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. “Kitsuné — Japan's Fox of Mystery, Romance, and Humor, Tokyo: The Hokuseidô 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

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