Today’s yokai is pretty interesting to me, because it is almost exactly the same as another phenomenon in British mythology known as St. Elmo’s fire (or will o’ the wisp). There’s something so interesting about two cultures, separated by about as far as you can possibly be on this planet, developing almost the same supernatural explanation. Though the Japanese version is much cuter and less sinister than the British version, it is still potentially plenty dangerous due to the implication that many other yokai are nearby…
Translation: fox fire
Habitat: originates from kitsune and only appears when they are nearby
Appearance: Kitsune-bi, or foxfire, is named for the magical kitsune who are said to create it. It appears in large numbers of floating orbs of light, usually only a few centimeters in diameter and less than a meter above the ground. The orbs are as bright as lanterns and in most cases red or orange, or some times blue-green, in color.
Behavior: Kitsune-bi only appears at night, often as a long chain hundreds or thousands of meters long, as if there were lanterns being carried by invisible bearers. Often the kitsune responsible for the fireballs are standing right next to the flames, invisible.
Kitsune-bi orbs are formed by foxes, which breath the ball of fire out from their mouths and use it to light their way at night. It is most often a sign that a large number of kitsune are nearby – often during yokai events such as the night parade of one hundred demons, yokai wedding ceremonies, and other processions or meetings.
Interactions: Kitsune-bi is not directly dangerous to humans, however the foxes behind it may be. Sometimes it is used to trick humans off of their paths at night. Other times it is used to lure curious humans into the darkness towards a group of hungry yokai. Following kitsune-bi usually leads a person to some place that he or she should not be. Additionally, because of its similarity to other dangerous hi-no-tama, it is generally not considered to be a good sign.
Interested in foxes, and fox-fire, and other yokai? Check out my book, The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons, on Amazon.com and learn the story behind over one hundred other bizarre monsters!