Have you ever wondered why certain animals became a symbol for the spookiest day of the year, Halloween? We have gathered information from history and old legends that has made Halloween the holiday it is today involving animals.
Black cats are one of the symbols of Halloween and have gotten a bad rap a few hundred years ago, when they were associated with witches. Due to ignorance and fear about diseases such as the Bubonic Plague and how they were spread (fleas on rats), and because cats in general were not much liked, the Black Death spread and decimated thousands upon thousands of people. If the cats could have been left to do their natural thing — hunt rodents — all may have been prevented. Cats still retain that imagery of Halloween and black ones in particular — although today, black cats are more likely to be sitting in the front window, curious about trick or treaters walking by on the sidewalk, than be involved in all of that “tom foolery”.
Few people even today, can truly say they love vampire bats. They have been linked to Halloween, especially after Bram Stoker’s Dracula was written and loved as a great horror story by the Victorians. After vampires came to be associated with Halloween, some true incidents were dug up that appeared to relate to or further symbolize Halloween. A bloodthirsty Vlad the Impaler loved to put his enemies’ heads onto spikes surrounding his castle and these acts further added to the vampire lore. Vampires and Count Dracula are reputed to be able to turn into bats and escape. The real vampire bat does drink blood, but in small amounts and usually from cattle or goats. Real vampire bats have a chemical in their saliva which prevents blood from clotting, and this is so they can “dine” longer. Most bays do not carry rabies and most eat insects, Wild bats are not encouraged as pets and the Organization for Bat Conservation does their best to spread knowledge about these flying mammals.
In old Hebrew legends there was a woman who turned into an owl and preyed upon infants and expectant mothers. The Greek shad a tale of monsters who loved the dark as well as dining on children. There’s another strange tale, this one from India of a creature who liked to hang upside down during daylight hours, and who had no blood of its own. Naturally, it had to get blood from other living beings. Being drained of blood by a bat or vampire (in legend) tends to lend it to Halloween tales and associations.
Wolves used to be common in Europe and during the 1500s, villagers in Germany found both half eaten humans and farm animals lying around. They thought that wolves were the hunters. When they tracked down a certain wolf, it turned into a werewolf and became someone they knew from the village. A pamphlet was made to describe this event and this is how the werewolf came into our imaginations and legends. There have been tall tales of wolves, bats and vampires and who knows what else mixing it up in epic battles, down through the ages. Wolves howl at the moon and are hunters by nature. They are cunning and intelligent and our first domesticated dogs may have been, or come from wolves. At times, wolves were believed to be associated with the devil. There is conflict between property owners and wolves some of the time and the animal has faced extinction. It has slowly returned due to releases from captive breeding populations.
People in the middle ages ate bread made from a hallucinogenic grain. This may have led them to think that certain villagers had turned into wolves and become werewolves, especially on a night lit by a full moon. Wolves howl as communication to other pack members and as a warning to non-pack members. Wolf-dog hybrids are not encouraged.
Haunted houses are home to lots of spiders — very large spiders. Most of them are made from latex or rubber, but the spider has long been linked to Halloween. There are many types of spiders and they come in a large variety of sizes and colors. A large tarantula relative eats birds. Most humans fear spiders, although most spiders are beneficial to humans. In England, a spider in the house meant good luck. Spiders can grow their legs back. There are more than 35,000 species of spiders in the world. Now, spiders and webs are often used to decorate a home for Halloween.
Happy Halloween from all of us at AnimalPlex, we hope everyone has a safe and spooky day!