A key element of Halloween is honoring the darkness and the mysteries held therein. Originally Halloween was celebrated by the ancient Celts and their Druid priest class as Samhain, “summer’s end,” marking the death of the old year and birth of the new year and the transition from the seasons of light — spring and summer — to the seasons of darkness — fall and winter. It’s perhaps inevitable that bats, furtive, winged, nocturnal mammals that roost upside down in creepy caves, decrepit barns, and moldering crypts would become a symbol of the dark holiday.

samhain bonfire

But there’s even more to the Halloween-bat connection. In the Samhain days, Halloween meant huge bonfires, which lit up the night with an eerie orangey glow and served as a beacon for the souls of friends and family, a threat to evil spirits who meant to harm the living, a salute to the dying sun, preparation of harvest feasts, and warmth against the chill night air. What else do large fires draw besides the friendly dead? Mosquitoes and moths, which would in turn draw bats for a feeding frenzy. So bats were a common sight during Samhain festivals and later Halloween celebrations.

swarm of bats

The connection between bats and Halloween is also seasonal, according to Nate Fuller, of Boston University’s bat biology program. Fuller theorizes that late October is the best time to witness the fall swarming—when bats flood the skies while making preparations for hibernation. So release the bats for Halloween!

Halloween witch bats

By the Middle Ages, bats were associated with witches, who were assumed to be aided by demons and evil spirits that took the form of animals, called “familiars,” including black cats and bats. Witches also commonly used bat parts and blood in spells, potions, curses, and their notorious flying ointment. And then they started burning witches, which in turn drew moths, mosquitoes and… bats.

Vampire-bat transformation

Eventually, vampire legends made their way into Halloween folklore, further reinforcing the bat as Halloween symbol. By the time Bram Stoker published Dracula in 1897, a cornerstone of vampire lore was that they could turn into bats, an association brought on by darkness, winged mobility, and the reality of vampire bats, which feed on only blood with their nasty little fangs.

More Halloween Reading:

Halloween Symbols – Pumpkins and Jack-O-Lanterns

Halloween and the Lost Art of Divination

Why Has Hocus Pocus Become THE Halloween Family Favorite?

Halloween Hangover

Halloween Reading

The Nightmare Before Christmas Just as Halloweeny As You Think It Is

Witch's Halloween: A Complete Guide to the Magick, Incantations, Recipes, Spells, and Lore

by Gerina Dunwich [Adams Media]
Rank/Rating: 605925/-
Price: $12.95

Halloween! (Holiday Series)

by Silver RavenWolf [Llewellyn Publications]
Rank/Rating: 242591/-
Price: $14.80

Witches, Pumpkins, and Grinning Ghosts: The Story of the Halloween Symbols

by Edna Barth [HMH Books for Young Readers]
Rank/Rating: 1535635/-
Price: $8.95

by - [-]
Rank/Rating: -/-
Price: -

Leg Avenue Women's Cozy Bat Costume

by Leg Avenue [Leg Avenue Costumes]
Rank/Rating: 59420/-
Price: -

The Secret Lives of Bats: My Adventures with the World's Most Misunderstood Mammals

by Merlin Tuttle [Houghton Mifflin Harcourt]
Rank/Rating: 285227/-
Price: $17.43

Save

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!

After Hours AM is changing talk radio Listen now!
Hello. Add your message here.