Folklore, old wives’ tales, myths, and storytelling have influenced the way we think about the world around us since the beginning of time, before the written word. Oral history—no matter how accurate—is always fascinating because everyone who tells the tale puts their own spin on things.

Our favorite nocturnal creatures, folklore, and superstitions

  • Owls are totem animals and are great symbols of both wisdom and death. As early as the Stone Age, a Sumerian tablet (2300-2000 BC) depicted a goddess flanked by owls, and owl feathers have been famously worn as regalia by Native Americans. Owl-egg soup was thought to be a remedy for epilepsy and grey hair. Athena, the Greek goddess of counsel, is associated with the owl. It is rare to see owls during the day; they live in forests, barns, etc., and feed on small animals, such as mice (and other rodents), frogs, lizards, snakes, fish, and squirrels.

The bat hanging upside down laughs at the topsy-turvy world.” –Japanese Proverb

  • Bats have leather-like wings, fly through the night, and can always be seen dipping at water to catch bugs, which can get in the way of night swimming. Bats have been a fixation of women because they fear they’ll get trapped in their hair. This is a myth, but still totally scary! The Chinese believe they fly downward because their brains are so heavy while they are a death symbol to the Irish, a ghost to the Indians of Colombia, and an embodiment of the dead. In China, the bat symbolizes a long and successful life, while in medieval times, it was thought the devil assumed the shape of a bat; evil spirits escape the body in the form of bats (a belief in the American South). Bats’ blood was used in black magic, and the animal is, of course, highly associated with “Dracula” and vampires. A totem animal for an aboriginal tribe in New South Wales, “Batman” is a positive, heroic vision of bats and one of our favorite superheroes.
  • Cats can be our favorite, cuddliest pet, but it’s also fun to think about when they were revered in ancient Egypt, mummified, and buried on the banks of the Nile. The Roman goddess sometimes appeared as a cat. Mystic creatures that have been domesticated for thousands of years, cats have been worshipped and regarded as mercurial animals. The Cheshire cat is a great example of a trickster (“Alice in Wonderland”) and is associated with the moon; the waning moon has to do with the pupils of the eye. The cat is thought to be a medium in the East and in South Africa, and some people are afraid of cats because they are associated with witchcraft (especially black ones). They are conflated with magic but usually not malice. It was believed that a kitten born in the month of May was unlucky (instead of catching mice it would bring home glowworms and snakes); black cats are sometimes called “blackberry cats” because they’re born at the end of a blackberry season and are full of mischief. Did you know they should be stroked along their spine and not chased away and that if a black cat crosses your path, it’s unlucky? In Britain, a white cat is thought to be evil, and a cat’s sneeze near a bride means a happy marriage. One of the best stories of a cat in disguise is “Puss In Boots” (a prince transformed).
  • Wolves: One of the most famous children’s stories about wolves is, of course, “Little Red Riding Hood;” this is where the term “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” comes from: someone may appear harmless when they are not. The term “lone wolf” refers to a loner, an outsider, but wolves are also members of a pack. They travel together and rely on each other. Rudyard Kipling wrote of children reared by wolves in “The Law of the Jungle;” usually, when it is said that one was raised by wolves, it means that one is wild and untamed. A wolf’s tooth is sometimes worn as a good luck charm, and a “wolf moon” or a full moon in winter is known as such because it is so bright that even wolves can see and hunt by its radiance.

Where to Find Them with SGE:

  • Skocjan Caves The Škocjan Caves are a network of underground caves and canyons that can be found in Slovenia. The Reka River runs through many of the underground caves, creating the largest underground wetlands in all of Europe. The most common bat to be found here is the “long-fingered bat” (Miniopterus schreibersii).
  • Carlsbad Caverns: Located in the desert southwest of the US, there are more than 100 caves in this national park. The caves stay a constant 56°F (13°C) all year round. This is a great destination for bat sightings; their morning flight patterns can be observed as they return to the caves, dipping and diving from heights (hundreds of feet) into the caverns below at astonishing speed.
  • The Batu Caves are known for being home to over twenty species of bats (several of which are fruit bats).
  • The Nile River is one of the longest rivers in the world. For centuries, it has been a vital water source for the people of Egypt. To this day, approximately 95 percent of Egyptians live in the region known as the Nile Delta. Most of the crops grown in the region are also grown very close to its shores. The entire Nile River stretches over 4,100 miles and connects the Mediterranean to Africa. This is where, in Ancient times, cats were a reminder of the gods to native people and were mummified and buried.

To learn more about Spartan and the Green Egg, how to become an explorer, numerous collectible items, and facts about the world around us, visit the website and the links below:

Works Cited (used in the writing of this blog):

“Man, Myth & Magic: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Supernatural” edited by Richard Cavendish, 1970.

Other sites to explore:

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