mad in pursuit notebook


Kitsune The Fox, Disguised As A Priest

Kitsune the Fox

This little fellow queued up for a photo this morning. About 4-1/2″ high, he is carved from boxwood and adorned with mother-of-pearl eyes and a retractable ivory tongue. Jim’s note on the 1996 purchase receipt says he’s a “fox priest.” Ah, yes — the bushy tail!

So what’s this about?

His straw hat and robe are full of holes — so, a mendicant. His jar is carved with the character “eight” and his papers with a character that might mean “understanding.”* So, perhaps he’s preaching The Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism.

But a fox? With a clattering tongue and wild eyes?

In Japanese lore, the fox (kitune) can be a shape-shifter, often taking the guise of a priest or monk. If he gets drunk or careless, his tail shows and gives him away.

Maybe a commentary on false preachers? I wonder…


*Good use for my Pleco (Optical Character Recognition) Chinese Dictionary iPhone app.

June 5, 2011