You may think of bats as being associated with dark scary caves and Halloween but there is a surprising amount of meaning and symbolism that can be associated with the humble bat.
Bats are extremely sensitive to their surroundings and can be a symbol of intuition, dreaming and vision. Native American shamans considered the bat to personify these qualities and became a powerful symbol in their culture.
Although they may not have fully understood the bats sonar like capabilities they did know that they were creatures of the night and that they had exceptionally good night vision. This made them symbols of foresight, being able to see through illusions and find the truth.
Bats are also highly social creates and are very nurturing to their young. They show signs of verbal communication and sensitivity with the other members of their colony. This surprising fact means that a bat tattoo could even be considered a tattoo symbolizing strong family ties.
Obviously there is a bit of an elephant in the room, vampire bats right? Don’t bats hang out with vampires too? Well medieval texts written on the act of witchcraft, which they firmly believed in back then, did mention that bats are associated with witches and European medieval texts also linked them with vampires. The strange thing about this is that the vampire bat that we all know and love wasn’t even discovered at this point in history due to South America not being explored yet. So yes, according to folklore the association is there. But then frogs and cats were also put in the same category as bats and we don’t find them scary, well most of us don’t.
In China however, bats are actually considered a symbol of luck and good fortune. In fact pretty much everywhere else in the world other than Europe, bats are considered to be pretty nice, interesting little creatures that not that scary at all really.
I will say though that if you do decide to get a bat tattoo, be prepared for some people to think you’re a goth or biker who hangs out with the coven on weekends due to the common use of bat imagery by alternative subcultures.
Also the devil, dragons and other kinds of satanic or evil creates are all too often portrayed with bat like wings so there’s always that too. If you’re unsure, then it might be best to stay away from bat tattoos, but I think they have gotten a bit of a bad rap personally.