Dream Gates

Dream Gates

Brushes with the red fox

posted by Robert Moss


When the fox is around, the message for me is always Pay attention. The fox is a liminal animal, and its appearances suggest that we are entering an edgy time. I feel a Trickster energy in play when the fox is about.


Once, when I was talking about the fox in front of a workshop circle in the Big House at Esalen, a fox popped up behind me, clearly visible to the group through the window. When they started laughing and pointing, I turned around. The fox promptly disappeared. This scene was repeated several times. That fox seemed to enjoy performing for the group while playing hide-and-seek with me. I became quite careful about monitoring the shifting energies of the group that week.


I pay special attention to the comings and goings of the red fox. In my personal mythology, the red fox connects me to ancestral dramas. In shamanic lucid dreaming, I once tracked a red fox, glimpsed in dreams, to a scene in ancient Britain involving a tragic love affair and a druid sacrifice and the issues these raised in my current life.


The oldest evidence we have of shamanism in Europe is the remains of a woman of power who was buried inside a crypt of mammoth bonesin the wooded Pavlov hills of what is now the Czech Republic. She was interred 30,000 years ago. Her body was painted red, and in her hand was placed the body of a fox,apparently her spirit ally.


Similar clues to the importance of the fox in early magic come from other parts of Europe. The druid prince dug out of the Lindow Moss in northern England, preserved by the chemical stew of the bog, was found to be wearing a collar of red fox fur.


As a power animal, fox brings many gifts, of craft and cunning and camouflage. Fox knows when to hide and when to hunt, and how to wait in concealment for the right opportunity.


There are clues in language to the qualities associated with the fox. To “outfox” someone is to outsmart them. “Foxy” can mean crafty, or sexy, or simply red-haired. ”Shenanigan” – an act of mischief – is derived from the old Irish sionnachuighim, meaning “play the fox”.The Trickster character of the fox is central to countless folk tales, fables, and children’s stories.


East Asian cultures are uneasy about the fox, and especially about foxy women. In traditional Japanese and Chinese culture, possession by a fox spirit is held to account for many problems, especially in women. In folk tales there are women who are foxes, putting on human disguise to seduce men.


Here are some verses from a long poem I wrote from a hundred encounters with the red fox, on the roads of two worlds:


From Brushes with the Red Fox


You live on the edges of my life

at the margin of the tame land and the wild

and your appearances are always edgy for me.


You know when to hide and when to hunt.

Men chase you on horseback, with dogs,

yet turn chicken when you turn up unannounced.


You are tricky. I doubt I’ll ever be at ease with you.

But you are a determined messenger

and a necessary link to old and sacred things


You call women I care for to reclaim lost soul

and become foxy girls, immune to glass ceilings,

setting their own boundaries, living unbounded life.


Fox as Trickster: Reynard-the-fox by Ernest Griset, in an 1869 children’s book


  • http://www.wandaburch.com Wanda Burch

    I have been enjoying your travelogue and stories from France and enjoy your interspering these wonderful stories as well. I think of the references in history to the fox and the battles between this country and France in the French and Indian war. A red fox is often a metaphor in poems and stories. The story of the woman with painted red body is haunting and brings so many images to mind.
    The grey fox has become an interesting part of my life in the hamlet where I live, more a part of my husband’s life than mine. Until recently, when the hunting possibilities have diminished, generations of a family of foxes have lived under one of our small outbuildings, the den mother attached to Ron in interesting ways. A bit unnerved by the first encounter, now several years ago, he had a dialogue with her as she followed him around the yard, only feet behind him, stopping when he stopped, starting when he started, watching always just hidden in the bushes. He told her she could be part of his life but she needed to keep her distance. She backed up, curled up under a rose bush, occasionally barking to let him know she was present, and remained there, just now going in and out to grab a morsel for her babies. It was OK that she was out in the day – she had new kits and was hunting for them – and keeping an eye on her favorite human companion. We also have stories of red foxes – again, mostly stories from Ron. He still passes sadly by a housing development off the Thruway on the way to Albany. He often had a visonary dialogue and dreams about the red fox and her family that he would see in a meadow there. The land, he said, belonged to her; and she communicated with him. A developer bought the land and built a complex of expensive look-alike houses; and she disappeared from the meadow and from his dreams!

