Monday, December 27, 2010

Kitsune (Japanese Fox Spirits) (2)

At the opposite end of holy people are the fox-owning families (kitsune-mochi).  These families possess kitsune who protect them, their property, and rice paddies from harm.  Many people avoid these families since if the family is offended, the kitsune will take possession of the offenders.
            The Japanese usually divide kitsune into two major groups.  The kitsune who are the messengers of Inari (the God of rice and fertility) are called zenko or myobu.  These white foxes have the power to ward off evil kimon coming from the northeast direction.  Meanwhile, the wild foxes are known as nogitsume.  These are the ones who bedevil people, and are considered to be the tricksters
            Kitsune possess small round balls known as hoshi-no-tame (star balls).  In some of the stories, these balls are foxfire (kitsune-bi).  Foxfire provides light for the kitsune bridal party to travel by.  Other stories claim that the balls had magical powers or were magical jewels such as pearls.  The fox spirit would carry the ball in its mouth or on its tail.
            In one story (“Fox Repaying Kindness for Returning Its Treasured Ball”), a young samurai took a kitsune’s ball in fun.  The fox spirit had been playing with its ball by throwing it up and catching it.  However, on one occasion, the samurai caught it instead. The more the kitsune protested, the more the young man laughed.  Finally the kitsune convinced him to give it back in exchange for protection.  The kitsune explained that it (she in the story) could not live without this ball, and it was a part of her soul.  Later that evening, the kitsune protected the samurai from robbers.
One of the major enemies of kitsune is Japanese dragons.  Usually when confronted by an enemy, the kitsune will transfer their spirit into another being.  However, the Japanese dragons will and do eat fox spirits.  Rulers of the skies and the waters, these august beings will rob a kitsune of their life essence.  A dragon can tear away at the spirit of the kitsune.  The only defense that a kitsune has is to elude a dragon, otherwise they will be eaten.
Works Used:
Chamberlain, Basil, “Japanese Things”, Charles Tuttle, Tokyo 1905 (reprint 1971)
Hearn, Lafcadio. “Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan”, Charles Tuttle, Tokyo, 1955
 Martin, Watts. “"Kitsune: Coyote of the Orient, Coyote Cartography, 2004,, accessed 20 Dec. 2010
Nozaki, Kiyoshi. “KitsunĂ© — Japan's Fox of Mystery, Romance, and Humor, Tokyo: The HokuseidĂ´ Press. 1961.
Schumacher, Mark, “Oinari - Fox - God of Japan”, Japanese Buddhist Corner, 2010,, accessed 20 Dec. 2010
Zell-Ravenheart, Oberon and Ash DeKirk, “A Wizard’s Bestiary”, New Page Press, Franklin Lakes, NJ, 2007

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Kitsune (Japanese Fox Spirits) (1)

To describe kitsune or Japanese fox spirits is to enter a world of illusion, of alternative realities.  Like a wisp of smoke, you attempt to hold it, and always you come away with nothing.  Reading several kitsune stories is similar to diving into a lake and arriving at another world where the imagination rules.
            Ostensibly, kitsune are fox spirits.  When they are not assuming another form, they resemble ordinary foxes.  In some of the stories, they possess one tail.  While in other stories, kitsune have five or nine tails.  (Fox spirits with nine tails are the most senior.)  Like foxes, kitsune live with their families in dens.  Stories tell of them living under the floor boards of people’s homes.
            Fond of tricking humans, kitsune can be considered tricksters.  They like to bedevil humans for a variety of reasons – because they can or because they want something or because the person offended them.  Although kitsune can change into anything, many prefer to shape shift into young women.  They like to seduce men, although some will marry and raise “fox” children with their human husbands.
            Possession by fox spirits (known as kitsune-tsuki) is still considered a mental illness in some parts of Japan.  A kitsune will enter a person’s body through the space between the fingernails and the fleshy part of the fingers.  According to Basil Chamberlain, they will usually posses women of the lower classes.  Some symptoms of fox possession are the craving for certain types of rice, restlessness, and listlessness.
            Dogs can usually detect a kitsune.  When this happens, the kitsune immediately changes into a fox and flees.  Buddhist priests, monks, and people of faith can also pierce the illusion that a kitsune will wrap mortals in.  These fox spirits can alter various corners of reality but holy people are not affected.
Priests can drive out a kitsune out of people, who are possessed by one.  According to Basil Chamberlain, the most successful priests to expel fox spirits are of the Nichiren Sect of Buddhism.  If chanting does not work, then the priest will beat the person with sticks.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

