According to yōkai folklore, all foxes have the ability to shapeshift into human form. While some folktales speak of kitsune employing this ability to trick others-as foxes in folklore often do-other stories portray them as faithful guardians, friends, and lovers. Kitsune have become closely associated with Inari, a Shinto kami or spirit, and serve as its messengers. This role has reinforced the fox's supernatural significance. The more tails a kitsune has-they may have as many as nine-the older, wiser, and more powerful it is. Because of their potential power and influence, some people make sacrifices to them as to a deity. Conversely foxes were often seen as "witch animals", especially during the superstitious Edo period (1603-1867), and were thought of as goblins who could not be trusted (similar to some badgers and cats). Folktales from China tell of fox spirits called húli jīng (Chinese: ) that may have up to nine tails. These fox spirits were adopted to Japanese culture through merchants as kyūbi no kitsune (九尾の狐, lit. Many of the earliest surviving stories are recorded in the Konjaku Monogatarishū, an 11th-century Japanese collection of Japanese, Chinese, and Indian literary narratives.
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Smyers (1999) notes that the idea of the fox as seductress and the connection of the fox myths to Buddhism were introduced into Japanese folklore through similar Chinese stories, but she maintains that some fox stories contain elements unique to Japan. The full etymology is unknown. The oldest known usage of the word is in text Shin'yaku Kegonkyō Ongi Shiki, dating to 794. Other old sources include Nihon Ryōiki (810-824) and Wamyō Ruijushō (c. 934). These old sources are written in Man'yōgana, which clearly identifies the historical form of the word (when rendered into a Latin-alphabet transliteration) as ki1tune. Following several diachronic phonological changes, this became kitsune. Myōgoki (1268) suggests that it is so called because it is "always (tsune) yellow (ki)". Arai Hakuseki in Tōga (1717) suggests that ki means 'stench', tsu is a possessive particle, and ne is related to inu, the word for 'dog'. Tanikawa Kotosuga in Wakun no Shiori (1777-1887) suggests that ki means 'yellow', tsu is a possessive particle, and ne is related to neko, the word for 'cat'. tsuki Fumihiko in Daigenkai (1932-1935) proposes that the word comes from kitsu, which is an onomatopoeia for the bark of a fox, and ne, which may be an honorific referring to a servant of an Inari shrine. Nozaki also suggests that the word was originally onomatopoetic: kitsu represented a fox's yelp and came to be the general word for 'fox'; -ne signified an affectionate mood.
So every evening she stole back and slept in his arms.
Kitsu is now archaic; in modern Japanese, a fox's cry is transcribed as kon kon or gon gon. Japanese, kitsu-ne means 'come and sleep', and ki-tsune means 'always comes'. Ono, an inhabitant of Mino (says an ancient Japanese legend of AD 545), spent the seasons longing for his ideal of female beauty. He met her one evening on a vast moor and married her. Simultaneously with the birth of their son, Ono's dog was delivered of a pup which as it grew up became more and more hostile to the lady of the moors. She begged her husband to kill it, but he refused. At last one day the dog attacked her so furiously that she lost courage, resumed vulpine shape, leaped over a fence and fled. So every evening she stole back and slept in his arms. The folk etymology would have it that because the fox returns to her husband each night as a woman but leaves each morning as a fox she is called kitsune. Kitsune are believed to possess superior intelligence, long life, and magical powers. They are a type of yōkai. The word kitsune is sometimes translated as 'fox spirit', which is actually a broader folkloric category.
On the other hand, the yako (野狐, lit.
This does not mean that kitsune are ghosts, nor that they are fundamentally different from regular foxes. Because the word spirit is used to reflect a state of knowledge or enlightenment, all long-lived foxes were believed to gain supernatural abilities. The zenko (善狐, lit. Inari; they are sometimes simply called Inari foxes in English. On the other hand, the yako (野狐, lit. Local traditions add further types. For example, a ninko is an invisible fox spirit that human beings can only perceive when it possesses them. Kitsune have as many as nine tails. Generally, a greater number of tails indicates an older and more powerful Kitsune; in fact, some folktales say that a fox will only grow additional tails after it has lived 100 years. One, five, seven, and nine tails are the most common numbers in folktales. These kyūbi no kitsune (九尾の狐, 'nine-tailed foxes') gain the abilities to see and hear anything happening anywhere in the world. Other tales credit them with infinite wisdom (omniscience). As a common prerequisite for the transformation, the fox must place reeds, a leaf, or a skull over its head. Common forms assumed by kitsune include beautiful women, young girls, elderly men, and less often young boys. Kitsune are particularly renowned for impersonating beautiful women.
39;s disguise merely by perceiving them.