  • nan

    re(a)d your blog, and then fed my granddaughter scarlett, who-looks-like-she’ll-be-auburn-haired, noticing in the background my copy of “the red book”, and at the same time thinking of a red fox dream.
    anyhow, if it were my dream, my life, well, fox to me is the magician, the alchemist, (and sure, carries much of what you mention).
    i wonder this: maybe it comes down to a male/female point of view. historically. culturally. in myth and story. a simple modern example- i wouldn’t call another woman “foxy”, but a man would. try as i might, i can never truly think or feel like a man because this go ’round the fact is i’m a woman. seems to make sense to me though, there is a line between what is magic and what are tricks.

  • Nina

    Well, “he/she is as cunning as a fox” is a usual phrase also in my language. I don´t meet foxes in daily life but I have a similar cautious feeling when I deal with red-haired people. I become instinctly aware of the fact that there is more fire in their personalities. Sometimes it´s open, sometimes very hidden, but it´s always present. Recently I have been dreaming about having to come back to an old house (which in reality was sold in January, not my place but well-known to me)because I was told that there was some energy escape. I go with my old friend past the house and he turns off the tap which is in the garden so everything is fine and fixed again. Suddenly, the present owner appears in front of the house and invites us inside. None of us feels like going there but we don´t want to turn him down so I find myself in one of the rooms. To my surprise, it has been inhabited by a family of red-haired ancient women. I am immediately on alert and see that although there is no perfect harmony between them they cultivate themselves by doing some ancient female work. It might be weaving in an old style. I look closely at the fingers of a young woman and admire her great mastery. The funny thing is that next day I came across my former nice red-haired student in the street. She also has a lot of fire blazing within, fuelling her great ambitions and intelligence, mostly in a positive way.
    In fact, I saw the real fox only once in my life and it was high up in the mountains and I was sitting in the car. I remember how uncomfortable I felt with its steady gaze, but I was ill-at-ease during the whole trip with my aunt and her partner. At the end of that day her dog was lost in the mountains, because she let him do everything and he didn´t obey her at all. The story had a happy ending because after several hours of driving on bumpy, rough tracks in the hills we at last found the poor creature. Anyway, that was my last trip with them.
    I´d say that handling fox energy is a big challenge, within or outside, it always requires a lot of positive awareness and skillfulness.
    Thank you a lot for bringing up an interesting topic.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    Nan – I must quickly note that I have often called a certain type of man “foxy”, and may indeed have applied this term to men more than women. When I speak of the Trickster in French, I call him “M.Renard” (not “Mme” or “Mlle” Renard). I’ve worked with very interesting men’s dreams involving foxes, and have recorded at least a hundred significant dreams and visions of my own involving the red fox. So, despite the current Anglo slang and those Japanese/Chinese folk tales, it really isn’t a make/female thing, at least not for me.

  • Savannah

    Wonderful poem, and what a perfect post to wake up to! Many connections firing for me at the moment…
    1. When I commented last night on What Rhymes in a Day and decided to play at the rhymes of life I noted the first of the triad… the captcha phrase “birth hulstory.” It seemed like that would have some connection to “the byways of history” but I went straight to bed before finishing the game. My last thought before sleep was that my explorations into the inner rooms of the maple tree, which coincided with your Dream Tree vision, was also the first time Fox appeared in any of my dreams.
    2. Just before you left for France I shared a small dream fragment on your forum, of finding a cartoon fox with the words “____ Renard” printed on a ribbon banner, upside down :-). That cartoon fox looked a lot like the illustration from Griset’s book.
    3. My main association to Fox is from mediaeval literature. Griset’s children’s book is likely based on the European fable that shows up in a number of places starting with the French Roman de Renart, and later mediaeval adaptations including the Dutch Van de Vos Reynaerde and Reinhardt Fuchs, by a Middle High German poet.  I have only read the Dutch version in which the cunning fox, despite his questionable character, to this day comes out somewhat of a folk hero.
    4. There is a town in Holland where this epic is very much alive and a Reynaert statue cast in bronze lives near one of the city gates. The name of this town is Hulst (as in hulstory!) and not too far from my place of birth either. Looks like I’ll be tracking fox for a while (or maybe it’s tracking me… :-). Lots more food for thought in your post, thank you so much!

