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Kitsuhana brings foxes together to share, connect and communicate.

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It's complicated, and depends on who you ask, where, and at what period in time.

Both depictions have probably been fought back and forth over--since ancient Japan was a battleground of Shinto, Daoist, and Buddhist values. Old, male, bearded Inari would have appealed to a lot of the Confuscian thinkers of the time. Females in power were usually considered 'malevolent' or 'cult' figures, and depictions of female characters of power were a lot more popular in sensationalist writing and plays, both in China and Japan. I suspect thinking of Inari as 'female' may have developed long after the foxes gained their reputation. Then again, I'm stronger on the Chinese side of the fox myths, so take that with a grain of salt--or rice, if you prefer.

Inari, to my mind, is a hollowed-out concept; a compromise--an excuse, even. It's whatever face pleases followers and priests enough to keep allowing for worship of the Inari-fox. You'll observe that the most prominent aspect of most Inari shrines depicted today (besides red torii) is usually their 'fox statues', and that imagery of Inari themselves, as a human-like kami is nowhere to be found. That says to me 'The god is dead, or missing'. Their gender at that point, is a little irrelevant.

I'm not really satisfied that Inari was ever supposed to be some kind of 'fox god' for folks like ourselves to glorify and identify with. To me, they seem more a 'victim' of the foxes' popularity. Maybe they were always attached to the fox in some way--but the Inari-fox's worship has swollen into its own new religious identity, over the old, Shinto one, for sure. It's 'really' fishy. And that's not a gender joke.

Last update on January 17, 12:10 pm by Avery F. Romero.
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