Animals that symbolize Halloween have become associated with Halloween over the generations to end up being a large part of the holiday. It could have something to do with the fact that the first Halloween “costumes” were animal skins worn by the Celts. More than likely, they have just been picked along the way because of individual animal’s connection to certain things that represent the scary or the supernatural.
Generally, most of the critters that have come to symbolize Halloween are nocturnal. This seemed fitting for being connected to evil spirits, witches or vampires who rule the night. Cats, bats and owls have all been linked to things that go bump in the night, especially during Halloween.
Black Cats = Animals That Symbolize Halloween
This symbol has become so tied into Halloween tradition and the occult that owners of black cats are advised to keep their pets indoors for a few days prior to Halloween so they are not stolen. Pet shelters and cat rescue groups will not adopt out the onyx haired felines for up to a week before the holiday. Black cats are even part of the superstition that if one crosses your path, you will have bad luck or even die.
Cats have been given a bad rap since being linked to witches. Folklore has made these creatures pets or “familiars” of witches throughout history. This link is so intertwined that, during the witch trials, cats were often killed for being evil just as the reported witches were. Ironically, some stories claimed witches would sacrifice these animals during rituals or kill them to use in brews for spells and curses. That is the main reason frogs get linked to witches and Halloween, as well.
Bats and Halloween
There are a few reasons these winged creatures have become linked to Halloween and all things otherworldly. The first is the presence of bats during the very first Halloweens. It is said that during Samhain, the original Halloween, great bonfires were built to ward away evil spirits. Because fires attract bugs and bugs attract bats, there was a great presence of bats during these activities. It was viewed that the bats were connected to the spirit world trying to get through, but still frightened off by the roaring flames.
The other reason bats have become a symbol of evil is their connection to vampires. Since early stories of Dracula and vampires have often included bats, in one way or another, they have long been thought of as evil as well. Vampires were thought to turn into bats to fly through the night and be able to get into rooms with great ease. It was also thought that bats would live in the high arches of castles where vampires resided. By the way, these critters turn up in witches’ brew recipes as well.
Owls and the Halloween Connection
Found hidden deep in the tree branches of dark woods, late into the night that haunting screech can be the only thing one hears. While it may be pleasant now, imagine walking a dark wooded path alone long before modern times. This could be a very unsettling noise. A reminder you are not alone and yet unable to see the creature making sounds nearby.
Like bats, owls would take flight during those first Samhain events. They would fly close enough to the fires to snag bugs, or lower for rodents, and seemed to be linked to the spirit world. Like cats, owls have also been connected to witches for being their companions. It doesn’t help that a witch in a Grimm’s fairy tale does transform into an owl.
Crows and the Macabre
It is almost safe to say that if an animal comes in all black, it could be considered linked to the supernatural and scary. Crows have long been thought to become present to represent a bad omen. This could be why this creature has come to symbolize Halloween. Also, they are sometimes believed to be companions of witches and certainly a common part of their brews to cast spells.
A group of crows circling overhead, called a murder actually, has become a tale of superstition claiming someone will die. Of course there are plenty of cultures and folklore that consider a single crow or a murder of crows to be good luck, but when it comes to Halloween, crows are seen as devious. Edgar Allan Poe may not have helped the matter with his classic chilling poetic account of “The Raven” who comes knocking, knocking at his chamber door.
There are other animals that symbolize Halloween, but these are some of the more traditional and common ones.