This week I am taking inspiration from a recently acquired fox skull, which I purchased through a friend recently.
There is nothing more beautiful than the Red Fox. Increasingly a symbol of the urban wild; this small predator is at home both in the meadows, fields and forests where it hunts for small herbivores (and other foods) and the big cities where it both hunts and scavenges. Often viewed as little better than the vermin it hunts foxes are a common sight in our suburban gardens and parklands.
The house I grew up in was bordered by some private allotments, most of which were untended and overgrown. We often listened to the unmistakable sound of the vixen in heat and each year a little fox family would play in our garden. Our rabbits and guinea pigs were never bothered by these foxy visitors because my mum insisted, we had a running deal. They would get the choicest leftovers from our roast chicken dinners and in return wouldn’t eat our pets.
Being able to view this wonderful animal from a relatively close distance, albeit through the window, left me with a reverence and respect for these creatures. They are predators, of this there is no doubt and I watched more than one tuck into a fat pigeon on the lawn, but they are also incredibly playful and affectionate. The connection between mates is strong and monogamous and whilst the cubs are young and learning they are a close family group. You would rarely see the adults coming because they knew the lay of the land so well they had all the advantages when it came to sneaking but they were not above a bold statement of presence from time to time if the situation was in their favour.
Foxes appear one most of the continents on the planet, the exception being Australia where they are an invasive species introduced into the country in the mid-1800’s for sport. As a result, there are many interpretations on the qualities of the Fox but by and large, they are split into two main categories; wisdom and guile.
Ever had a fox trot across your path, pause and then continue out of sight and felt that they were beckoning you to follow them into the unknown? Although foxes are normally considered nocturnal animals they are most commonly seen during dawn and dusk, those liminal times of days when many consider the wall between worlds weakest. Through their association with these times of day, foxes are often regarded as spirit guides, able to lead the adept over the threshold between worlds and beyond.
For this reason, they are often associated with the higher knowledge and wisdom associated with the spiritual realms and the sighting of a fox seen as an omen to be reckoned with. It is always why the fox is regarded by some as an auspicious spirit guide/animal for those interested in crossing these spiritual boundaries. Working with the energies of the Fox can help the practitioner find their way across these boundaries and through the complexities of such spiritual realms.
The Fox also shows wisdom in the way it employs its skills as a hunter and expert in camouflage. Hunting requires energy and failed hunt can be more costly than not hunting at all in some situations and the fox knows this well. When they hunt they do so in an efficient and arrow-like way, pursuing their quarry carefully and efficiently. When hunted themselves they are savvy prey, and their skills lie in knowing ahead of time when they are likely to be hunted and hiding well. Man alone struggles to track the fox and relies heavily on trapping known food sources (chicken coupes and the like) or the nose of the hound. This is one reason that the illegal fox hunts which take place across the countryside rely so heavily on dogs going out ahead of time to track the likely location of their quarry.
Their adaptability and knowledge of what skills to use when are spiritual messages which can be gained from working with this spirit animal and another reason this animal is a popular spiritual guide.
The fox is often regarded as a sly character, able to catch even the most suspicious of opponent off guard. From ancient land spirit bringing fire to man through cunning to sly old Mr Fox trying to trick rabbits into his pot; the Fox has long been associated with guile and diversion. Such behaviour can be seen in two lights. On one hand, it is an extension of wisdom, using one’s natural abilities to ensure the best outcome for the self or others. On the other hand, it is seen as a misuse of wisdom and knowledge, particularly by the victims of such wise ways and words. In dream symbolism the fox almost universally represents an opponent of some kind, drawing on the many phrases associated with the fox such as “foxy lady” and “sly as a fox”. The image of the fox can, therefore, represents both sides of this coin, representing the cunning enemy or the cunning needed to prevail in any given situation.
Some cultures also accord Foxes with shapeshifting abilities, drawing on the ability of this animal to move unseen through its environment. Like many predatory animals, foxes have evolved to blend seamlessly into their native environments but time and again they have shown their ability to adapt to new environments and thrive. On a spiritual level, this message of adaptability is a positive one, encouraging us to remain open and able to change according to our situation.
Shapeshifters are also notorious tricksters, playing situations to their advantage to create chaos for others but their role is always coloured by the perception of the outcome. Victims will always feel that the Trickster represents a negative force, the chaos they being breaks the bounds of conventional behaviours and rules to the detriment of all. Those that benefit will view the Trickster as the little hero, the underdog which has defied all the odds and used their cunning to defy both the odds and maybe even overwhelming strength. The Fox also falls into this category of liminal creatures, dancing back and forth across the line of what is acceptable and what is not.
Closing Musings and Ethical Statment
The fox is a rather magically animal of layered meanings and associations all of which can be seen as two sides of the same coin. The adaptability and shifting nature of the Fox are certainly qualities to be prized in modern life
Like many witches who use animal remains in their Craft, I like to be aware of where I am sourcing from. Foraging, roadkill and ethical population culls are my preferred source for animal remains. In this case, the fox pictured was the victim of a road traffic accident (aka roadkill) and not from an illegal hunt or trapping.
Not everyone is comfortable with using animal remains in their practice and some may find it strange to have the skull of an animal which may be considered revered on your living room sideboard. I personally find it a powerful way in which to invoke the energies of that animal in your life and, in my case at least, a significant reminder of not only my past interactions with this wonderful animal but also of significant family members. With proper ritual and care any skull can become a vessel for the spirit of the animal it represents and although this particular skull hasn’t undergone these processes I am not precluding it from my personal practice at this stage.