Kitsune – 狐 29. March 2023

Kitsune, the Japanese word for fox, refers to both the conventional fox and the version with paranormal magical powers. Kitsune can be divided into two main groups – the Zenko, or “good foxes,” which are sacred foxes considered servants of the deity Inari and messengers between gods and humans, and the Yako, or “field foxes,” which are wild and mischievous but also keep promises and return favors.

The appearance

Kitsune usually look like regular foxes, but after 100 years, they develop another tail. The most common numbers are one, five, seven, and nine tails. At 1000 years of age and with nine tails, they become Tenko, the most powerful form, and ascend to heaven. Kitsune are also known for their shape-shifting abilities, with popular forms including young human women or fearsome monsters.

The interaction

In Japanese folklore, the wild kitsune are known to interact with evil priests, greedy merchants, or boastful drunkards. They often use phantom sounds and mysterious eyes to torture and humiliate their victims in public. This obsession with fox magic is called kitsunetsuki and is believed to cause some mental illnesses. Other forms of kitsune, are powerful shape-shifters who transform into giants, fearsome monsters, or even young women to deceive men. Kitsune in human form may marry and start a family, but they are strongly averse to dogs and may reveal their true appearance, such as fangs or a fox tail, when their magic is diminished under the influence of alcohol or fear.

The legend

One popular legend involves Ono, a resident of Mino, who met and married his ideal of female beauty, a vulpine bog lady. When their son was born, Ono’s dog had a kitten, which grew increasingly hostile towards the bog lady. The dog attacked her, causing her to take on her true form as a fox, but Ono vowed to always love her and welcome her back. She returned every evening to sleep in his arms.

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