Bats

For The Blood Is The Life

There are three interesting events coming up – National Bat Appreciation Day, Orthodox Easter and Bram Stoker’s Deathiversary.

April 17th is National Bat Appreciation Day, a day when we are asked to remember the important role bats play in our lives. Bats are insectivores, which means they eat insects which helps keep insect numbers down. This is especially critical with mosquitoes. Bats are also pollinators which means they move pollen from male to female flowers which helps bring about fertilisation, thereby providing a vital link in our food chain. There are heaps of other interesting facts about bats and April 17th is a great day to learn more about them.

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This year April 17th is also Orthodox Good Friday. This doesn’t happen every year so it’s a fun coincidence. Orthodox Easter Monday will be celebrated on April 20th which is also Dracula author Bram Stoker’s Deathiversary – another fun coincidence. Perhaps a more disturbing coincidence is that all three events have a blood connection.

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While my favourite bat is the fluffy and cuddly Australian flying fox, I’ve always been fascinated by the cute and uncanny vampire bat. Vampire bats are connected to vampires, not only in name, but also by being blood suckers! There are other connections too as the vampire’s cape is reminiscent of bats wings and some vampires are depicted as sleeping upside down like bats rather than in coffins. Dracula can also turn into a bat when necessary. With all the competing Easter traditions such as bunnies and chocolate eggs, it is easy to forget that Easter is actually a celebration focussing on blood, death and rebirth. 

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To celebrate this trilogy of bloody connections I’ve made dyed red Easter eggs – with a twist! Colouring eggs red is meant to represent the blood of Christ which is shed on Good Friday. I’ve used red wine to colour my eggs as red wine is symbolic of blood in Christian rituals. (Knowing this connection it always amused me that Bela Lugosi’s Dracula never drank wine.) I’ve also added spices, which symbolise the spices that Jesus’ body was anointed with before burial. The eggshell represents the tomb and the egg signifies rebirth. An Easter tradition I grew up with was the egg cracking game where you try to crack the shell of your opponent’s boiled egg without cracking yours! Because I’m not a traditionalist, I had to break the rules by cracking shells and turning them into Chinese marbled eggs. But don’t worry, there are still some unbroken eggs to play with. 🙂

Red Wine Eggs

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Ingredients
6 eggs
1 bottle red wine
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 cloves
2 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks

Instructions
Place the eggs, wine, sugar, cloves, star anise and cinnamon sticks in a saucepan, making sure the eggs are fully submerged in liquid.
Cover and bring to a boil.
Once boiling, turn off the heat and allow the eggs to cook for 15 minutes.
Remove half the eggs from the saucepan and allow to rest until cool enough to touch. Gently tap them with the back of a spoon to crack shells, making sure to keep the shell intact. The deeper the cracks, the more flavour will penetrate.
Place the eggs back in the wine with the remaining eggs.
Allow to cool then refrigerate and steep for a few hours or overnight.
Remove the eggs from the wine and allow to dry.
Peel the cracked eggs to show off their marbling.
Use the remaining eggs to play the cracking game.

Animal Crackers

I love animals. I always have. From my earliest years all I ever wanted was animals. I loved visiting zoos, wildlife parks, petting zoos and seeing animals in their natural state was an absolute pleasure. I loved coming home to my pets. I loved playing with my stuffed animals and my animal models. My favourite board game growing up was the 1960’s Wild Life game; a game recommended by the World Wildlife Fund. When I left home I took that game with me. During my many moves I lost it and was devastated. But, thanks to the internet, 25 years after I lost the game I managed to find one in England. The day it arrived in Australia was one of the happiest. So many of my childhood memories were there in that one box. And yes I have played it again and again!

Although I loved all animals, one thing I didn’t have was a favourite. I wanted to have one so I tried ways of picking an animal that would be my favourite.

The Children of the Night

As a vampire fan from a young age I formed a bond with Dracula’s animals – the wolf and the bat. We are lucky to have fruit bats in Melbourne that fly through the night sky, just like bats in a Dracula movie. One of the local parks has colonies of bats that you can visit during the day. If you go there at dusk you can see them wake up and get ready for their nightly flights. Many an evening has been spent watching these magical creatures. It was a colony of bats living in the trees of a caravan park I was staying at in Sydney that inspired me to create the Dracula Tarot!

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hanging around

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daytime flight

 

While we don’t have wild wolves in Australia, we have their domesticated brethren; the dog. It is through these pack animals that I have bonded with the wolf archetype. While I will one day write at length about my special pack of dogs, for now I need only say that I call them my WolfChildren from the WolfChild pack. My first two dogs – Batty and Wolfy – were named after Dracula’s bat and wolf 🙂

Astrological Symbols

In Western Astrology I’m a Taurus and my animal is the bull. I researched bull and cow mythology which is quite fascinating. But while I liked them as animals, I just couldn’t bond with cows or bulls on a spiritual level.

I had a bit more luck with my Chinese animal sign which is the snake. Snakes are extraordinary animals mythologically. They are so extraordinary that I’ll be doing a separate post on their mythologies 🙂 But I will mention that snakes are linked to vampires – especially Dracula – which makes them very special to me!!

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is that a python on your shoulder?

The main problem for me with snakes is that they are also creatures of fear when you live in Australia. We have 9 of the world’s Top 10 venomous snakes here so they are always in the back of your mind when you go outdoors in Spring and Summer. I’ve seen a few in the wild and they are magnificent creatures. But your heart always goes into overdrive as you wait to see what they will do. Usually they will leave you alone if you leave them alone – which is what I do! I’ve always said that I don’t fear them but I do respect them. That fear and respect was tested this year when a large, venomous tiger snake came into my yard!! While I waited for the snake catcher to come, I stayed in the yard with the snake – at a not so safe distance. I had plenty of time to reflect on this creature of myth, legend and fear. And I realised they really are scary! But I still love them – just not as a favourite 🙂

A Very Special Pair

While I couldn’t find a favourite animal I found two that are very special to me; the red panda and the puffin.

I first encountered the red panda at Melbourne Zoo and it soon became one of my favourites. Whenever I went to the zoo I would go see the red panda first and visit it again before I left. I loved its red fur and adorable face. I thought it looked like a fox in a tree. There is even an International Red Panda Day which is celebrated on the third Saturday in September.

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feeding the panda

I became fascinated with puffins when I was lucky enough to go to Iceland for a holiday. Before the trip I researched the local fauna and thought they sounded interesting. When I first saw them on Grimsey Island I fell in love with their precious, serious little faces. They won my heart when I saw them fly. Their wings are so tiny that when they take off you think they are going to fall out of the sky. But they flap and flap those tiny wings and off they go!

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puffin road trip – iceland

Two important animal organisations for me are The Red Panda Network and Project Puffin. Through them I sponsor a red panda and an Atlantic puffin. It is a lovely way to give back to these animals that have given me so much pleasure.

I tried hard to find a favourite animal but I never did. And then a most peculiar animal chose me. It took a long time but I finally have a favourite animal. I’ll be telling this “tail” very soon 🙂