GARTER SNAKE SUBFAMILY (Thamnophis): Gentleness

A child’s first encounter with a Snake is usually with the graceful Garter Snake.  This harmless Snake is often seen basking near a pond or stream.  Sometimes, She is seeking Frogs, Worms, or other small Animals in her territory. 
            Garter Snake’s slender body has light stripes and checkered patterns.  Her name “Garter Snake” came from resembling the garters that once held up men’s socks.  Found only in North America, the Subfamily of Garter Snakes consists of about twenty-two species.
            Garter Snakes are well known for denning together in winter, and for their spring mating balls.  When the weather becomes cooler, hundreds of Garter Snakes will gather at a hibernaculum (communal underground shelter).  Wanting to conserve their energy, these Snakes come together to share their warmth.  During early spring, various Garter Snakes will leave their communal shelter for brief periods but then return before nightfall.
            Garter Snakes have a complex system of communicating by smells.  When Female Garter Snake wants to mate, She emits certain pheromones.  At that time, twenty or more Males will gather.  Wrapping Themselves around Her, the Males form a mating ball.  Rolling around the ground, eventually one Male Garter Snake will succeed in mating.
            Some Male Garter Snakes will pretend to be Females by sending out certain pheromones.  These “She-Males” trick other Males into sharing their heat.  Later They will lead their rivals away, and then race back to mate with Female Garter Snake.
            “Gentleness” is what Garter Snake best exemplifies.  She goes about her business tolerating children and their curiosity.  In mating, She uses her scent to tell the others when She wants Them to come.  Even when Male Garter Snake wants to win out over his rivals, he uses guile instead of brawn.  In wintertime, you will find hundreds of Garter Snakes sharing their body heat together peacefully.  Learn to be gentle from Garter Snake.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Egyptian and Roman Magic

Magic in Ancient Egypt was much like magic in other ancient cultures.  The Ancient Egyptians used it to communicate with and to manipulate various Gods.  They wanted the help of Divine Powers in their lives and later the Afterlife.

The most well-known use of Egyptian magick was the “The Book of the Dead” (“Spells for Going Forth by Day”).  These spells helped the dead traverse the underworld to arrive at the Afterlife.  Many offering formulas were written on the walls of tombs.  Usually this formula read “an offering which the Pharaoh gives” to various Gods for a desired end for named persons.  (Everything belonged to the Pharaoh, and only he could offer to the Gods.  Therefore everyone used the same formula to ask favours for themselves.)

Egyptian Magick was largely word based.  Writing was itself could be considered an act of magic. Since writing came from the Gods, the hieroglyphs were sacred.  Hence, therefore written words could achieve magick.  

Roman magic has some things in common with Egyptian magick.  In their rituals, Romans use rigid formulas.  If a mistake is made, the ritual is started over because the Gods would be displeased with the mangling of words.  A proper ritual is how Romans return the help provided to them by the Gods.

Romans used word squares or magic squares in their door foyers.  These squares had letters and numbers in puzzle form for the outside Manes to figure out.  This stalled the Manes from entering. While that was going on, the House Lars would assemble to defend the house.

Another similarity to Egyptian Magick was the Roman devotiones (defixiones).  These lead tablets were written on and placed in tombs or nailed to trees.  These particular tablets asked various Gods for restitution, justice, victory, or love.  Many had a reward for fulfilling the request such as an offering.  Modern day practitioners of the Religio Roma use paper and bury it in the ground.  The usual Gods petitioned are Dis Pater and other Chthonic Gods.

One difference between Roman and Egyptian Magick was that the Egyptians often used theirs to aid the dead.  Meanwhile, Romans focused on the living, and keeping ghosts at bay.  The Romans wanted to keep the dead happy, and to honour their Ancestors. However, the Egyptians focused on the dead and their eternal Afterlife.

Works Used:

Adkins Lesley and Roy, Dictionary of Roman Religion, Oxford University Press, New York, 1996
Dollinger, Andre, Ancient Egypt: an introduction to its history and culture, 2010,
Strudwick, Nigel, Hieroglyph Detective, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2010
Warrior, Valerie, Roman Religion: A Sourcebook, Focus Publishing, Newburyport (MA), 2002

Thursday, December 09, 2010

RATTLESNAKE FAMILY (Crotalus and Sistrurus): Non-aggression and Self-defense

“Rattlesnake” is a generic name for thirty species (and numerous subspecies) of Snakes in the Crotalus and Sistrus groups of the Pit-Viper Sub-family.  These Snakes have a distinctive rattle at the end of their tails.  This rattle consists of buttons of keratin, which makes a sound when knocked together.  (However, the larger the Snake’s rattle, the quieter the sound.)
            Rattlesnakes are native to the Americas.  Emblematic of the American Old West, these Snakes are often depicted coiled, ready to strike.  Most notable of the Rattlesnakes are Diamondbacks with their characteristic diamond-patterned skins.  Meanwhile, Sidewinders wind their way through the deserts across loose sand in a diagonal direction.  But, the reputation of Rattlesnakes as aggressors are underserved since They pose no threat unless provoked.
            Although most Rattlesnakes belong to the Crotalus grouping, Pigmy Rattlesnakes belong to the Sistrurus grouping.  These Rattlesnakes make tiny buzzing noises that are often difficult to hear.  Another member of the Sistrurus grouping is Massasauga (Black Rattler).  This Snake lives as far north as the region of the Great Lakes.  In comparison to other Rattlesnakes, the rattles of the Sistrurae are small and make a high-pitched buzzing sound.
            Usually non-belligerent, Rattlesnakes will defend Themselves when cornered.  Although their venom is not particularly toxic, their large fangs do deliver a great amount of venom.  However before They strike, Rattlesnakes will shake their tails in warning.
            Before striking, Rattlesnakes warm everyone of their presence, They do this to avoid being stepped on.  Also, Rattlesnakes do not want to strike and waste their venom needlessly.  They prefer non-confrontation where the intruder steps asides or moves on.  In other words, when you hear the rattle sound, run in the opposite direction.  Heed the sound and be safe.
            Rattlesnakes teach non-aggression and self-defense.  These Snakes prefer being left alone and not being pestered.  However Rattlesnakes will ably defend Themselves with their venom if need be.