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    Nina – Thanks for sharing that fascinating and slightly eerie dream. Personally, I’ve always had a soft spot for redheads. And I must note that in the Scotland of my father’s ancestors, red hair (along with ownership of a cat) was considered evidence that someone was a witch – at late as the 1700s.

  • http://www.zianet.com/azima Azima

    I’ve been watching episodes of the last season of “Northern Exposure” on Netflix recently, and I’m recalling a scene where Maurice is enamored of an English lady visiting Cicely; he imports a red fox so they can have a hunt in her honor. Just before the hunt, he goes to the cage where he’s keeping the fox, and the door is open and the fox is gone. Ha!

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    Savannah – Your chronicle certainly “captchas” my imagination, linking the random phrase “birth hulstory” to the circumstances of your birth, dear Hulst van Reynearde. Marvelously foxy stuff!

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    Wanda – Thanks for these charming vignettes of Ron’s relationship with the vixen. With a twist or two to make this a slightly taller tale (or fluffier brush) this might become The Tale of the Fox Wife, familiar to certain indigenous peoples and the ethnographers who collect their stories….

  • nan

    robert, i did not mean that you see it as a male/female thing i meant that historically the fox has been seen by mankind in this fashion and i wonder if MAYBE it comes down to this.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    Nan – Thanks for clarifying. I really didn’t think you were attributing that perspective to me. Interesting to pursue the study of how the male/female dichotomy comes into play in cultural attitudes towards the fox in different societies and time periods.

  • http://cobaltsigil.blogspot.com KMG

    Robert, I also see foxes. For me, they show up when I need assurance that I’m on the right path even though I’m not seeing the results I want. Foxes know how to be patient to get the choicest morsels.
    Once, though, I saw a fox in the woods and was marveling at its beauty, and then I realized it was actually taking a leak on a rock. It looked at me as though it was saying, “DO you mind? I’m having a private moment, here!”

  • Don

    . I am fascinated with your account of “hide-and-seek” with the red fox.
    . I do not recall ever having dreamed of foxes. Gray foxes are native to this area. People have hunted them for no good reason that I know of. They are not common. I have rarely seen one.
    . The red fox has been introduced to this area. I once owned a small acreage out of town. There was a fox den on it. My family and I enjoyed watching the puppies play. I made the mistake of showing the foxes to a Cub Scout group. Shortly someone trespassed, shot, and killed them all.
    . My personal encounters with foxes have been pleasant. Here is one example: One New Years Day when I was out running, training for a race, I passed a family of red foxes. I shouted HAPPY NEW YEAR! They just looked at me as I ran by, maybe 30 or 40 feet away. I felt like I had received a burst of energy. And I felt exceptionally happy.
    . I am also reminded of an old folk song that we used to sing: “The Fox went Out on a Chilly Night.”
    . I have yet to encounter the trickster aspect of foxes. Perhaps I am lucky. :-) Your account of trickster fox, the fox and shamanism, and the rest of what you posted, fascinates me. Maybe it is time to incubate a dream about a fox.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    KMG – I’m smiling over that oh-so-foxy moment when you came upon the handsome fox having a bathroom moment. As for what a fox sighting means, you are right to trust your own instinct. The fox on your path isn’t necessarily the fox on mine, or someone else’s. In working with personal signs, as with dreams, we must value our own feelings – and track what follows.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    Don – I’ve had other experiences of foxes playing hide-and-seek in ways that felt wholly personal. I’ve also known moments when the fox chooses to show itself, in an unlikely way, against probability. Perhaps some of the edginess that the fox evokes in some of us has to do with how humans have hunted them – as in the English sport or in the tragic and gratuitous slaughter you describe. In any event, as I remarked to KMG on this thread, we need to learn and work with our own vocabulary of signs from the natural world, just as we need to construct personal dictionaries of our dream symbols.

