Fur color, clans, and relations

 
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Dens/Clans

Lines

Red

Black

Golds and Silvers - not truly "family"

Golds

Silvers

All Kitsune

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Most kitsune myths deal with four colors of foxes – red, black, gold, and silver (or white). Each color is significant in its own way. Traditionally (as I understand the myths):

  • Red is the common fox, and may or may not be friendly.

  • Black is the color of luck. A person who sees a black fox and survives the experience usually has good harvests for the year or good luck in business and so forth. Black foxes are also generally thought to be the shiest and most skittish of the foxes. They are never considered bad unless the fox is obviously in fury (teeth bared, in battle and doing destruction - think of the Kyuubi in Naruto), and are then thought to be *very* bad luck (likely because they tend to do a great deal of damage).  Asia really does have black foxes.

  • Gold foxes are almost exclusively considered the enlightened foxes, and have a surprising amount of patience and understanding. They are the most likely to heal people randomly or give gifts. They are also fond of arts.

  • Silver foxes may be enlightened, but are almost always considered the messengers and companions of Inari.

  • Sometimes, white foxes are considered harbingers of death. In ancient times, seeing a white fox out of season meant that illness was coming. Practically speaking, the white fox often was a carrier of a form of tape worms, and the fox would accidentally contaminate the water supplies with the eggs of the worms (this is also why tea is so important - the act of boiling the water for the tea would kill the worms). The anime/book Saiunkoku Monogatari touches on this at the beginning of the second season (the whole illness of the Sai region bit), and matches up almost exactly with the accounts I've heard.

 

In designing the kitsune culture that you see in the stories, I have adapted this general information to the following bits of information.

Clans vs. Dens and Lines

Remember that kitsune do not have formal clans like humans do - at best they have dens. Foxes are not overly social and do not gather in great numbers, where "great numbers" is relative to the size of even a modest human town. Family groups are not uncommon in a den, but dens are small affairs (hundreds at the most). Less formal dens could be ten or twenty; an individual or single family uses "den" to refer to their home, but they are not named and organized dens. For the purposes of finding partners, trade, or mere curiosity, kitsune will travel freely until they settle. This makes it nearly impossible to form the entirely rigid clan system of the humans, though they do have something of a clan structure and they retain most of the traditional formalities quite similar to those that Doji taught the humans. Rather than having clan names, however, they tend to take the name of the den. Everyone living in the Chigonoha den is therefore  "of Chigonoha."

A kitsune wishing to distinguish themselves further may add that they are of a particular line, which is typically named after a famous or well-known trait or person of the tribe. Itoko, for instance, is "Of Chigonoha, line of Ishigawa." Ishigawa means "stone river" and is a reference to where most of her family comes from (several hundred years ago) - the stone river area, where they used to coax water up to the surface through the rocks. A kitsune would then immediately understand that Itoko is from a line of foxes whose strength tended towards water kami, and that while she lives in Chigonoha (a primarily red fox den) she is a black fox. They might also realize from her name (Itoko - child of thread) that she is a weaver, like many in that same family line; further, because the Ishigawa are renowned among the foxes for their weaving, they would expect that she is a *good* weaver, since she retained the reference to cloth in her name.

Not giving line information is not considered rude for the kitsune, for many of them it is enough merely to mention where one hangs their hat. Line information is rarely important unless discussing partnering or rare traits. While a courtesy to give the line information, it is considered quite rude to ask about the line information if the other kitsune does not mention it.  It is very typical to leave out line information if, for instance, the kitsune in question has not followed the traditional path of the family, especially if the family is famous for something. In that case, it is intentional, so that they do not accidentally mislead someone to thinking that they are good at something when they are not. Likewise, a kitsune from a relatively unremarkable line will probably leave the line information out so that they do not make themselves sound overly officious. Therefore, asking the line information when it is not presented is prying and offensive or condescending. Kitsune considering partnering may safely and politely ask the information, but only the individuals seriously considering a partner may ask about one's line without giving offense (because they, after all, need to know that they aren't inbreeding on accident).