Common belief in medieval Japan was that any woman encountered alone, especially at dusk or night, could be a kitsune. Kitsune-gao ('fox-faced') refers to human females who have a narrow face with close-set eyes, thin eyebrows, and high cheekbones. Traditionally, this facial structure is considered attractive, and some tales ascribe it to foxes in human form. Variants on the theme have the kitsune retain other foxy traits, such as a coating of fine hair, a fox-shaped shadow, or a reflection that shows its true form. In some stories, kitsune retain-and have difficulty hiding-their tails when they take human form; looking for the tail, perhaps when the fox gets drunk or careless, is a common method of discerning the creature's true nature. A particularly devout individual may even be able to see through a fox's disguise merely by perceiving them. Kitsune can also be exposed while in human form by their fear and hatred of dogs, and some become so rattled by their presence that they revert to the form of a fox and flee.
39; facial expressions are said to change in such a way that they resemble those of a fox.
One folktale illustrating these imperfections in the kitsune's human shape concerns Koan, a historical person later credited with legendary wisdom and magical powers of divination. According to the story, he was staying at the home of one of his devotees when he scalded his foot entering a bath because the water had been drawn too hot. Other supernatural abilities commonly attributed to kitsune include possession, generating fire or lightning, willful manifestation in the dreams of others, flight, invisibility, and the creation of illusions so elaborate as to be almost indistinguishable from reality. Some tales speak of kitsune with even greater powers, able to bend time and space, drive people mad, or take fantastic shapes such as an incredibly tall tree or a second moon in the sky. Other kitsune have characteristics reminiscent of vampires or succubi, and feed on the life or spirit of human beings, generally through sexual contact. Kitsunetsuki (狐憑き, ), also written kitsune-tsuki, literally means 'the state of being possessed by a fox'. The victim is usually said to be a young woman, whom the fox enters beneath her fingernails or through her breasts. In some cases, the victims' facial expressions are said to change in such a way that they resemble those of a fox. Japanese tradition holds that fox possession can cause illiterate victims to temporarily gain the ability to read. Though foxes in folklore can possess a person of their own will, kitsunetsuki is often attributed to the malign intents of hereditary fox employers. Strange is the madness of those into whom demon foxes enter.
Sometimes they run naked shouting through the streets. Sometimes they lie down and froth at the mouth, and yelp as a fox yelps. And on some part of the body of the possessed a moving lump appears under the skin, which seems to have a life of its own. Prick it with a needle, and it glides instantly to another place. By no grasp can it be so tightly compressed by a strong hand that it will not slip from under the fingers. Possessed folk are also said to speak and write languages of which they were totally ignorant prior to possession. They eat only what foxes are believed to like - tofu, aburagé, azukimeshi, etc. He goes on to note that, once freed from the possession, the victim would never again be able to eat tofu, azukimeshi, or other foods favored by foxes. Attempting to rid someone of a fox spirit was done via an exorcism, often at an Inari shrine. If a priest was not available or if the exorcism failed, alleged victims of kitsunetsuki might be badly burned or beaten in hopes of driving out the fox spirits. The whole family of someone thought to be possessed might be ostracized by their community. In Japan, kitsunetsuki was described as a disease as early as the Heian period and remained a common diagnosis for mental illness until the early 20th century. Possession was the explanation for the abnormal behavior displayed by the afflicted individuals. In the late 19th century, Shunichi Shimamura noted that physical diseases that caused fever were often considered kitsunetsuki.
The superstition has lost favor, but stories of fox possession still occur, such as allegations that members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult had been possessed. In modern psychiatry, the term kitsunetsuki refers to a culture-bound syndrome unique to Japanese culture. Those who suffer from the condition believe they are possessed by a fox. Symptoms include cravings for rice or sweet adzuki beans, listlessness, restlessness, and aversion to eye contact. This sense of kitsunetsuki is similar to but distinct from clinical lycanthropy. In folk religion, stories of fox possession can be found in all lands of Japan. Those possessed by a fox are thought to suffer from a mental illness or similar condition. These families are said to have been able to use their fox to gain fortune, but marriage into such a family was considered forbidden as it would enlarge the family. They are also said to be able to bring about illness and curse the possessions, crops, and livestock of ones that they hate, and as a result of being considered taboo by the other families, it has led to societal problems. The great amount of faith given to foxes can be seen in how, as a result of the Inari belief where foxes were believed to be Inari no Kami or its servant, they were employed in practices of dakini-ten by mikkyō and shugendō practitioners and in the oracles of miko; the customs related to kitsunetsuki can be seen as having developed in such a religious background. Depictions of kitsune or people possessed by them may feature round white balls known as hoshi no tama (ほしのたま, lit.