  • Katie

    I’ve really been enjoying your blogs as someone into dreams for over a decade.It’s really a new way of looking at them as complex and multi-faceted, I’ve begun to take them much more seriously.I would love to see an entry on ancestral dreams,they are the dreams I have the most.
    I have one question: for five years i’ve dreamt of red haired people at least five times a week,Last night it was an old man with long wiry red hair he came to rob our house but he looked quite like a sage too.Mostly they are young men with red hair who are suitors of some kind,once a little girl with very incredible glowing auburn hair,once a little boy with red hair etc. I’ve tried to find the symbolism in it but can’t put my finger on it.

  • Katie

    I just realised too how odd that I came specfically to the blog today to ask about the red haired dreams, and the new blog entry now that I re-read it equates foxes with red hair.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    Katie – I write a great deal about ancestral dreams in my books (check out my book Dreamways of the Iroquois and the chapter titled “Death and Rebirth through the Goddess” in my Dreamer’s Book of the Dead, for starters) and will certainly address this theme from time to time in my blogs. I’m not sure there is any quick answer to your question about the significance of red-haired people in your dreams, but if these were my dreams I would think about the redheads I know and what the color red means to me.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    Katie – isn’t it wonderful, the foxy way synchronicity comes into play?

  • Sal

    Kitsune – is not a confidant animal guardian / wayfarer; however, there ARE many other guises apart from the fox that are not too worthy as allies/confidants. Shinto petro-posts still remind the Japanese that the old world lens of viewing reality is, “tricky.”
    Personally, I find that black cats in the Dreaming are out for soul possession in eternity… stay clear of them!

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    Hey Sal – Can you hear the hisses and growls from the cat people? We must of course be guided by our personal feelings and findings. Speaking for myself, I’ve always had a soft spot for black cats, and lived with them for many years. And I notice that the (black) panther is an impeccable shamanic ally!

  • Ananna

    Well I just wrote this long post and failed to write the correct code word so that’s out the window. So a shorter version: fox is a guide I don’t consciously call in but then I guess we don’t always choose the guides that are given to us for the lessons we need to learn. Fox is a guide that challenges me to learn a lessons and they are not easy playful learning games for me. Perhaps I need to lighten up a bit when fox comes calling?

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    Ah, Patty – in my experience, if we lose our sense of humor when fox comes calling, we are lost!

  • Katie

    I did see the book about the Iroquois I’m very keen to read it,love ethnographic-ish research into dreams.I think the red hair might be some sort of association with rarity,will ponder the red heads I know and some immediate connections I make with them.Thanks!

  • Marina

    Thanks so much, Robert, for this post! It comes very handy these days, as the red fox kept crossing my path home several times during last weeks (in the same place). It couldn’t be a clearer sign of paying attention and a warning to an edgy phase in my life. Your guidance is invaluable:)

  • Wanda PS

    Hi Robert,
    I enjoyed this posting and your poem very much. I have always had many dreams/visions/connections with canines of all sorts. When I went to your workshop in Mosswood and you opened with the tree meditation and calling in a guide, I had 2 foxes dancing around my feet. At first I resisted – no, come on, how about a different canine – but then relaxed and let it be. I guess you can make some connections here with my 2 foxes that weekend.
    Two weeks ago, when I went to yet another animal shelter to look for a dog companion, I saw a little guy I had to bring home, and what sold me were is fox-like ears and appearance. I am not usually interested in little lap dogs, but this one just had to come home with me. Now I wonder if I have somehow invited fox energy into my life on a more permanent basis? :-)

  • Donna

    I found my dog Dante as a puppy at the animal shelter. A Chow crossed with Golden Retriever, he had very red fluffy fur and his ears were pointy, like a fox. Now he looks more like a golden than anything, but he used that appearance to attract me. It worked!

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    Donna – Sounds like Dante (now THAT’s a name with some resonance) has some foxy traits!

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    Wanda PS – Aha! Two dancing foxes around my feet would certainly be a double incentive to pay attention and be alert for plans to be scrambled (if it were my vision)!