Coloring

The red foxes are the most prolific and widespread – with varying shades for different groups ranging from a rusty orange to a dark red that is blood-red in hue. The red fox is most common among the colors, and most of the dens are populated almost entirely of red foxes. While a particular family line may have a tendency towards a given element, there is no one element that all red foxes are always good at. Because they are more wide-spread and numerous, the red fox is the most unpredictable and may be curious or violently reclusive.

Black foxes are rare (and yes, there is an actual black fox in Japan, and they are very rare), and are focused only in one or two locations. One den is under the Mountain of Seven Thunders. This is one of the largest and oldest underground dens. The other large grouping of black foxes is on the other side of the Spine of the World. In my story, the only currently living first generation child of Inari is a black fox.

Dens are always Black or Red fox controlled. Golds cannot maintain lucidity enough to rule, and silvers lead only insomuch as they are needed in emergencies. See the Den structure page for more specific information and details.

 

Gold and Silver foxes are a touch trickier as neither are true lineages. Gold seems indicative of enlightenment, but it always is a reference to age. Silver foxes are mentioned most often as messengers or guardians of Inari and the things or people Inari has taken an interest in. 

 

Gold Foxes

He turned his attention back to Chai, "Just how old is she, and how much of that time did she spend on the other side of the mountains?"

Chai shrugged back at him, her eyes on the woods around them, "I don't know. She's not really my aunt. She's been like that - broken grammar, bubbly, spastic, and embarrassingly frank even for a kitsune - for as long as I can remember. She's the one that made me think that going gold and forgetting everything is worse than Fading. At least there's an end to Fading, but once a fox goes Gold, they live like that until something kills them. We don't really even know how old she is. Inari-kami doesn't tell anyone's age once they've gone gold. He says it doesn't matter then."

Yunitori blinks slowly at that and then furrows his brow just a bit, "So you call her aunt because she was around a lot to help raise you?" Yuni turned to look behind them, almost as if he could see the much older kitsune that had seen to their needs at Temple, but he turns back to Chai, far more interested in hearing Chai's answer - an insight into her life.

Chai's ears raise slightly and she blinks, then she laughs. "Um. Golds get very angry if you call them old. They don't remember aging, you see, so calling them 'grandther' or the like makes them angry. It's common to call Golds 'aunt' or 'uncle' because they truthfully don't remember anything. Anyway, if you are around a gold, you are probably related to them, in a distant sort of way. For them, though, 'distant' relatives are actually pretty close. They live long enough to see their great-great-grandchildren, after all." 

 

For the purposes of the story, I use gold to mean something somewhat similar to going grey in humans. Gold foxes are old, read ancient. Since "Enlightenment" means something different in the Rokugan context than it does in the historical/mythical context, I've adjusted the typical myth. In the story, going gold is something that the kitsune regard with mixed trepidation and outright fear.

A Gold fox is so old that they are losing their touch with the material world. While that is good in the classic sense of enlightenment, for the Rokugani kitsune, this is bad. Since kitsune cannot attain enlightenment on their own, nor reincarnate, going gold is an impending sign of a truly final death. There is no afterlife or realm of the dead for the kitsune without enlightenment. They either disappear entirely or become vengeful spirits who posses humans.

