The vast majority of people are frightened, if at the very least trepidatious, when encountering bats. For some, the mere mention of a bat sends them into a panic Conservationists have been working for decades to dispel the terrifying myths about bats and to bring humans into a greater appreciation of these flying mammals. Bats work wonders for an ecosystem keeping dangerous crop pest insects in check and producing great agricultural fertilizer in the form of guano. Still, despite the best public relations campaigns, many shy away from the medicine of bat.
Coming to Terms with Bat Symbolism
We often want our spirit animals to bring good tidings, and bat spirit animal is no exception. When we see bats or draw a bat card from an animal totem deck, we either tense up to brace for impact or we begin furiously trying to figure out how to spin this in a positive light.
At the core, bat symbolism carries an archetypal association with fear. Our gut reaction to simply seeing a picture of a bat speaks of this. There is really no good way to turn fear on its head so that we can feel better. Fear is unnerving and bat spirit animal seats us firmly outside our comfort zone. So, if you find yourself already holding your breath, it is likely that bat is simply bringing to the surface the fear you’ve stored up inside.
By moving into the fear and knowing you have one of the best guides along for the journey in the form of a flying, furry mammal you have an opportunity to inherit gratitude, which will be one comforting emotion during this very trying time.
Bat Spirit Animal’s Foreboding
Oftentimes when helping others interpret their encounters with animals in waking-life or the dreamworld, I find a nail-biting listener on the other end of the conversation. Many people fear that the message from the animal brings bad news. I always want to bolster the listener’s faith and trust in the universe in creating a reading about an animal encounter, but this can be tough to do when faced with bat symbolism. The truth is, it’s scary.
Bat spirit animal carries messages of fear, suffering, trial, initiation, and challenge. At the same time, this tenacious, outstandingly brave little creature could not be a stronger ally to have in times of uncertainty.
On the spiritual path we hope to find great rewards and even bigger favors granted, but coming into connection with the Divine is not a way to guarantee comfort, safety, peace, joy, or abundance. It is a way to gain the fortitude and presence to move through life as a generous being that moves grace and love into the world.
Death & Initiation
To become clear channels for grace we have to release our egos, identity and attachments. Release is a poetic word for death. Shamanic teachers are much more candid about what this process of releasing looks and feels like. It feels like dying. Even though the physical body comes through the process, we are not the same person on the other side.
Just like the seasons, our lives move in cycles and there are episodes when all the old must be sloughed off so that we can move our gifts into the world without distractions or obstacles.
Traditionally, shamans understood the necessity and periodicity of these “small” deaths in our lives and they created ritual and ceremony to facilitate and support this critical component of the spiritual path. Initiates were buried up to their necks, locked in caves, left in the woods and abandoned in their own graves. We now affectionately call these ancient and painful rituals “vision quests” which can disguise the severity of the experiences.
Today, we don’t have such rituals for better or worse, but this does not mean that many people aren’t experiencing what is known as the shamanic death or initiation. These initiations are happening in the midst of life, cloaked in the mundane, but they are no less painful.
Bat spirit animal appears during these initiations when the world seems to be falling down around us. The loss of a job, a health crisis, death of loved ones, floods, fires, lawsuits, and so forth can be the outward manifestations of an inward crisis.
Upside Down and Clinging
Bat hangs upside down from the ceiling of the cave, clinging to the rough surface. This inverted posture could be seen as everything going wrong, but I see it as a defiance of gravity. Symbolically, gravity is the past, what drags us down and what keeps us from moving forward into grace.
Bat spirit animal says, “I’m not going to let that bring me down. I’m climbing as high as I can and riding this one out.” There is an intense tenacity in bat symbolism, more so than you will find almost anywhere else. Even when things are at their very, very worst and it seems like we won’t be able to go on, bat is the voice deep inside us that rebels and tells us to keep hanging in there. Bat symbolism is about not giving up, not matter how hard it gets.
Is this Ever Going to End?
In the Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson, they warn against stagnation and preventing the death-rebirth cycle from progressing, but there is an important component of bat biology that we must evaluate. Female bat has three ways to prolong her pregnancy. She can prevent the sperm from fertilizing the egg, she can keep the fertilized egg floating free awaiting implantation, or she can keep the very young embryo in a sort of stasis where it is not allowed to grow. She forestalls the development and birth of her pup until environmental conditions are more favorable.
Forbearance is another key component of bat symbolism. When everyone else is saying to get on with it, let go of the past, and start a new life, we don’t have to listen. We know when the right time is and we know when there is still more that must die. When we deny these truths it is no use because the cosmos simply supplies more trials to slow us down.
Rebirth & Resurrection
Bats give birth to their young while hanging upside down. The babies come out feet, rather than head, first. This again speaks of the enormous strength and effort that is at the heart of bat medicine. Born against the pull of gravity, the force of the universe that seems to suck everything down, your new self is coming. It is a tremendous, heroic effort not to be taken lightly and worth every ounce of power you put into it.
At dusk every day, bats are born anew into the darkness flying out from the cave. That is why so many cultures associate bat with resurrection. We think being reborn into our new selves means we will come out into the light and have everything revealed to us. The trick of bat spirit animal is to remember that we are being born into the mystery. So much will be uncertain, but with bat spirit animal as your faithful companion you’ll be able to fly to new heights, hear the voice of the cosmos with great precision and have more freedom that you ever could have imagined.
About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch
Stacey Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, works as a publicist and journalist for Mother Nature and is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as a source for guidance and healing. With over ten years of experience in the field of shamanism and thirteen years experience working with wildlife and rescue animals, Stacey has a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective that makes the world of shamanism easily accessible to others. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.