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About Bats Cultural aspects


"Nightwing," a work of art by Dale Whistler in Austin, Texas.

The bat is sacred in Tonga and is often considered the physical manifestation of a separable soul. Bats are closely associated with vampires, who are said to be able to shape shift into bats, fog, or wolves. Bats are also a symbol of ghosts, death, and disease. Among some Native Americans, such as the Creek, Cherokee and Apache, the bat is a trickster spirit.

Chinese lore claims the bat is a symbol of longevity and happiness, and is similarly lucky in Poland and geographical Macedonia and among the Kwakiutl and Arabs. The bat is also a heraldic animal of the Spanish autonomous community of Valencia.

Pre-Columbian cultures associated animals with gods and often displayed them in art. The Moche people depicted bats in their ceramics.
In Western Culture, the bat is often a symbol of the night and its foreboding nature. The bat is a primary animal associated with fictional characters of the night, both villains like Dracula and heroes like Batman. The association of the fear of the night with the animal was treated as a literary challenge by Kenneth Oppel, who created a best selling series of novels, beginning with Silverwing, which feature bats as the central heroic figures much as anthropomorphized rabbits were the central figures to the classic novel Watership Down.

An old wives' tale has it that bats will entangle themselves in people's hair. One likely source of this belief is that insect-eating bats seeking prey may dive erratically toward people, who attract mosquitoes and gnats, leading the squeamish to believe that the bats are trying to get in their hair.

In the United Kingdom all bats are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Acts, and even disturbing a bat or its roost can be punished with a heavy fine.

In Sarawak, Malaysia bats are protected species under the Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998 (see Malaysian Wildlife Law). The large Naked bat (see Mammals of Borneo) and Greater Nectar bat are consumed by the local communities.

Bats can be a tourist attraction. The Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas is the summer home to North America's largest urban bat colony, an estimated 1,500,000 Mexican free-tailed bats, which eat an estimated 10,000 to 30,000 pounds of insects each night. An estimated 100,000 tourists per year visit the bridge at twilight to watch the bats leave the roost.

Bats in Mesoamerican mythology

In Mesoamerican mythology during the Classic-Contemporary period, bats symbolized the land of the dead, which was considered to be the underworld. They also symbolized destruction and decay. Bats may have symbolized in this way because they fly only at night and dwell in caves during the daytime and are associated with human skulls and bones by classic Maya ceramists. Central Mexicans sometimes depicted bats having snouts that looked like sacrificial knives and carrying human head in the Postclassic era. Bat images were engraved onto funerary urns and were emphasized with large claws and round ears by Zapotecs. They were commonly associated with death.[68] The depiction of bats on funeral urns and goods took on some the characteristics of thejaguar which was and still is another entity of the night and the underworld. There have also been instances where bats are portrayed next to other unseemly animals including scorpions and other nocturnal animals such as owls.

A gigantic, life-size ceramic bat-man has been discovered and dug up from the Templo Mayor. The Templo Mayor is located in the center of the Mexica capital of Tenochtitlan. Known as a god of death, this statue has the clawed feet and hands of a bat, but the body of a man. The statue's human-like eyes bulged out from the bat-like head, making the Zapotec images very realistic and living. It was said that in the 1930s the Kaqchikel Maya proclaimed that the bat was the Devil’s provider. Kaqchikel would leave the Devil’s underworld home and collect blood from the animals to be used for scrumptious meals to feed the Devil. “In the myths, the beast of prey and the animal that is preyed upon play two significant roles. They represent two aspects of life—the aggressive, killing, conquering, creating aspect of life, and the one that is the matter or, you might say, the subject matter”. In the Devil’s underworld, dead sinners would work off their sins in order to get to heaven, indicating that the bat was too a sinner and worked under the authority of the Devil.

In Oaxacan mythology

Oaxacans believe that the jealousy of the bat in wanting birds' feathers that gently fit their bodies led him to become nocturnal. The bat feeling isolated and undesirable spoke to God after that he complained he was extremely cold. God, fair and just turned to birds in the animal kingdom and asked if they would show compassion and donate a feather to the bat so the feathers would keep him warm. The birds all agreed, and began to pluck one feather from their bodies to give to the bat. With all of the feathers, the bat became much magnificent looking than all birds, even able to spread color to the night sky. During daylight, the bat created rainbows that reflected vibrant colors from the sun. The bat soon became overly arrogant and conceited, due having this new and improved look. The birds grew tired of the bat’s self conceitedness and glorification, and so decided to fly up to heaven and speak to God to do something. The birds informed to God of the bat's behaviour, God was surprised and so decided to take a look himself. When on Earth, God called on the bat to show him what he was doing. The bat began to fly across the light blue sky, where one by one each feather began to fall out, uncovering the bat’s natural ugly looking body. The bat became ashamed and distressed of his appearance after all feathers came off, missing the beautiful, plentiful feathers that he had, that he decided to hide in caves during the day. He would only come out during the night, searching high and low for the feathers to avoid embarrassment that he will not be seen during his search.