More practically speaking, gold foxes are forgetful - often to the extreme - and tend to hyper focus on odd things. They are perfectly lucid, but they have trouble connecting with the "now" of things. They may forget to eat, or they'll get so caught up in a memory that they don't pay attention to where they are actually walking and get lost. The good news is that they won't starve themselves to death (because they will get hungry and the hunger pains will remind them to eat) or get irrevocably lost (*how* often have they wandered these woods? They *so* know how to get home... eventually.... after they go look at that shiny thing). The bad news is that they still don't connect with things outside of them, so they may trap a human in an illusion as a prank and forget little things like feeding the *human* (his hunger pains don't affect the fox, after all) or letting them go... ever. They may also sit still and work on a painting while a house burns down around them. Golds are highly revered as they have a great deal of knowledge and skill that most do not, but someone keeping track of a gold or dealing with one has to be alert and focused to keep the gold from spacing out. Despite this, a gold fox who has traditionally done something for most of their lives will always remember to do that one thing. If, for instance, it was their job for their entire adult life to sweep out the temple, they will do so, even if the temple gets destroyed and is no longer there - they will merely sweep the ground where the temple used to be. This is especially good for others if the gold is a craftsmen or if they did something like cook or take care of children for the den - they will always remember to do those things that they routinely did before they went gold. This does depend on that task still being possible. The kit who sweeps the temple will sweep the ground as long as the ground is there, but the kit who takes care of children may lose their ability to remember to check diapers if they go a long enough span of years without doing that chore.

Kitsune go gold on average by the time they hit their 800's or so, but a fox who is depressed or unwell may go gold sooner as they begin to lose their will to live. On the flip side, a kitsune who has something or someone to focus on may delay their golding by their sheer will to survive. In either situation - depression and illness or sheer will to live - a fox may go partially gold. Rarely, if ever, will a fox start to go gold and then manage to go back to their original shade. One may, however, recover from severe depression and remain partially gold for the normal remainder of their years.

 

Silver foxes have chosen or are chosen to be silver. They are the messengers and priests of Inari.  Being silver does not make them any less prone to trickery, but they are more focused and centered than the average kitsune. Once they are accepted by their choice or are drafted (by Inari's choice), their fur turns silver within the span of a year. Most of the time, they are secluded in temples and training during this transition period, so seeing a half-silver outside of the Temple in the Kitsune realm is nearly impossible. Silver kitsune can, therefore, be originally from any Line or Den. Once they become a monk, they tend to take the surname "of Temple" to refer to the Inari Temple found in the kitsune realm. Accordingly, silvers are accepted and honored in any den, though most of them are shy or reclusive enough that unless ordered to stay in a den, they will tend towards living on their own in a temple or in the woods. They might, in very specific situations, refer to their original Line, if it is pertinent to a conversation or situation and only if they feel like sharing.

While they are often what could be considered priests or monks of the kitsune, silver foxes are also the ones best able to defend themselves. All foxes have a strong element and a weak element, but silvers get a little extra jolt that the average fox doesn't normally get (either from simply their role as avatars of the kitsune deity or simply because they can be fantastically old).

The Inari Temple in the kitsune realm is the headquarters of the silvers, and they generally refer to it merely as Temple. Temple becomes their home, where they train, where they relax, and where they learn. It is organized by a head monk, chosen by Inari. In the story, the Temple Master is Li, a temperamental fox with a twitchy "trigger" finger. She organizes the greater majority of Silvers who have not been directly given a task by Inari and assigns them duties or specific tasks as she sees need for them (everything from "deliver this message" to "go bless this new Inari Temple for the humans" to the more nebulous "go protect the Chihi den"). Inari can make himself heard by any silver, but the average silver rarely actually hears directly from Inari. Li, however, can often be heard having a one-sided conversation with the air around her. The wise fox chooses not to listen too carefully, because she tends towards being scathing, even disrespectful towards her deity, who seems to find her amusing. Li was not chosen as the Temple Master for her piety, fortunately, merely her ability to manage both the silvers and the complex interrelations between the varied dens of the Realms.

