Aug 23, 2018 I Nick Redfern

The Kitsune: A Mysterious Shapeshifter

If you mention the terms "shapeshifting" and "morphing monsters" to most people with an interest in the world of the paranormal, they will likely think of the likes of werewolves and Dog-Men. But, shapeshifters - rather appropriately - come in all forms and sizes. Japan has its very own shapeshifter. It is called the Kitsune. It is a word that means “fox.” Japanese lore has long maintained that each and every fox that lives – and which has ever lived – has the ability to take on the appearance of a human, whether that of a man or of a woman. And, like many of the shapeshifters that can be found in worldwide legend, the Kitsune alternates from being a malevolent creature to a placid and helpful entity. Mostly, however, it acts as a classic Trickster – manipulating people, and playing endless mind-games with them.

Those Kitsune which portray a positive nature are known as Zenko, while those that border upon the downright dangerous are termed Yako. The former will often hide food and various household items, something which has the victim endlessly and frustratingly looking for assumed, misplaced things. The dangerous ones, however, seek out the unwary and lead them into potentially deadly and treacherous places, such as bogs, marshes, and cascading rivers. The stories of the Japanese Kitsune were actually inspired by the folklore and mythology of China, where tales of supernatural foxes abounded thousands of years ago. It was the stories of these paranormal foxes – known in China as the Huli Jing – that soon became adapted and expanded on by the Japanese.

The Kitsune is said to be a spirit-based entity. Not of the kind that has returned from the grave in ethereal form, but as an entity that has paranormal qualities and powers, and which is spiritual in terms of its outlook. As for their physical appearances, the Kitsune look like regular foxes. Except for one thing: they can have up to nine tails.

Kitsune (Wikipedia)

As for the shapeshifting skills of the Kitsune, they are both many and varied. Beautiful women turn up time and time again when it comes to the matter of morphing entities. The Scottish Kelpie and the evil Succubus have both taken on the appearances of highly attractive, alluring women. The Kitsune is most definitely no different: women and teenage girls are among its most popular disguise. As is, sometimes, the form of a wrinkled old man. As for how, exactly, the shapeshifting occurs, here is where things get very weird. To allow a transformation to take place, the Kitsune is required to carefully place a handful of reeds on its head. And then, lo, the process of morphing quickly results.

A variation on all of the above maintains that as well as taking on the form of a woman or a girl, the Kitsune can also possess the minds of both – in very much the same fashion as demonic possession occurs. It is not just the form of people that the Kitsune can take on. Like the Dryad of ancient Greece, the Kitsune is a tree spirit. All of which reveals the sheer bizarre nature of this incredible shapeshifter. Of course, there's no doubt that much of this has been provoked by myth, legend, and folklore. But, that there might be a degree of reality behind all of this suggests we should not completely dismiss these intriguing, ancient tales of mysterious shapeshifting.

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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