The Keeper of Flame – Fox as Spirit Animal or Totem in Animal Magick

Fox at night before a door

Fox, the witty keeper of the flame, the guide of those lost in the dark, is a teacher who challenges one’s adaptability, wit, and responsiveness. Photo: Flickr.

After the introduction of Totems, familiars, power animals and where to find them, we have looked at the Spirit of the Owl and noted that despite the superstitions, the owl is an extremely powerful totem that provides guidance in the unknown. Another powerful totem that is often a guide in the dark is the Spirit of the Fox. The fox has very often appeared to me as a power animal which is why I enjoy talking about the witty creature quite a lot.

Just like the owl, the fox has a bad reputation sometimes as well. That is because many cultures see its wits tricky and possibly dangerous. However, the fox always uses its wits to adapt to its environment and to be on top of the survival game. That’s at least one of the reasons why “clever as a fox” is such a compliment for those who can find their way out of difficult situations and “outfox” their challengers.

The Fox as Spirit Animal

While the fox is almost always associated with the figure of the trickster, that is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the trickster is a figure much needed in one’s intellectual progress and magickal initiation. When a fox appears in this form, it must be acknowledged for what it is – a power that tests your ability to exceed.

But as a spirit animal, the fox rarely appears as a trickster set on pranking and testing. It is often a teacher that guides you in the dark and teaches you how to find your way around obstacles. As a totem, the fox helps you develop your wit and adaptability. Because it helps you increase your awareness and responsiveness, the Spirit of the Fox is an excellent aid in tricky situations.

And because of its affinity with nocturnal activities, the fox is a great guide in the dream world and it can help you evolve as an oneironaut. When the fox appears to you as an animal, spirit animal, or symbol, it may indicate that you need to increase your awareness.

Sometimes they may warn you about a tricky situation or a cunning person in your life. The fox appears to help you see through deception by guiding you on the right path for you especially when you feel tempted to follow a path that does not serve you.

Fox Lore

Japanese fox Kitsune statue with red decoration - yodarekake

For the Japanese, Kitsune (“fox” in English) is a divine messenger of the god Inari. Kitsune statues are often adorned with red votive bibs, called yodarekake. The color red is associated with the god Inari and worshipers often place these votive bibs on the statues at Inari shrines in order to establish a bond with the god. Photo: Flickr.

Most cultures associate the fox with wit and adaptability before anything else. In many European tales, the fox is a character who outsmarts humans and other animals even in the trickiest of situations. In early Mesopotamian mythology, the fox was one of the sacred animals of the Sumerian mother goddess, Ninhursag.

In one ancient myth, Enki, the Sumerian god of water, was dying from an illness that none of the gods could heal, except for Ninhursag, who was nowhere to be found. Only her fox knew how to find her and it guided her to Enki, in order to heal him. In Ancient European lore, the fox was a messenger of the old gods of the woods and it was considered a symbol of fertility.

However, in the Middle Ages especially, the fox was associated with the workings of the Devil because of its nocturnal activities. In China, the fox was a shapeshifter that could trick and lure the innocent. It was also a symbol much associated with the afterlife and it was believed that fox sighting was a death omen. The Celts believed that the fox was a guide. Not only did they cherish the fox as a guide in the woods, but also in the spirit world.

Some Native American tribes also considered the fox as a wise messenger or guide, while other tribes considered it a trickster. But no other culture honors the fox more than the Japanese one. People and foxes have lived close together in ancient Japan, which is why they have so many legends about the witty creatures.

Kitsune statues at Inari shrine with offerings

Inari shrine at Mt. Takao – Worshipers of the god Inari often leave food offerings for the kitsune, such as rice and sake. They do this hoping that the divine messenger will deliver their prayer or request to god Inari.

The Kitsune (Japanese for “fox”) is believed to possess supernatural abilities that only increase as they age. And according to Yōkai folklore, one of its supernatural abilities is that of shapeshifting into human form. Sometimes, the kitsune uses this ability to trick or test humans, while other times it uses it to become a friend, lover, or even wife – that’s one foxy ability!

Kitsune is also a rain spirit, the messenger of Inari, the kami of foxes, fertility, rice, tea, sake, agriculture, prosperity, success, and one of the main kami of Shinto. This is why the fox is considered a sacred messenger of the Japanese god. The most interesting part of the Kitsune mythos is that the more tails a kitsune has, the older, wiser, and powerful they are.

A kitsune can have up to 9 tails, which is when they become almost a deity and traditionally, they are worshiped as one in that case. And speaking of the Nine-Tailed Kitsune – you know where this is going… Kurama! The Spirit of the Fox was beautifully depicted as the Kyūbi no Yōko, or Kurama as named by the Sage of Six Paths, in Naruto – the popular Japanese manga/anime series.

This Nine-Tailed Demon Fox is the 9th and most powerful of the bijū, the nine-tailed beasts which are great manifestations of unlimited chakra. The depiction is extremely close to the kitsune lore, but what makes the storyline outstanding is that it shows how the Spirit of the Fox works with humans. Despite its amazing power, a power that surpasses that of mere humans, the Spirit of the Fox becomes even greater in serving the human it becomes attached to. And despite its loyalty, it is very much an independent spirit with an interesting set of morals.

Ace of Wands from Shadowscapes Tarot - Foxes

Ace of Wands, Shadowscapes Tarot – Foxes, like Wands, are elements of fire that represent personal power, creativity, courage, and adventure. | Photo by Radiana Piț, Instagram @crowhag

Another one of my favorite representations of the Fox Spirit can be found in the Shadowscapes Tarot, which is the tarot deck I use the most in my work. Almost all of the Wands cards in the deck have a representation of the fox in them. And that is because just like wands, foxes are elements of fire, determination, and personal power.

 Illustration for "The Fox and the Crow" from Aesop's Fables. .

Illustration for “The Fox and the Crow” from Aesop’s Fables. The story is an example of the Fox getting what it wants by using its wits and flattering the naive crow. Photo: Flickr.

Perhaps the most famous depiction of the fox can be found in Aesop’s Fables, the slave, and storyteller who lived in Ancient Greece. In The Fox and the Crow, both animals become archetypes and the fox proves that wit is a virtue. Ultimately, the spirit of the fox is one of mankind’s oldest friends. A friend that guides, teaches, and when needed, tests one’s ability to help them overcome their limits.

As a spirit animal, the fox is distinguished by the unique bond it has with humans. And perhaps this is also because of its ability to take human form. And on this note, I’ll leave you with the words of the famous fox from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince: “To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…” 

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Latest comments
  • I recently moved into a new home,and was given a stainglassed fox light,the person that gifted
    This item to me is not a good person and might have ill intent towards me.
    What should I do with it?

  • Just clean it with a ritual you know for such purposes.
    Maybe redirect the intention of the giver back to him or her. If you feel uncomfortable having it in your home donate it, after the cleansing.