IN FINLAND AND BABYLONIA it was once thought that the souls of the dead were incarnate in the bats of the region, although in Finland it was further believed that a person's soul sometimes took on the form of a bat while the body merely slept.
Elsewhere in Europe, especially during medieval times, souls of the dead instead inhabited mice. For example, there is an old German tale about a servant girl who falls asleep at some task and while she sleeps her mouth falls open. Out of her mouth issues a tiny red mouse, which goes nosing all around the room. A man comes across the sleeping girl and he moves her to a more comfortable location nearby. The mouse, now unable to find the girl, finally scampers away, and at the moment it leaves the house, the girl dies.
The English word "mouse" derives from musha, the Sanskrit word meaning "the thief."
I suppose today there are some folks who are near to believing that our souls are destined to inhabit robots. Well, I don't know about that, but just to make sure we've got it all straight: the Greek word for "mouse" is mus, and the genus, or Latin, name for the little brown North American bat is Myotis, which is a combination of mus and the Greek otis, or "ear," giving us "ear mouse." The modern English word "bat," however, derives from the Old English word bakke, which means "to flutter" and does not necessarily imply that it be a mouse who does the fluttering, which of course would have given us the delightful "flutter mouse." For the latter we can rely upon the Germans, who call a bat a Fledermaus; and for another attractive name, specifically, "butterfly mouse," we can easily turn to the Aztec word for "bat" - which is quimichpapalotl. I hope we're quite clear on all that now.
Through legend, folklore and superstition these two small creatures have been known to be very useful to human purposes. For example, there is an Italian saying — "Better a mouse in the pot than no flesh at all." And according to the Roman naturalist Pliny, parents can stop their children from wetting the bed by feeding them boiled mice. In Bohemia there was once a belief that if you carried around the right eye of a bat you could become invisible; and elsewhere it was known that should you have need of a powerful love potion, you would bury a bat at a crossroads and burn incense over the site.
Throughout the Orient the bat is a symbol of good luck and in Japan can indicate happiness and prosperity. In many African myths the bat is considered highly intelligent, as it flies around at night while never colliding with anything.
Do you have an earache? Back to Pliny for another homey cure: mouse ashes mixed with honey. Even today we know the scurrying mouse as a master at navigation and intelligent maze running, thus its use in so many scientific studies of yesteryear. I'll bet you're navigating this very Website using a mouse, and possibly a scrolling one at that!
All in all, I imagine it's probably not all that bad to be either a bit mousy or a tad batty.