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Bat Dreams
Oil Pastel, September 2007

As an underground rehabber, I have a close affinity to these amazingly intelligent mammals.  Bats have taken on a bad reputation in the Western world over the ages; however in Central America and Africa they are closely connected with Shamanism and in China they are auspicious symbols of good luck and happiness.  Buddhism connects bats to reincarnation as well.  Look to the Animal totem page over the month for more metaphors and symbols connected with Bats. 

Bat symbols:
Hibernation-Do you need to
     hibernate an idea/problem?
Incubation - female bats mate and
     incubate the seed in the Fall, to
     give birth in the Spring.  This
     could mean incubating an idea
     for further growth.   
Nocturnal -do work better in at
Underworld-Spritual realm, a
     hero's journey into the
     underworld to understand life
Happiness (Chinese word for bat is
     "fu" which means happiness
     and good luck)
Unrest or chaos (Japanese)
Witch or evil/Darkness-exploring
     shadow aspects
Seeing in the dark
Echo-location: Hearing or needing
     to listen
Hidden meaning
Pests - getting rid of pests; do you
     need to re-evaluate the friends
     around you; on the flipside, are
     you being a pest?
Vampires-is someone sucking your
     energy or do you need more
Decapitation-"losing your head"
Sacrifice-needing to sacrifice
     something for a higher cause
     or feeling like you are making
     many/too many sacrifices.
Shamanism, undergoing a
     shamanic "death" (shedding of
     old self in order to move on) 
Agile or agility
Flying-higher perspective in the 
    dark; darker perspective
Here is a little poem I found in Captive Care and Medical Reference for the Rehabilitation of Insectivorous Bats By Amada Lollar and Barbara Schmidt-French
The Bat
Lightless, unholy; eldrich thing
Whose murky and erratic wing
Swoops to sickeningly; and whose
Aspect to the female Muse
Is a demon's, made of stuff
Like tattered, sooty waterproof,
Looking dirty, clammy, cold,
Wicked, poisonious and old;
I have maligned thee!...For the cat
Lately caught a little bat,
Seized it softly, bore it in.
On the carpet, dark as sin
In the lamplight, painfully
 It limped about, and could not fly.
Even fear must yield to love,
And pity makes the depths to move,
Though sick with horror, I must stoop,
Grasp it gently, take it up,
To carry it, and place it where
It could resume the twilight air.
Strange revelation! Warm as milk,
Clean as a flower, smooth as silk!
O what a piteous face appears,
What great fine thin translucent ears!
What a chestnut down and crapy wings,
Finer, than any ladies; things -
And O a little one that clings!
Warm, clean and lovely, though not fair,
And burdened with a mother's care:
Go hunt the hurtful fly, and bear
My blessing to your kind in air.
-Ruth Pitter, 1897

Here is an excerpt from Medicine Cards:
"Steeped in the mystery of Meso-American tribal ritual is the legend of Bat.  Akin to the ancient Buddhist belief in reincarnation, in Central America, Bat is the symbol of rebirth.  The Bat has for centuries been a treasured medicine of the Aztec, Toltec, Tolcan, and Mayan Peoples.
     "Bat embraces the idea of shamanistic death.  The ritual death of the healer is steeped in secrets and highly involved initiation rites.  Shaman death is the symbolic death of the initiate to the old ways of life and personal identity.  The initiation that brings the right to heal and to be called shaman is necessarily preceeded by ritual death.  Most of these rituals are brutally hard on the body, mind, and spirit.  In light of today's standards, it can be very difficult to find a person who can take the abuse and come through it with their balance intact.
     "The basic idea of ancient initiations was to break down all the former notions of "self" that were held by the shaman-to-be.  This could entail brutal tests of physical strength and psychic ability, and having every emotional "button" pushed hard.  Taunting and spitting on the inititate was common, and taught him or her to endure the duress with humility and fortitude.  The final initiaion step was to be buried in the earth for one day and to be reborn without former ego in the morning."

"The bat is one of the most misunderstood mammals.  Modern depictions in movies and television have given it a sinister reputation, but it plays an important role in Nature and as a symbol in the totem traditions.  Although more modern lore places the bat in cohorts with the devil, with its dragon-like wings, in more ancient times it was a powerful symbol.
    "...If a bat has flown into your life [or dreams], then it is time to face your fears and prepare for change.  You are being challenged to let go of the old and create the new."
Ted Andrews (Llewellyn Publications: St. Paul, Minn. 2001. p. 248)