Owls, Bats & Black Cats, Oh My!

Bats, black cats, ravens, crows, and owls what do these creatures have in common? They are all associated with Halloween as evil or bad omens. Truth is, each of these creatures has many good qualities and, in some cultures, revered as symbols of good luck.

Take the Black cat, in Western culture; they are viewed as a symbol of bad omens, especially if one crosses your path. This is not a new notion and dates back to the 16th century when black cats were suspected of being familiars of witches. While in many countries, such as Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Japan and Great Britain the black cat is a symbol of good luck and is idolized in Egypt. Sailors, in fact, preferred a black cat to all others because they felt it would bring them good luck. The sad truth is because of silly superstitions black cats have lower adoption rates in American shelters compared to other cats.

What about the Bat? Yes, there are tales of Vampire Bats, discovered in the 17th century, lapping up the blood of its prey but the first connection with Halloween came from Halloween rituals where people would gather around a bonfire to keep away evil spirits. Insects drawn to the fire light would draw hungry bats. Bats are actually amazing creatures; did you know that a single brown bat could eat up to 1000 mosquitoes in an hour? Another fun fact is they have a very long-life span of almost 40 years. It is a myth that bats are dirty and always carry disease. In truth, they are very clean animals that groom themselves like cats.

The Owl is another interesting nocturnal creature that makes people nervous. According to Haunted Bay, “The owl entered into our Halloween traditions much like the bat. As a hunter of bats, owls would often be seen near the Halloween bonfires searching for food”. Heard and not seen, they would also scare those that traveled at night with their screeching and ability to hide in trees. There are many strange myths about owls, for instance, owls are the only creatures that can live with ghosts, if an owl is found in an abandoned house, it is thought to be haunted. Like the black cat, many countries consider the owl to be good luck. The Inuit of Greenland consider the Owl to be a symbol of guidance. Owls are wonderful at pest control, helping to control mice, moles, rats, snakes & insects.

Finally, the Raven and the Crow, these poor birds have been depicted as bad omens since the 1800’s when Edgar Allen Poe wrote about the Raven who mysteriously appears and constantly repeats only one word “nevermore”. Of course, who can forget the flock of crows waiting on the playground at Bodega Bay Elementary School in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds? As for their ties to Halloween it is their jet-black feathers and the fact that they feed on carrion (flesh of dead animals) that make them appear to be spooky. Ravens and crows are extremely smart. They can mimic human speech and are great at problem solving. Many cultures consider the Raven to be a spiritual figure. 

We should never judge a book by its cover even when it comes to animals. If you take the time to learn about them, you might be surprised at what you find.

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