The silver's role in the community is defined almost entirely by "What Inari Wants" and then to a lesser degree, what the Temple Master Wants. They may be simply messengers, or mediators, protectors, advisors, thieves, or anything else that Inari decides ought to be done. They do, fortunately, stick to kitsune circles, and while they are prone to acts of mercy that one might expect from priests of any positive persuasion, they don't generally go looking for Something To Do (i.e. trouble). To both keep from meddling too much and to keep the monks busy, Inari usually gives very general directions along the lines of "in the next hundred years or so, those two dens should stop fighting" or "reduce the amount of Taint in this area." The monks then, are left for the most part to decide exactly how to fulfill those orders with in the guidelines of what they know Inari will approve of. They may, at their own discretion, go out of their way to do something if they feel it will help (or at least not hinder) their specific goal. While any kitsune might be an intermediary between various other races, the silvers are more trusted by the other non-human races in an intermediary capacity. Silvers, then, also become ambassadors at need, and Li is usually very careful to keep ambassadorial-minded foxes in appropriate volatile areas.

Silver foxes do not go gold. They have a duty that they are devoted to, and their sense of that duty is so strong that they cannot simply let go. Inari will, in very rare cases, let a truly tormented silver seek their own end, but Inari usually requires the silvers to work through the issue (they  have Things To Do, after all, and for the most part he can wait for them to get better) or atone for whatever sin they feel they have committed. Silvers, then, generally recognize that they will never die in bed of old age or fade to nothingness - they all know that they will die in some unnatural death.

Most silvers wear a variation on monk robes and at their most formal wear white and silver, though they are not actually required to do either. A silver may find a mate or have children (Inari is, after all, a god of fertility), though a child of a non-silver and a silver will generally stay with the family of the non-silver. A child of two silvers is fantastically rare, but it does happen. In this case, one or the other parent is usually assigned to a den and the child spends their time between the den and Temple. Such children are *not* born silver, though they usually have some oddity about them - a slightly weirdling color even for a kitsune. Star, for instance, is child of two monks and has dark purple eyes. She became a silver almost as soon as she reached majority, so the purple eyes are especially freaky to those who don't know her.

 

For the purposes of the RP, I have not developed a specific White fox group, and any time you see a reference to a white fox elsewhere, I am referring to monks/silvers. The superstition of the white fox seems to not be a very prevalent one, as apparently the connection between the foxes and the illness was made fairly early in history. As mentioned, the tape worm is one of the reasons that refined/wealthy people always drank tea rather than water. To this end, white foxes are not a specific group, though any red fox will turn a grey-ish or blue-ish color if they live in a colder region for a long time.

 

All kitsune are highly territorial, and they would be very uneasy and restless at any amount of rearranging that a mass of people would produce. Not as prolific as humans, nor as prone to large battles as humans, they tend to avoid conflict with humans and deal with internal conflicts between clans when humans claim part of a forest. At the same time, a single human or small group who wanders too far into kitsune territory is likely to be a dead human very fast. Kitsune call these people “fertilizer” or “decorations” once the sun has bleached the bones a bit.

In general, kitsune would avoid staying the the forest that contains the Naga, as they would probably remember that the cities are in that general area, and would not want to intrude on the other elder race. As kitsune are tied into nature and the health of the land, the area around a den (in direct proportion to the size of the den) would have exceedingly healthy plant life. A large enough den would even have noticeably cleaner air in the area around the den.

Kitsune have the occasional tendency to live around places of death, as well. They are spirits and the nature of a normal death is merely part of life. When this happens, there is a twofold purpose. The first, kitsune collect skulls for personal illusions. The second is that kitsune enjoy conversing with ghosts. Some even have made it a task of theirs to help spirits move on, a lengthy and difficult process in most cases. Fortunately, kitsune in general have time.

Also, as creatures of nature, the kitsune are highly susceptible to Taint. While they can purge taint from a forest, eventually, prolonged periods of time around taint can make a kitsune ill. Worse, a kitsune who dies of Taint often becomes a vengeful spirit who then possesses other people in order to wreak havoc.

It is, in fact, due to the overflow of Taint that the kitsune in these stories are starting to concern themselves with the human realm more and more. The health of their realm depends on the health of the human realm, and if the human realm is overrun, theirs would fall quickly after.

 

 
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