  • Sal

    Robert, I love all cats; and I especially have a soft spot for black cats. I, myself, have a feline energy that’s built into my chromosomes. I even physically move like a cat. I’ve had countless encounters with tigers, lions and big, powerful cats while in the Dreaming.
    I was specifically reffering to dark sorcerers (diableros) that come in the guises of animal allies to bring physical & emotional pain, and to kill.
    I was seriously sanctioned by the universe for just indirectly floating aspects of how real power maneuvers and portal entry points.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    Sal – Thanks for the clarification. Of course dark-side operators can try to abuse the connection with any animal forms, and others.

  • OctoberLady

    Am enjoying reading the “foxy” comments to this post and the other fox-related post. I’ve never particularly resonated to foxes (red or otherwise) but black cats have shown up in my dreams for years. (I own one, too — or, rather, he “owns” me.) And I have fiery red hair; sometimes I’ve wondered if I’d have been burned at the stake as a witch in another era?

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    OctoberLady – Good thing you are not living in Scotland 300 years ago!

  • Heidi

    How would one go about understanding the appearance of elephants in a dream?

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    Heidi – Please feel free to post the dream report. I have many associations with elephants – ranging from their reputed long memories to the connection with Ganesh, who opens and closes our paths in life (in Hindu belief). However, dreams are individual and specific, and we don’t want to lose our personal messages. The elephant in your dreams is not necessarily the elephant in anyone else’s dreams.

  • Heidi

    Elephant in dream
    What I can remember:
    I am with a friend at her family’s house. From the upstairs bedroom window, I see a heard of elephants and (possibly turkeys) entering a warehouse type building (stable-type building perhaps). It’s early evening. Fascinated, I grab my camera and want to get a photo of this before they all disappear in the the building. As I try to snap a photo, I realize that my compact card is full and I must delete some images first. I delete older photos, but the elephants have already disappeared.
    If it helps any, I’m a pet photographer in real life.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    Heidi – I spoke of the elephant’s reputed memory before. If it’s my dream, memory is a major theme; my camera is out of memory and I must create some. Then there’s the theme of clearing space for something exciting and unexpected. The elephants have the space they need, but I don’t, at least not in my camera, my basic work tool. I’d. think about where in my life and work I may need to clear out old stuff – maybe in the sense of old habits and mindsets and methods – in order to bring through something fresh and new. The impression of turkeys seems to pin all of this to Thanksgiving and the holiday season.
    You may want to consider joining us for my new online Dreamwork Interactive course, which started this week. You’ll find yourself in a community of very lively and creative dreamers and can play as much or as little as you like 24/7. The link is http://www.spiritualityhealth.com/spirit/e-course/dreamwork-interactive-december-2010-january-2011

  • Heidi

    I am aware of the elephant being symbolic of memory, and the connection to the camera’s memory is a very good insight. I hadn’t spent time with this dream yet, but your blog on the fox encouraged me to recall the elephant dream. I appreciate your commentary and insights, and the online interactive course is appealing. I’ll check it out! Thanks.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Angel

    Last night I dreamed I was playing with my children in my home and when I looked out my patio windows there was a fox with wet fur sitting on my patio watching us. I went outside to confront it and it jumped over the patio railing and ran away. What does this mean? I have veryauburn hair. It’s not natural, I don’t know many people with red hair except my strawberry blonde daughter, and neither of us are very sneaky. Help!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Carol

    I enjoyed reading your article on fox-thoughts. Fox is my life-long friend. I had multiple dreams of BEING a red fox as a little girl. The dream series ended at age 10 for me when (as a fox) I was trotting home—-and a hunter shot me in the head. BANG. At age 17 I PLAYED ‘Reynard’ in a theatre company production of Reynard the Fox….and there have been many other weavings of this spirit/totem as well. ;o)

  • http://whatisaurl? Patrice Brown

    Hello I love you won’t you tell me your name. I really enjoyed this posting on fox. I just found you all on facebook friends of friends. I am new to facebook and am just learning to manuever on it. I have made some amusing and embarrising blunders through my learning process. Fox appeared here today just when I need his help in a business situation where I was too trusting and was tricked. Thanks, Robert Moss I send you much love and blessings

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