Sunday, January 30, 2011

Foxy Lady!

While reading up a bit on some research on "fox" I was reminded of earlier research I did on the word "kitsune" - as can be found here at Wikipedia. 

One of the outstanding characteristics of a kitsune - fox - in ancient Japanese lore is that of being able to assume human form, usually that of a beautiful female (regardless of the sex of the fox).  Below are excerpts from the Wikipedia entry on the kitsune: 

A kitsune may take on human form, an ability learned when it reaches a certain age—usually 100 years, although some tales say 50.[13] As a common prerequisite for the transformation, the fox must place reeds, a broad leaf, or a skull over its head.[16] Common forms assumed by kitsune include beautiful women, young girls, or elderly men. These shapes are not limited by the fox's age or gender,[4] and a kitsune can duplicate the appearance of a specific person.[17] Foxes are particularly renowned for impersonating beautiful women. Common belief in medieval Japan was that any woman encountered alone, especially at dusk or night, could be a fox.[18]

In some stories, kitsune 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.[19] Variants on the theme have the kitsune retain other foxlike traits, such as a coating of fine hair, a fox-shaped shadow, or a reflection that shows its true form.[20] Kitsune-gao or 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.[21] Kitsune have a fear and hatred of dogs even while in human form, and some become so rattled by the presence of dogs that they revert to the shape of a fox and flee. A particularly devout individual may be able to see through a fox's disguise automatically.[22]

One folk story illustrating these imperfections in the kitsune's human shape concerns Koan, a historical person credited with 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. Then, "in his pain, he ran out of the bathroom naked. When the people of the household saw him, they were astonished to see that Koan had fur covering much of his body, along with a fox's tail. Then Koan transformed in front of them, becoming an elderly fox and running away."[23]

Kitsune are commonly portrayed as lovers, usually in stories involving a young human male and a kitsune who takes the form of a human woman.[59] The kitsune may be a seductress, but these stories are more often romantic in nature.[60] Typically, the young man unknowingly marries the fox, who proves a devoted wife. The man eventually discovers the fox's true nature, and the fox-wife is forced to leave him. In some cases, the husband wakes as if from a dream, filthy, disoriented, and far from home. He must then return to confront his abandoned family in shame.

Many stories tell of fox-wives bearing children. When such progeny are human, they possess special physical or supernatural qualities that often pass to their own children.[19] The astrologer-magician Abe no Seimei was reputed to have inherited such extraordinary powers.[61]

Other stories tell of kitsune marrying one another. Rain falling from a clear sky — a sunshower — is called kitsune no yomeiri or the kitsune's wedding, in reference to a folktale describing a wedding ceremony between the creatures being held during such conditions.[62] The event is considered a good omen, but the kitsune will seek revenge on any uninvited guests.[63] [This is very interesting.  I was raised to consider seeing a "sunshower" as a very good omen, a blessing from God, actually -- but have no idea why it is considered so!]

Stephen Turnbull, in "Nagashino 1575", relates the tale of the Takeda clan's involvement with a fox-woman. The warlord Takeda Shingen, in 1544, defeated in battle a lesser local warlord named Suwa Yorishige and drove him to suicide after a "humiliating and spurious" peace conference, after which Shingen forced marriage on Suwa Yorishige's beautiful 14-year-old daughter Lady Koi—Shingen's own niece. Shingen, Turnbull writes, "was so obsessed with the girl that his superstitious followers became alarmed and believed her to be an incarnation of the white fox-spirit of the Suwa Shrine, who had bewitched him in order to gain revenge." When their son Takeda Katsuyori proved to be a disastrous leader and led the clan to their devastating defeat at the battle of Nagashino, Turnbull writes, "wise old heads nodded, remembering the unhappy circumstances of his birth and his magical mother".

One of the oldest surviving kitsune tales provides a widely known folk etymology of the word kitsune.[5] Unlike most tales of kitsune who become human and marry human males, this one does not end tragically:[6][7]

Ono, an inhabitant of Mino (says an ancient Japanese legend of A.D. 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.[Echoing the belief of animosity between dogs and foxes.]  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.

"You may be a fox," Ono called after her, "but you are the mother of my son and I love you. Come back when you please; you will always be welcome."

So every evening she stole back and slept in his arms.[5]

Because the fox returns to her husband each night as a woman but leaves each morning as a fox, she is called Kitsune. In classical Japanese, kitsu-ne means come and sleep, and ki-tsune means always comes.[7]

In English, the etymological roots of the term "foxy" to describe a beautiful, seductive woman go back, evidently, to about the mid-1960's, according to this fun discussion I found at wordwizard, as popularized in Jimmy Hendrix's hit song "Foxy Lady:"

Foxy
Foxy

You know you're a cut little heartbreaker
Foxy
You know you're a sweet little lovemaker
Foxy

I wanna take you home
I won't do you no harm, no
You've got to be all mine, all mine
Ooh, foxy lady

I see you, heh, on down on the scene
Foxy
You make me wanna get up and scream
Foxy
Ah, baby listen now
I've made up my mind
I'm tired of wasting all my precious time
You've got to be all mine, all mine
Foxy lady
Here I come

I'm gonna take you home
I won't do you no harm, no
You've got to be all mine, all mine

Here I come
I'm comin' to get ya
Foxy lady
You look so good
Yeah, foxy
Yeah, give us some
Foxy
Yeah, get it, babe
You make me feel like
Feel like sayin' foxy
Foxy
Foxy lady
Foxy lady



The term was used  to describe a beautiful, seductive female in black-American slang terminology. Might it actually be traced to an ancient conjunction of African and Japanese lore concerning the mythical abilities of foxes that met and mixed, perhaps during WWII when battalions of black U.S. soldiers served in occupied Japan? I wonder if anyone else has researched this?

1 comment:

Robur d'Amour said...

Re your previous post on fox burials. There's a really good reason why foxes may have been buried with people. You referred to the Egyptian Anubis. Anubis was a guide to the soul in the next world.

There is a well-documented case in which a woman (possibly Anne Macguire, not certain) had a dream about a dog with golden eyes that led her to the future. Shortly after, she met Carl Jung, and her entire life changed. That's how legends are born.

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