East Nigerian mythology

According to a particular East Nigerian tale, the bat developed its nocturnal habits after causing the death of his partner the bush-rat. The bat and the bush-rat would share activities such as rummaging through the grass and trees, hunting, talking and bonding during the day. When at night, the bat and the bush-rat would alternate in cooking duties cooking what was caught, and eat together. It appeared to a dedicated partnership, however the bat hated the bush-rat immensely. The bush rat always found the bat’s soup more appetising so when eating dinner one night asked the bat why the soup tasted better than his own and also asked how it was made. The bat agreed to show him how to make it the next day but instead was forming a malicious plan.

Next day as bat prepared his soup, the bush-rat came, greeting him and asked if he could be shown what was agreed yesterday. Earlier, the bat has found a pot looking exactly like the one he used usually, but it held warm water and so decided to use this instead. The bat explained to the bush-rat that to make his soup, he had to boil himself prior to serving the soup where sweetness and flavor of the soup came from the flesh. The bat jumped in the pot seemingly excited, with the bush-rat mesmerised. After a few minutes the bat climbed out and while the bush-rat was distracted, switched pots. The bat then served his soup out of the soup pot, both tasted it. Over anxious and eager, the bush-rat, jumped into the pot of warm water. He stayed much longer in the pot dying in the process.

When the bush-rat’s wife returned that night to find her husband dead, she wept and ran to the chief of the land's house telling him about what happened and what she was sure what the bat had done. In hearing this, the chief became angry, ordering for the immediate arrest of the bat. It just so happened that the bat was flying over the house and overheard what was just said. He quickly went into hiding high up in a tree. When the chief’s men went looking for the bat, he could not be found. The search to arrest the bat carried on over several days, but still could not be found. The bat needed to eat, so flew out of hiding every night to hunt for food to escape of being arrested. This, according to Eastern Nigeria mythology, is why bats only fly at night.

Artificial roosts

Many people put up bat houses to attract bats just like many people put up birdhouses to attract birds. Reasons for this vary, but mostly center around the fact that bats are the primary nocturnal insectivores in most if not all ecologies. Bat houses can be made from scratch, made from kits, or bought ready made. Plans for bat houses exist on many web sites, as well as guidelines for designing a bat house. Some conservation societies are giving away free bat houses to bat enthusiasts worldwide.

A bat house constructed in 1991 at the University of Florida campus next to Lake Alice in Gainesville, Florida has a population of over 100,000 free-tailed bats.

In Britain, British hardened field defences of World War II have been converted to make roosts for bats. Pillboxes that are well dug-in and thick walled are naturally damp and provide a stable thermal environment that is required by bats that would otherwise hibernate in caves. With a few minor modifications, suitable pillboxes can be converted to artificial caves for bats.

Again in the UK, purpose-built bat houses are occasionally built when existing roosts are destroyed by developments such as new roads; one such has been built associated with bat bridges on the new (2008) A38 Dobwalls bypass.[citation needed]

The bat is sometimes used as a heraldic symbol. The coats of arms of certain cities in eastern Spain, like Valencia, Palma de Mallorca and Fragahave the bat over the shield. Formerly the Barcelona city coat of arms also had a bat crowning it, but the bat has been removed in the present-day versions.

The heraldic use of the bat in Valencia, Catalonia and the Balearic Islands has its origins in a winged dragon (vibra or vibria), which featured inKing James I of Aragon's helmet or cimera reial. This is the most widely accepted theory, although there is also a legend that says that due to the intervention of a bat, King James was able to win a crucial battle against the Saracens that allowed him to win Valencia for his kingdom.

The use of the bat as a heraldic symbol is prevalent in the territories of the former Crown of Aragon and it is little used elsewhere. However, it can be found in a few places, as in the coats of arms of the city of Albacete, in Spain, as well as the town of Montchauvet (Yvelines), in France.

Certain Spanish soccer clubs including Valencia CF and Levante UD use bats in their badges.

The Burgee of the Royal Valencia Yacht Club (Reial Club Nàutic de València) displays a bat on a golden field in its center.

In popular culture

In Western Culture, bats are a symbol of darkness and forbidden nature, something that is associated to fictional dark characters. For example: superheroes like Batman, villains like Dracula and videogame characters like Rouge the Bat of Sonic the Hedgehog videogame series.

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BATS. Megabats, Flying-foxes, Fruit bats and Microbats: About Bats Cultural aspects
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