppy.
So, without further a-due
The first section of course, is the bats ability to fly.
There are a shocking number of bat species, actually around 1100 different types, and they make up 20% of all mammals.
All these species of bats can, and do fly as their method of transport.
So naturally they were given the latin name of Chiroptera which means winged-hands.
Before Bram Stoker famously wrote that Dracula would turn into a bat and soar of into the dark of night, this fascinating creature was deemed a shapeshifter by the Greeks and by the Romans.
One day I will have an episode that doesn’t talk about the Romans, but today isn’t that day.
At the top of the episode you heard a fable by a man named Aesop.
Aesop was a Greek populist who began his story-telling career as a slave, and so many legends surround him, it is hard to separate fact from fiction.
His stories always contained a moral quandary, and it is likely because of him we have the saying “The moral of the story”.
But I digress.
In his tale, the bat escapes death twice by convincing each group he isn’t their intended target by pretending to be something he’s not.
Even though he keeps his life, eventually that excuse will stop working.
We see this same sort of animal caught “between worlds” scenario play out in another Fable written by a Roman man named Phaedrus.
Phaedrus is actually credited in bringing Aesop’s fables into modern Europe, so one has to wonder if the following story called The Birds, The Beasts and The Bat was inspired by the aforementioned man.
The Birds were at war with the Beasts, and the conquerors were defeated in their turn; but the Bat, fearing the doubtful issue of the strife, always betook himself to those whom he saw victorious. When they had returned to their former state of peace, the fraud was apparent to both sides; convicted therefore of a crime so disgraceful, and flying from the light, he thenceforth hid himself in deep darkness, always flying alone by night.
This brings us to their next trait: as a group, they are nocturnal…mostly…
Now you may be thinking, “well the animals and birds didn’t actually cast out the bats, forcing them to exist only in darkness,” but you’d actually be half wrong, the birds really did.
According to National Geographic, for approximately forty years, scientists have been observing small groups of bats who have switched to hunting during the day.
This has confirmed a theory that it was the competition for food, and the threat of attack by birds of prey, that pushed bats into their nocturnal evolution 50 million years ago.
Another popular belief that it has helped to dispel is that bats are blind.
While the smaller subclass of bats, known as Microchiroptera, use echolocation to navigate while flying, and while hunting for insects, some larger bats in the subclass Megachiroptera use their impeccable eyesight to hunt.
Despite all we know now about bats, their connection to the darkness has been a point of contention, especially in medieval Britain and France.
If you remember from the Whip episode, this period kicked off the European witch persecutions, and anything associated with nightfall was eyed with suspicion.
Our 14th century counterparts would’ve seen how these creatures flew around in the pitch black with ease, and to them it was terrifying.
Women, like bats, were believed to sneak out at night and get up to no good.
Naturally, this was enough proof for the Church to believe that bats were delivering messages between Satan and the blasphemous women.
One horrific case from France shows just how far the people were willing to go.
In 1332, a woman named Lady Jacaume of Bayonne was publicly burned in the town square because bats were always flying around her home and her garden.
And while I often don’t bat an eye (pun intended) at the ridiculousness of the church and their ability to reach such conclusions, It does sting to know both bats and women are still persecuted today for existing as autonomous beings.
I suppose it is a little bit dishonest for me to say that nocturnal habits were the only connection between bats and the devil.
In fact, these medieval christians would likely argue that they had more proof…such as the fact that bats also inhabit caves.
Yea….I think my tone speaks for itself on this one.
As long as there have been humans, there has been folklore attached to caves.
Caves are often thought to be portals to other worlds.
In Celtic Ireland and parts of Britain, caves led you to the faerie realms.
These faerie realms would later become Hell, as old beliefs were adapted to fit the current religion.
The most likely influence comes from Ancient Greek mythology, where caves were gates to Hades, a theory which was later adopted by the Romans, who then brought Christianity to Britain and changed the Celtic stories as well.
To the romans bats were attached to Hades/Pluto and therefore Persephone aka Proserpina, his wife, which made it easier to attach the animal to Christian Satan, and his female companions, the witches.
And if all of that wasn’t enough, the way bats hang upside down in caves has inspired more Celtic folklore and therefore Christianity as well.
Duality is always a factor in spirituality, no matter which culture you look at. Good vs evil, life and death, etc
To the Celts, being upright is associated with life, and the physical plane we exist in, therefore something living, but being able to rest upside-down would have to represent death or a different level of consciousness.
During Samhain, which is the time when the physical barrier between the realm of the living and the realm of the dead ceases, great bonfires would be lit.
These bonfires would attract insects, which would attract bats, and they quickly became the mascot for the holiday……and have remained even to this day where Samhain is now Halloween.
Though I have discussed the bats flying capabilities, I haven't really touched on their wings yet.
You see, in order to do that, you needed to have all this prior information. A full understanding of the death and underworld associations of the bats.
Bat wings appear in tons of imagery relating to the death, women and the devil.
Nowadays when we think of the Devil in popular culture, we picture a red, cartoonish human figure with horns, hooves and a tail.
However about half the time we see him, he will don a pair of webbed bat wings.
Satan’s fallen angel status was apparent in art.
God’s angels had fluffy bird wings, so naturally the devil needed to be the complete opposite of that.
There’s that duality thing again…..
One representation of the Devil with bat wings is in a series of early 1300s paintings called: The Temptation of Christ.
One panel in particular stands out.
It shows the Devil being cast away from Christ on the side of a mountain next to a village.
He appears as a greyish, shadowy figure with an upturned bat nose, ears and wings.
This humanoid type creature is in stark contrast to the angels who stand behind Christ. They are full of life and wear pastel robes that match the colours of the surrounding buildings.
Another common place we see bat wings appear, is on the hourglass.
The hourglass represents the time each person is granted on earth.
When the sand runs out, so does your life.
Nowadays, the wings depicted are those bid fluffy ones that represent angels and therefore heaven, but there was a time when the wings were that of a bat, to represent going to the underworld.
Other times, the hourglass would have one bird wing and one bat wing. This symbolized that you might end up in either place.
If you were a good Christian, your purity would be rewarded, and off to heaven you’d go.
A purity not granted to most women of course..…unless they worked really, really hard to be pious.
This medieval connection between women and bats is so engrained in western culture to this day, that it even shows up in body shaming.
When a woman has more fat on her upper arms….it is referred to as, your guessed it, her “bat wings.”
Now, men are not immune to having more fat there as well, but I’d challenge you to find anyone who would refer to it as bat wings, or even remark on it at all.
When I was doing the channeled messages for the Bats card, I really wanted to make sure the qualities they were feared for in British lore, were turned back into something positive.
So, press pause and grab your booklet.
Adapting to circumstances: when the bats were pushed out by the birds, they evolved to hunt at night.
Intuition and inner wisdom: the bat’s use of echolocation
Nurturing energy: the traditional, or even stereotypical idea, that women are more caring and loving. I personally see this as a positive, but maybe you ascribe it to something else, feel free to replace it.
The Divine Feminine: this is the archetype again that relates to the last point, an idea that many tarot and oracle readers revere. If you want to call it something else you’re more than welcome.
Seeing through lies: the concept of women’s intuition, and also the undoing of the idea that we are easily tricked or lured by evil. This relates to the second point of intuition and inner wisdom.
A family dynamic: the bat’s ability to hunt in groups and work together is remarkable.
The underworld: a place we should not fear, but rather honour and respect.
Bats deserve our care, and our protection. Now more than ever.
And I think if we offer that to them, we will see them offer us so much more in return.
This has been the Memento Mori Oracle Podcast