Winged nocturnal creatures that seem equal parts bird and mammal and like the taste of blood – it’s little wonder bats often fall into the category of the macabre.
But, these creatures may surprise you with their symbolism (hint: it’s not all vampires and death). Bats are fascinating animals with deep symbolism, which makes bat tattoos an interesting choice for body art.
Let’s explore what these creatures of the night represent, why they are so entrenched in the world of horror, and bat tattoo ideas for those who are intrigued by this amazing animal.
What Makes Bats So Special?
Bats have their own special group which only they’re a part of: Chiroptera. They are their own type of mammal as they’re the only ones who are able to fly.
As bats are nocturnal, they fly around and forage for their food at night. So, they’ve developed incredible night vision and are able to see in pitch black – but, not in the way you might think,
“They do it through echolocation – they emit sounds as they fly (which are out of our range of hearing) and use the echoes to map their surroundings,”WCS
Bats are also an essential part of the food chain for many of the fruits that humans love. While some species of bats eat insects when they go out on their night time hunts, others eat pollen, nectar, or fruit. The latter types of bats help the pollination process for things like bananas, avos, and mangos.
There are so many unique and amazing things about bats, you may wonder why exactly such a cult of fear surrounds them…
Who Made Bats ‘Scary’?
When October rolls around, many people get out the Halloween decorations. Among the skeletons, witches’ hats, and jack-o’-lanterns you’ll find little cutouts and figurines of bats.
These winged critters have been a staple in horror stories since Dracula shapeshifted into a bat in Bram Stoker’s original book, published in 1897. But, why are bats considered creepy enough for this genre?
One reason could be that creatures who wander around at night tend to be associated with darkness and death. Stanford University classics scholar, Adrienne Mayor, explained to National Geographic,
“They engage in mysterious activities in the dark and so they have been cloaked in superstition since ancient times. The combination of dark gray, brown, or black shades with cryptic nighttime habits evoked a sense of awe and fear back in the time when the only lights at night were oil lamps and wax candles.”
Then, there is the rumor that bats enjoy the taste of blood – super scary. But, is there any truth to this? Of the over 1,400 species of bats around the world, only three of them consume blood. These vampire bats mostly feed on cattle and horses, but they have been known to also snack on humans…
These cases are rare, though, and the most likely side effect is the rabies shot afterward. Vampire bats don’t drink enough blood to kill (or turn their meal into a vampire).
What Does A Bat Tattoo Symbolize?
While getting a bat tattoo can be a way to celebrate your love of all things dark and mysterious, this isn’t where bat symbolism ends.
A bat tattoo can represent rebirth because these animals rise when the sun sets representing a new life that begins at night.
In Chinese culture, bats are seen as something positive.
“…bats are seen as harbingers of good luck and prosperity. Lucky bat symbols have been a part of Chinese history for centuries. They believe that if five bats are seen together, they bring five blessings or ‘Wu Fu’: Love of virtue, dying naturally at a ripe old age, longevity, wealth, and health,”Symbol Sage
Bat Tattoo Ideas
Interested in getting a bat tattoo? Here are a few options to get your creative juices flowing:
Upside Down Bat Tattoo
If you stumble upon a bat cave, you’ll most likely find the bats sleeping upside down with their wings wrapped around them like a dark and mysterious cloak. They take this position for rest because their claws can lock them in place without using a lot of energy.
This can be a great design choice if you don’t want your bat tattoo to take up too much space or don’t want their wings wrapping around. Some placements, such as the forearm, can distort a large horizontal tattoo design as some features will wrap around the arm.
Small Bat Tattoo
Tiny bat tattoos can go the minimalist route with just an outline or silhouette of a bat, or you can take a realistic tattoo of a bat and scale it down.
If you want to go for the latter, it’s important to realize that hyper realistic small tattoos can fade faster; as time goes by, the lines can fuse together as there is so little space between them.
So, it’s essential to go to a tattooist who is experienced in mini realistic tattoos; this will help the design age better.
Vampire Bat Tattoo
If you want your bat tattoo to be a representation of your love for darkness and mystery, you can’t go wrong choosing a vampire bat. While a vampire bat tattoo can symbolize horror, this tattoo choice can also represent family as these animals form strong bonds with each other.
Vampire And Moon Tattoo
If you want to add another element to your bat tattoo, you could opt for a moon. A bat and moon work well together as a tattoo design as bats are nocturnal so will often be active when the moon is out. Plus, the moon has its own deep meaning,
“[The moon] is the middle ground between the light of the sun and the darkness of night, and thus often represents the realm between the conscious and the unconscious. Universally, the moon is the symbol of growth and change,”Tattoo Stylist
Bats are one of the most misunderstood creatures in the world. While they are associated with darkness and blood, they also have other incredible connotations which make them a versatile tattoo idea.
From the Gothic and supernatural associations of vampire bats to the luck these animals bring in Chinese culture, a bat tattoo can be a meaningful tattoo choice for many people.