Red Fox as Animal Totem

Most of my totems that I’ve written about here and back at Therioshamanism are ones I’d consider rather uncommon. I talk about the totems of plants, lichens and fungi because I want to reinforce the idea that they’re out there and are every bit as important as their animal compatriots, and even the animals I’ve written about, like Dusky Arion, aren’t the big, popular totems. This time around, though, I want to talk about one of the more ubiquitous totems that I’ve been working with for a decade now: Red Fox.

As I mentioned in a previous post, 2004 was kind of a rough year for me, but it also produced a great deal of growth. During this period of chaos, I was going through a lot of internal changes and realizations, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience. Some of my worst traits came out under the stress; as is common with primary totems, I identified quite deeply with Gray Wolf, and all too often under stress my fangs were showing. I’ve talked about secondary totems as those that enter into our lives to help us through a particular period of time or teach us something specific. And that’s where Red Fox came in.

In some ways, Red Fox is much like a gentler Gray Wolf–still a predator, still possessing sharp teeth and keen senses, but not quite as aggressive a totem. My relationship with Red Fox started with her helping me calm down some, finding a bit of focus in these hard times. I did a great deal to invite her into my life more, even dyeing my hair red with henna for a number of years, and that helped to break me out of my usual headspace and introduce me to new ways of viewing the world. It didn’t fix everything, but it helped.

See, I had a very lupine-centric narrative of myself (not at all surprising). There were certain expectations of myself that I had, behavior patterns that I’d always exhibited that weren’t especially healthy, but that I just assumed were permanently a part of me. And Gray Wolf didn’t really have answers for me as to how to fix them. Other totems I worked with didn’t really have a deep enough connection with me to be doing that sort of intensive internal work–except Red Fox. She helped me to learn that I could change, that i wasn’t destined to stay the same person forever, and at a time in my mid-twenties where I really felt I was far behind other people my age as far as life developments went, it was incredibly good for me to be shown that I wasn’t a complete failure.

And the work we started together a decade ago never really ended, either. Red Fox has ridden every shakeup with me, every time I’ve blown my life up and put a new life together from the pieces. She encouraged me to write my first book, and she rode with me across the country to the Northwest. She sat with me through divorce, through grad school, through living alone and moving in with my current partner, through working for others and working for myself. She was one of the totems to encourage me to look beyond the animals and explore the world of plant and fungus totems, and even further into the totemic ecosystem than that. She was there for every crisis of faith and deep realization, and no doubt will continue to witness my ongoing evolution, even as its rate levels out some with age.

I don’t do a lot of ritual work any more, but when I do, I still call on the animals of the four cardinal directions. Red Fox is my South, my fire, my Change. She is the shapeshifting force in my life, and with her, I’ve become so much more than I thought I would be. I am still a Wolf’s child, of course; my name is still Lupa. But Red Fox is right there, working with Gray Wolf and alone as well, adding her fire to the metamorphosis of my life.

If you liked this post, please consider buying a copy of my book New Paths to Animal Totems, or one of my other titles on totemism and nature spirituality. Your support is greatly appreciated!

4 Comments.
  1. Oh man! This is very timely. Over the past weekend I learned how to journey and this guy was with me the whole time. Thank you for this!

    • You are most welcome! I’m glad you made Red Fox’s acquaintance; good totem to have around. Let me know if I can be of further help.

  2. ReD

    I read this post the other day and wanted to comment then, but my thoughts were too incoherent to have anything but a muddy response. They’re not much better now, so I apologize for any rambling nature of this post.

    I never liked the question, “Who do you want to be like when you grow up?” that was posed to me throughout elementary school in a multitude of formats because I didn’t understand why I had to grow up to be like someone else. I wanted to grow up to by myself; I still do.

    Despite that, there is something remarkably comforting to me about reading your posts. I don’t want to give the impression that “Omg Lupa we are soooo alike”, but instead that I appreciate how you write about your younger-self.
    I’m in my early twenties, living in Pennsylvania, and in the process of applying to graduate school (for psychology, none the less). The majority of my other friends have moved away and I’m left feeling like I’m stuck, or worse, a failure for still living at home, even though it’s the most logical option right now.

    I met my first working totem when I was younger and I thought I messed that up, too. It was a guided meditation with a small group and everyone had relatively “basic” totems—bear, deer, raven, cougar—and my totem called himself Mutt. He wasn’t coyote or wolf, but something in-between.

    “Great,” I thought to myself, “I think I’m too cool to pick one totem.”

    My first dancing hide came from the bottom of a box at a pow-wow. I was standing in the tent so long, staring at the pile of pelts spread out before me and I knew I couldn’t leave, but what I was looking for wasn’t on the table. The owner finally remembered the box and I came home with a red colored coyote
    .
    I started working with what I thought was coyote. At first, I felt a little bit like I was “betraying” Wolf, but I was going through a period of my life where Wolf just couldn’t help me. Every time I thought I learned Coyote’s lesson, SURPRISE! There is always more. The biggest surprise, though, came when the word Coywolf was introduced to me….and applied to my coyote skin. Needless to say, Mutt had a good laugh at my expense. I’m learning that I don’t have to choose one side over the other and that I will always have a lesson to learn.

    These aren’t new lessons by any means, but they’re new to me. I’m still discovering meaning in things I thought I understood, and that’s why I appreciate your posts like this.

    You’re an adult now, you know things through experiences you didn’t yet have, but you don’t speak poorly about your younger self. You don’t drop the dreaded naïve word or say things like “I was so stupid back then.”

    I appreciate that. Whenever I read a post I can relate to (something that has already happened to you but is happening to me) I don’t feel like I need to “grow up” to be just like you; it’s just nice to know that there is another side and these messy phases don’t last forever.

    • Thank you for sharing your story! It never ceases to amaze me how the totems and other beings will make themselves known to us (and, in some cases, make us work for it but give us a good lesson besides). I’ve not met anyone who worked with Coywolf as a totem, so it’s really cool reading about your experiences with a “hybrid” and how different parts of the totem’s personality resonate with different “parents”, as well as unique characteristics.

      The secret to adulthood that almost no one ever gets told when they’re kids is that there’s no proper rate at which a person develops. Sure, we’re fed the “graduate high school, go to work or to college, get married, have kids, etc.” thing culturally, but there are so many people for whom things don’t work out that way, and it doesn’t mean we screwed up. You’re doing the thing that makes the most sense for where you are right this moment, and you probably won’t be that way forever. Just do your best to keep on the path that’s best for you, and don’t kick yourself if you make a decision that ended up not being the best; that’s why we have a future in front of us til the moment we die.

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