Illustration depicting two red foxes jumping on a background of yellow and green watercolor-painted lines.

Fiction: Dancing Lessons of the Kitsune

by Neve Mazique-Bianco

In the part of the woods we live in, the bark of the trees is rouged an amorous green.

Anyone could get lost in the fog, wrapped up in the lichen, algae, moss.

We do our best not to, though. We don’t believe in white supremacy, patriarchy, human supremacy, child abuse, or time. We do believe in dancing with these trees. You have to lean your sweet little head to the left to know the trees for what they are. If you dance counterclockwise around them, always leaning in, always listening in, you avoid the fog altogether unless it needs to speak with you. This dance is the most perfect, necessary dance of our day. But it is not the only dance in our woods! My personal favorite is the wedding dance. A sun-shower, like the Good Fox Blue is crying for joy, is the ideal weather for a fox wedding. 

We don our masks, painted like rouged-cheeked “men” and “women” who do not dance rubbing up on trees but do promenade along a clear-cut path, greeting the dark edges of the wood they crave with wrists, ankles, hips, and mandibles revealed en attitude. I hadn’t been adopted, found, stitched into the fabric of the forest by my kit and kin yet when that little human boy followed his curiosity and delight in the spitting sun and stumbled upon our wedding cakewalk. Human mothers think that we eat the terrible children who peer at us between the teal trees. Rend their flesh from their bones with our long, happy, feral teeth. That’s why they send their children back to the rainbow, that gorgeous grimace rising from a field of flowers, to beg our forgiveness and lift our curse from their family’s home. 

As the story goes, after returning home from spying on a fox wedding procession in the woods, that boy found a sword had been left at his doorstep, and his mother sent him with it back to the rainbow that very same day, to see which part of himself the Fox King wished him to sacrifice. 

When they don’t come home, not that night nor the next night or the next, the human who was a parent builds their life back up around the hole left by the child they surrendered. They assume this violence has nothing to do with them anymore. They do not find themselves cursed.

What they don’t know is that their children never came home not because we ate them …

… but because their mothers threw them out and told them never to return until they had split their own bellies open for our great pleasure and their family’s good name. That legend doesn’t originate in our culture, so we invite these sent-aways, these rule-breakers, to stay with us as foxes. 

What does it take to transform a person into a fox?

On the day of the ceremony, the forest blushes with ripe, formidable, globular beauty. A witch’s apple, half red and half green. A mixed message. But it is, as the Poet says, an omniscient mixedness. Closer, the red-throated tulips line the lip of the darkly wooded room. Lying down, you see that in this dark calm inside the sunstorm, light, but not rain, falls through.

This is where we build the foxfire. It is not a funeral pyre or a punishment; witching is not a crime here. What does it take to transform a person into a fox? In the question lies the problem. Foxes are already people. Some humans are people, too. Start with this, little bug eater, windcatcher, singer of lullabies, you always had a fox in you. You wouldn’t have yearned to see our most sacred rites without disturbing them or invading them had you not had a fox inside you. The Old Ones chose me to build the smoke bath because I was fox-born with a silver coat of fur. Those who have become grey over time know how to read a sign of this nature. Rest assured, you’re not the only born human born again Kitsune beast in the forest. As a species and a culture, we don’t discriminate. The people who are meant to come to us do.

You haven’t grown up flexing your fox skills, so it’s okay if you struggle with this next part. The chimney for the smoke bath is a hollowed log that has hidden many a feral kit who ran into someone they didn’t want to in the woods. It is verdant with singing moss. It is a tall climb. They say that cats always land on their feet, but Kitsune do not. We land on our hands or our hearts, and we remember better that way. Here is a rope of spun gold; swing it around this log as you lean back like your life depends on it. Like you’ve always known joy and freedom and find strength in being who you are. Now, pull the ends of that golden loop close, like you have a feather boa you’re holding someone lovely with as you dance. Pull, squeeze, hug, hold, breathe, pause when you need to. Shimmy your way up.

Atop the log is closer to both the sun and the rain, and emanating from it is this sassy gas we call smoke. You will smell it. You will smell like it: cedar, camphor, mimosa, rose, cypress, and kaki, who lost all their leaves to bear fruit for this. There is perhaps an undertone of fresh blood, but you can’t be sure. There are the tiniest flowers growing amongst the braided sticks of our open roof. You reach out to see how one would look against the skin between your fingers, and its periwinkle petals laugh because your new amber fur tickles. You rake a black nail up the twilight blossom’s stem to make you both shiver, and at this moment, you do not feel abandoned. The forest was your mother all along.

NEVE (they/(s)he) is a multigender, multiracial, multiply Disabled, multidimensional, multidisciplinary terpsichorean artist of the stage, street, field, stream, and screen. They are an Indigenous African living in Duwamish and Coast Salish lands and traveling wherever they have access and an invitation. (S)He is a 2020 Pina Bausch Fellow and a 2022 Arc Artist Fellow. Visit them online at and beyond.

📸 Featured image by luchioly/ Image editing by Emerald staff.

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